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Stevens on Celtics offseason: “add an edge and some experience to our team”

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After drafting 18-year-old Juhann Begarin, the Celtics will now focus on adding veterans to the roster.

Boston Celtics Introduce Ime Udoka Press Conference Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

In Danny Ainge’s final two offseasons, the Celtics President of Basketball Operations had eight picks (six first rounders) at his disposal. In his inaugural NBA draft, Brad Stevens had one second round pick. While other teams filled out their rosters with fresh talent, Boston had a quiet night.

“Leading up to the draft, we had some conversations with people, but nothing really significant,” Stevens said Thursday night. “We thought it was going to be a pretty predictable night from the standpoint that we were just going to pick where we were slotted and go from there. It wasn’t all that eventful which was OK.”

Stevens said that they looked at trading up the draft, but “weren’t willing to offer much.” Based on team makeup, spots, and cap space, they weren’t looking to add several young players to the roster.

Boston selected French guard Juhann Begarin with the 45th pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. Stevens confirmed what many fans suspected: the 18-year-old Begarin will most likely continue to play overseas next season.

From Celtics PR:

Begarin, 18, was selected by the Celtics after averaging 9.3 points on 45.6% shooting, 3.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.2 steals in 52 games over two seasons with Paris Basket of the Pro B League (2019-20 – 2020-21).

The Abymes, Guadeloupe native averaged 11.9 points on 45.9% shooting (36.4% 3-PT) in 33 games this past season, including three games of 20+ points. He produced double-digit scoring in five consecutive games during the team’s seven-game winning streak from May 25 through June 11, helping elevate Paris Basket to the French Pro A League.

“We really like Juhann. He’s a guy that’s a big, strong, versatile guard that can guard up with his strength and athleticism,” Stevens said of the newest Celtic. “He came in for a workout the other day. We got to see him up close and we’ve been paying attention to him for a long time. He’s a guy that we think, at his age and his body and his physical abilities and the way that he works and the time that he’s put in thus far, is going to have a long, really good career ahead of him. We’re excited that we were there to draft him there at #45.”

Stevens also confirmed that the following players will be in Las Vegas next weekend for the start of Summer League: Yam Madar, Payton Pritchard, Carsen Edwards, Aaron Nesmith, Romeo Langford, and Moses Brown. Begarin is still a question mark. Assistant coach Joe Mazzulla, one of the few hold outs from Stevens’ tenure on the bench, will serve as head coach in the summer exhibition.

On the veteran level, Stevens gave updates on two key members of the team to NBC Boston’s Chris Forsberg. After missing the playoffs to left wrist surgery, Jaylen Brown is recovering well and has been working out at the Auerbach Center. Robert Williams is also healing from a turf toe injury that limited him at the end of last season. Both are expected to ramp up activity in the coming months and should be ready before training camp.

Fans might have wanted more from Draft Night, but as so often the case, what wasn’t done says more about intentions than the expectations. What might have been the bigger story on Thursday night than Begarin’s selection was the franchise’s mindset in how they plan to fill out the roster this summer and more importantly, for seasons to come.

“We need to be mindful of our near and long term views. And at the same time, hopefully add an edge and some experience to our team. When I say ‘experience,’ I mean just a savvy who have been through it before that will help make everybody around our guys get better,” Stevens said.

That reasoning speaks to why Al Horford is back in green after helping elevate a Celtics roster of role players in his first stint in Boston. That could signal making re-signing nine-year pro Evan Fournier a priority now and/or extending seven-year Celtic Marcus Smart beyond next season. That could influence who Stevens targets in trades and free agency.

For now, on a quiet Draft Night, the Celtics selected an 18-year-old out of France that they see promise in, but don’t expect to contribute right away. In the coming weeks, their offseason could look dramatically different.

Free agency starts on August 2nd at 6 pm EST.