Plenty there if Celtics go the international route


Plenty there if Celtics go the international route

LONDON – While the Celtics are looking hard at the top-of-the-draft prospects they can land if they wind up with the Los Angeles Lakers’ first-round pick, Boston will also have its own first-rounder that’s likely to be near the end of the round.

And in this draft, that’s fertile ground to stockpile international talent.

The Celtics went that route in 2016 with a pair of international prospects in Guerschon Yabusele of France (16th overall) and Ante Zizic (23rd) of Croatia. 

Luka Doncic of Slovenia is far and away the top international prospect. He's under serious consideration to be the first player taken overall in June.

“I know there’s some skepticism that most folks in the states have with highly-regarded players overseas,” an NBA international scout told NBC Sports Boston. “But this Luka kid, he’s legit.”

Doncic, who will be 19 next month, has been competing at the highest level for Real Madrid since he was 16, winning several accolades while competing against players significantly older and more seasoned in the pro game.

He has shown the kind of offensive diversity that the best NBA players of this generation possess. Doncic can score off the dribble in creating his own shot, find teammates and connect on mid-range jumpers as well as from 3-point range. The one concern with him (and most prospects initially) is consistency and whether he can defend players in the NBA who may be more athletic.

And while the Celtics may seem well stocked at the wing position, it would be difficult to pass on a player like Doncic if Boston winds up with the No. 3, 4 or 5 pick.

As for the other international prospects, most of them are likely to be on the board when Boston picks in the latter stages of the first round.

Here are some of the international prospects that Boston could consider:

Dzanan Musa, 6-8, SG/SF, Bosnia & Herzegovina
While his 195-pound frame raises concerns about whether he can handle the physical toll of the NBA, there’s a lot to like about Musa’s game, which is why many believe he could wind up being a first-round selection. For starters, he has a scorer’s mentality and more important, instincts that have enabled him to be an impact player on teams filled with players significantly older and more experienced.  For him to be on the draft board would be somewhat of a surprise when Boston picks near the end of the first round. Some scouts envisioning Musa playing his way into the lottery (top 14). Similar to Doncic, what Musa does well doesn’t seem to be a natural fit for Boston’s most pressing needs in this draft. But if the Celtics stand pat with their own first-round pick and he’s available, passing on him would not be an easy decision.

Rodions Kurucs, 6-10 F, Latvia
A borderline first-round pick last year before pulling out of the draft, Kurucs’ camp is hoping another year of overseas play will be enough to solidify a spot for him in the first round. What sets him apart from a lot of prospects is his versatility to play both forward positions in addition to some at the off-guard position due to his length and above-average athleticism. He has a lot of the emerging skills NBA teams are looking for in a prospect; from the ability to catch-and-shoot, filling the lane in transition, to playing with great energy. But the concern with him remains that he has already had multiple knee surgeries. And for a player who attacks defenses as much as he does, NBA teams have every reason to worry about him re-injuring himself. If not for the injury concerns, Kurucs would be a no-brainer to be selected in the first round. While most would take a pass on him with the injury history, no one should be surprised if he’s on the board late in the first round and the Celtics take a flier on him. Where Boston’s pick will land, any player selected will have some noticeable concern about them. So, teams have to roll the dice and gamble on who they believe has the most upside, right? And at that point in the draft, it’s hard to imagine there will be that many more players still left with more potential upside than Kurucs.

Goga Bitadze, 6-11 C, Georgia
Physically speaking, he has been a man among his peers – he was 6-11, 251 pounds with a 7-1 wingspan at 16. Now 18, he has found the going a lot tougher against older, more physically imposing players. He plays with a high motor and doesn’t mind mixing it up when necessary. And with decent footwork and an improving face-the-basket game, what has intrigued NBA folks is the potential to be a stretch big who can impact both from the perimeter as well as around the rim. He’s worth monitoring on the Celtics’ part as a possible late first-round draft-and-stash candidate, which will likely be the plan for any team that drafts him.

Kostja Mushidi, 6-5 G/F, Germany
He checks off a lot of boxes you like if you’re in the market for a 3-point shooting, defensive-minded wing (aka 3-and-D guy). At 226 pounds, he has enough body mass to be able to be a physical defender. And when you realize he has a 7-foot-plus wingspan, it’s clear that his immediate impact in the NBA will in all likelihood be as a defender. And while he’s a solid athlete, he’s not an explosive player attacking defenses and beating them off the dribble. Part of that has to do with his ball-handling skills, by and large, are still very much a work in progress. Late first round seems a bit high for Mushidi, but if the Celtics trade their late first-round pick for a couple of second-rounders, Mushidi becomes a lot more attractive a player to target.

Other international players to watch: Isaac Bonga, 6-9 PG/F, Germany; Arnoldas Kulboka, 6-10 SF, Lithuania; Tryggvi Hlinason, 7-1 C, Iceland.


Jayson Tatum on overhyped talk: 'I'll stick to my job'

Jayson Tatum on overhyped talk: 'I'll stick to my job'

A story earlier this week from Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes calling burgeoning young Celtics star Jayson Tatum one of the NBA's five most overrated players has expectedly ruffled some feathers in the Boston sports stratosphere. 

But Tatum himself is taking the high road. In a conversation with ESPN's Chris Forsberg centered around his recent workouts with future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, the 20-year-old forward, who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting this past season, said he wasn't bothered by the article:

While Hughes acknowledged that Tatum could be a franchise player, his reasoning for inclusion on the list was that he could be a victim of the stacked team for which he plays, saying, "Kyrie has never been one to take a backseat, and with him back on the floor, it'll be much harder for Tatum to build on his postseason takeover."

As for the session with Kobe? Tatum clearly absorbed a lot:

Hughes also named Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, Bulls foward Zach LaVine and Suns forward Josh Jackson in the company of overhyped players.

It's been quite a week for Tatum, the former No. 3 overall pick out of Duke University. Earlier in the week, the St. Louis native had his jersey number permanently retired at his high school alma mater.


Anything is Podable Episode Four: Building the Roster

Anything is Podable Episode Four: Building the Roster

Even with three All-Stars in Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, Danny Ainge and the Celtics knew that, in order to win a championship, the team needed a strong supporting cast of role players.

Episode Four of NBC Sports Boston’s “Anything is Podable” takes a look at how Ainge constructed the rest of the roster and how one word, “ubuntu,” set the tone for a memorable season.

Giving the team a shooter off the bench, as well as another veteran presence in the locker room, Eddie House was perfect for the 2008 Celtics.

“I remember going to a practice when he was a young player,” said Ainge regarding House. “Just watching him shoot, and shoot, and just amazed at what a great shooter this kid was.”

“I saw him have his 56 and 60 back-to-back point games in the Pac-10 and it was amazing.”

Long a fan of House, Ainge went out and got his guy, but he wasn’t finished yet.

James Posey, a veteran wing who had experience both starting and coming off the bench, was nearing a deal with the Nets, but one call changed everything.

“I actually told my agent, I’ll just go to New Jersey,” said Posey. “Then Eddie House called me.”

House convinced Posey to spurn the Nets in favor of the Celtics, giving Boston another veteran off the pine.

With the roster taking shape, what the team needed now was an identity.


Mentioned to Doc Rivers at a trustee meeting at Marquette University, the word that means “I am who I am because of you,” became the team’s mantra.

“I looked this word up and I spent, no exaggeration, hours and days on this word,” said Rivers. “Everything about the word epitomized what we had to be.”

Ubuntu was the rallying cry of the 2008 Celtics and it all started with a Board of Trustees meeting at Marquette.

Anything is Podable is a ten-part series diving into the story of the 2008 Celtics and their championship season, with exclusive, never-before-heard interviews with team executives, former players, and media members.

Narrated by Kyle Draper, it’s the perfect way for Celtics fans to pass time this offseason and get excited for 2018-19, a season in which the Celtics have as good a chance at raising their 18th championship banner as they’ve had since that magical 2008 season.

Fans can subscribe to the podcast through the link below and check out the other nine episodes for a look at this exclusive series.