BOSTON (CBS) — One of the biggest areas of need for the Boston Celtics this offseason is shooting, especially from beyond the three-point line.
The Celtics had the third-most attempts from downtown last season but shot just 33.5 percent from beyond the arc, ranking 28th in the NBA. Improving those dismal results is atop Danny Ainge’s to-do list this summer, something he may be able to check off after the June 23 NBA Draft.
That shooting help could come from Kentucky guard Jamal Murray, who held a solo workout for the Celtics on Wednesday afternoon. Murray, who also has impressive ball-handling and passing skills, showed off the sweet stroke Kentucky fans fell in love with in his lone season as a Wildcat, hitting 45 percent of his shots from the floor and 41 percent from three-point land.
Murray calmly drained 79 of his 100 three-point attempts in Waltham on Wednesday, the best showing the Celtics have seen from a draft prospect in Brad Stevens’ time on the bench. He bested the previous record of 77, set earlier this pre-draft season by Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer, by knocking down eight of his final 10 attempts.
If you think Murray’s scoring prowess is impressive, so too is his confidence.
“I believe I can score on anybody,” the 6-foot-5 guard told reporters after his workout. Murray averaged 20.2 points per game last season to lead Kentucky.
Asked if he believes he’s the best player in the upcoming draft, like his jumper, Murray showed no hesitation.
“I think so,” he said confidently. “That’s not a knock on anybody, I’m just looking back on the work I’ve put in, how far I’ve come, how quickly I learn, how quickly I adapt to my surroundings and how easy I fit into a team. I believe I’m the best player in the draft, but every team needs what they need.”
That confidence is not just a product of his offensive outpouring as a freshman, but the competitive nature that he’s carried throughout his life.
“As a child, I was competitive in whatever it was — first one to eat your wings, first one to run to the door. In everything we were competitive,” said Murray. “I always wanted to have the edge. My dad taught me a lot of meditative techniques. I used that to my advantage.”
With Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram implanted as the likely Top 2 picks come June 23, the Celtics will have a shot to take Murray at No. 3. He’s a bit of a tweener, not exactly a point guard while a little undersized for a two-guard, much like a handful of other guards on the current Boston roster.
But that would just breed more competition, something Murray is more than up for should the Celtics call out his name in two weeks.
“It’s only going to make me better,” Murray said of the possible competition. “Going against guys like Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas — small defensive guards. Marcus Smart is always very physical and can help me, offensively. I think it’ll be a great experience for me no matter what team I go to.
“I just want to go to the right team. The team that wants me,” he said. “The team that believes in my potential.”
The Celtics are just one of four teams Murray will work out for ahead of the draft, joining the Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans — the teams with picks three through six in the draft.