Boston Celtics Rumors: C’s Have A Gaggle of Draft Picks In 2016, Interested In Taking Dragan Bender With No. 3 Overall Pick

The Boston Celtics will have a league- high eight draft picks when the 2016 draft takes on at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on June 23.

Boston is coming off a fantastic season, by all accounts, finishing second in the Atlantic division with a 48-34 record. However, the Celtics were unable to get out of the first round in the Eastern Conference playoffs, yet again, as they lost to the Atlanta Hawks in six games — the C’s have not won a playoff series since reaching the conference finals in 2012. The 48 wins were eight more than Boston accumulated during the 2014-15 season when the Celtics were the conference’s No. 7 seed.

Boston is unlikely to make all eight of its allotted selections in this year’s draft. The Celtics need some veteran leadership, as they were the fourth youngest team in the NBA last year, with the average age of the 15-players being 24.6 years old. Boston’s major need is in the front court, and the Celtics also could use a wing that can score as well as a couple of shooters.

Plus, the Celtics only have six potential free agents and anywhere between $32 million and $60 million in cap space, according to BasketballInsiders. Evan Turner (unrestricted), Tyler Zeller (restricted), Jared Zullinger (restricted), Amir Johnson (non-guarantee), Jonas Jerebko (non-guarantee), and John Holland (non-guarantee) are the Celtics that could hit free agency on July 1.

Boston has until July 3 to make its decision on Johnson ($12 million) and Jerebko ($5 million), or their contracts become guaranteed.

Comcast SportsNet New England is reporting that the Turner could return to C’s despite the fact that he may have several other suitors. The 27-year-old does a lot of things well and plays hard. He finished fifth in the voting for Sixth Man of the Year this season, averaging 10.5 points along with 4.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists while shooting 45.6 percent from the field.

“Of course,” Turner said when asked if he would give the Celtics a hometown discount in order to return to the Celtics. “I joke with people, this is the first time I left an exit interview and the team wanted me back. I don’t take that lightly, you know what I’m saying? At the end of the day, I’m grateful for that.”

Sullinger and Zeller are reportedly also open to returning, but it is unknown if the team feels the same way.

So, what will the Celtics do with all their draft picks?

Boston owns three first round selections (No. 3, No. 16, and No. 23) and five second round picks (Nos. 31, 35, 45, 51, and 58). The No. 3 overall pick is the jewel of the picks, and the Celtics received that selection from the Brooklyn Nets as part of their 2013 trade for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry. The C’s also got the No. 16 pick and a 2016 second rounder (No.45) from the Dallas Mavericks as part of the trade for Rajon Rondo and Powell. The 23rd pick is Boston’s own first round pick.

Boston acquired all five of its second round selections in trades.

As stated above it is highly unlikely that the Celtics will use all eight draft choices themselves, especially with President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge telling WBZ-TV that Boston plans to contend for a NBA title this upcoming season.

“Ownership would like to see something happen faster and I know my coaches and players want to see something faster.I’ve been in their positions and I get it, I want to see something faster too. But I have to protect us from doing something irrational from doing something that gets us a little bit better.”

Chad Ford of ESPN also believes the Celtics, along with the Sacramento Kings, Milwaukee Bucks, and Utah Jazz are prime candidates to trade out of the lottery.

It wouldn’t be surprised if the C’s use a couple of their draft choices on prospects that still need some seasoning, and stash them overseas for a few years — like they did with Marcus Thornton last year and Colton Iverson after acquiring him from Indiana in the 2013 draft. Overall, Boston’s brass was expected to bring in between 40 and 60 prospects into town to work out and see 100 or so work outs in total before the draft takes place.

There have already been rumors that the Celtics will send the No. 3 pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for either Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor. There is belief that Noel would not cost the Celtics as much to obtain as Okafor would.

The trade with the Sixers is not the only deal involving one of the C’s draft picks, as Hardwood Houdini suggests that Boston should trade one of its second choices to the New York Knicks in exchange for Kyle O’Quinn or Derrick Williams.

But if the Celtics do keep the No. 3 pick, expect them to go with Croatian sensation Dragan Bender. Bender, 18, is considered to be the third best prospect in the draft. The 7-foot-1 center has the ability to stretch the floor with his shooting and can also dribble and pass. He is reportedly even better on the defensive end and has the ability to guard multiple positions.

Mike Petraglia of WEEI reports that Ainge and his son, Austin — who is the team’s director of player personnel — was in Israel recently scouting Bender. While the Ainges did not see Bender play live in a game, they did watch him practice twice. Bender, who has seen limited playing time with Maccabi Tel Aviv, is averaging 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds a game this season.

Before going to see Bender play, the Ainges reportedly went to Croatia to check out 6-foot-11 center Ante Zizic. And Zizic didn’t disappoint, producing 12 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in an Adriatic League game.

Besides Bender who else could the C’s take in round 1?

In addition to taking Bende with the No. 3 pick, Bleacher Report has the C’s taking Baylor SF Taurean Prince (No. 16) and Vanderbilt C Damian Jones (No. 23) in the first round. In the meanwhile, Forbes has the Celtics taking Bender, Washington PF Marquese Chriss and Syracuse SG Malachi Richardson. Ford has the Celtics bypassing Bender and selecting Kentucky PG Jamal Murray with the No. 3 pick and then taking Zizic (No. 16) and 18-year-old Thon Maker (No. 23) going to Boston.

Oklahoma shooting guard Buddy Hield is another alternative to taking Bender with the No. 3 pick.

In other news, Chris Forsberg of ESPN reports that the Celtics have received calls regarding the availability of 2015 draft picks Terry Rozier and Jordan Mickey. Both players saw limited time last season. Rozier averaged 1.8 points and shot 27.4 percent from the floor in 38 games while Mickey saw action in just 16 contests, averaging 1.3 points and shooting 36.4 percent from the floor.

[Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images]

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