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Celtics wading into draft pool

DANNY AINGE Looking for help DANNY AINGE
Looking for help
By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / May 26, 2011

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The Celtics plan to hold their first draft workout June 1 at their practice facility in Waltham. Celtics president Danny Ainge said Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer, Richmond’s Justin Harper, Virginia Commonwealth’s Jamie Skeen, and Butler’s Matt Howard — all power forwards — will be among the players invited.

“The list will probably grow as we get closer to that workout,’’ Ainge said.

Ainge returned to Boston this week after going to the predraft combine in Chicago, where more than 50 prospects worked out in front of executives and scouts from around the league.

There were noticeable absences, including the draft’s top prospect, Duke guard Kyrie Irving, and Ainge said it was hard to say who stood out because of the way the weekend is set up.

“It’s not really a format where players stand out,’’ Ainge said. “They’re not playing basketball. They’re just running. It’s more for interviews and doing physicals and doing some of the physical testing more so than it is watching guys play real basketball.’’

The Celtics staff is spread out, with some on the road for workouts and some at home evaluating film.

The draft is June 24, and the Celtics have the 25th and 55th picks. The talent pool isn’t as deep as usual, with several standouts staying in college because of the possibility of a lockout this summer.

“I don’t think there are a lot of franchise-changing players,’’ Ainge said. “But there are a lot of players, players that can help. That’s harder to do when you have a team that’s trying to win right now, like ours. A lot of players can go to non-playoff teams and contribute right away, or faster than they could on our team.’’

The challenge will be finding a player who can fit in quickly, with the Celtics trying to surround Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett with youth and athleticism.

“If you look around at the teams that are still playing right now, I don’t think any of them have players on their team that they drafted last year,’’ Ainge said. “It takes time to develop.’’

Last year, the Celtics took Avery Bradley with the 19th pick and Luke Harangody with the 52d pick. Ainge has said that if Bradley had waited until this year to declare for the draft, he would have been a top-five pick. Asked if that was a reflection on Bradley’s talent or the quality of this draft, Ainge said it was a compliment to Bradley.

“I respect the players in this year’s draft,’’ Ainge said. “But that’s what I feel about Avery and his potential. I’m not the only one that feels that way. There are a lot of people in the league that feel that way as well.’’

The Celtics can invite up to 12 players to a workout, but Ainge said, “I don’t think we’ll have that many.’’

He said he’ll take advantage of group workouts that allow him to see a larger pool of players.

“There are some players that we like,’’ Ainge said. “We’ll continue to bring players in and go watch players work out and see players on film and do things that we always do.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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