Celtics Question of the Day: Biggest surprise of camp?
Who will be the biggest surprise of camp?
From now until Celtics training camp opens, we’ll be asking questions about the team as the upcoming season approaches. Today: Who will be the biggest surprise of camp?
BOSTON – Seeing a player come out of nowhere with a strong showing in training camp is a beautiful thing.
Here in Boston, we’ve seen that a time or two.
Remember Greg Stiemsma in 2011?
Nobody, not even then-coach Doc Rivers, knew who this guy was until he showed up for training camp and showed out in a big way to earn a roster spot.
There are a handful of players in the Celtics’ training camp this year with similar aspirations.
Still, the road to a roster spot this year is much tougher in part because Boston has better depth than the 2011-12 Celtics team which finished the strike-shortened season with a 39-27 record.
And you have to remember, training camp is not like an open gym run or even a well-organized pick-up game.
Teams don’t just ask guys to training camp to hang out for a few days and play a few games. And players don’t just show up to say they were in a particular team’s training camp.
For teams it’s a chance to look at a prospect up close within your system, without having the long-term commitment that comes with signing a player to a guaranteed contract.
Players benefit from being in an NBA culture on a day-in, day-out basis. There are lessons, some spoken while others are not, in professionalism. And if a player doesn’t perform well enough to stick with a team, they will have hopefully had a chance to be seen by other NBA clubs. And if that doesn’t work out, hopefully they did enough to where the NBA team wants them to be part of their Development League affiliate.
Don’t be surprised if you see one or two players in the Celtics’ training camp wind up playing for the Maine Red Claws.
Past training camp invitees of the Celtics who took that path include Coty Clarke, Tim Frazier (now with the New Orleans Pelicans), Levi Randolph and Ralph Sampson III.
So, who will surprise the Celtics in training camp this year?
You never want to say a player has no shot at making a team, but it’s hard to see any scenario playing out that will land Georges-Hunt a spot on the Celtics roster as a rookie this season.
He is a 6-foot-5 combo guard trying to impress a team that’s absolutely loaded with guards.
Him being with the Celtics isn’t so much about trying to land on the Celtics’ roster now, but getting an inside track towards securing a spot with their Developmental League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.
And for Georges-Hunt, that may be the best thing for his career long-term.
He was a four-year starter at Georgia Tech, a guy that averaged double figures scoring every year and for the most part showed noticeable and steady improvement in his overall game.
Injuries forced the Yellow Jackets to move him to the point guard position where he showed the ability to score at a pretty good clip (17.9 points per game after the position switch).
Opportunities will be few and far between for him in training camp with the Celtics beyond practices, but even within that time frame he will get a chance to show off his skills which may result in him sticking around in New England with the Red Claws.
The former Providence College star was selected by Boston with the 51st overall pick in the second round of last June’s NBA draft. While he does have a partially guaranteed contract for this season, Bentil will have a tough time doing enough to stick.
The Celtics love his size, strength and versatility but know there’s just not room for him to have a defined role with them unless he performs at a level that leaves them no choice but to keep him around and figure out what to do with some of the other fringe players in camp.
And Bentil has the ability to do just that.
At 6-9, 235, Bentil has the size to play both of the big spots in the NBA and its continual evolution to utilizing smaller, more athletic lineups.
And while the tools are there, he’s going to need some time to develop.
Normally that’s not an issue but it is in Boston.
They already have 16 players with guaranteed contracts. Barring a trade, they’re going to have to cut at least one of those players loose. And that makes the chances of securing a roster spot even harder for players like Bentil.
Regardless, he’s going to get a chance to play his way into a roster spot with the Celtics.
Jordan Mickey isn’t among the players with guaranteed contracts in serious jeopardy of being waived. Mickey will see action in more than the 16 games he played in as a rookie. A strong showing in training camp will do wonders for securing him more minutes in the future.
He has great instincts when it comes to blocking shots and has a decent touch around the basket.
Mickey has been working tirelessly on improving his perimeter game so that when he’s on the floor, he can be more than just a decoy.
If he can in fact force teams to respect his perimeter game, he becomes another multi-dimensional weapon for the Celtics which moves them that much closer to playing up the the increased level of expectations so many fans, media pundits and the good folks in Vegas (Boston is one of a handful of teams expected to win 50 or more games this season).
R. J. Hunter
There’s no need to sugarcoat what’s happening here. Hunter needs to play well in training camp. If he doesn’t, he could be waived. And while he may appear to have a slight edge for one of the final roster spots ahead of James Young, Hunter is in no position to take anything for granted.
But this is what you have to remember about him.
He is a player who for all his basketball life, has been a really, really good shooter. His numbers as a rookie don’t suggest that, which is why I believe he’s going to have an amazing training camp.
Because when it comes to good shooters, it’s never a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ they’ll start hitting shots.
Chicago’s Doug McDermott came into the NBA with similar expectations.
Looking at his rookie season with the Bulls, it in many ways mirrored what Hunter went through this past season.
As a rookie, McDermott shot 31.7 percent on 3s while playing 8.9 minutes per game.
During Hunter’s rookie season, he shot 30.2 percent on 3s while playing 8.8 minutes per game.
McDermott’s sophomore campaign brought about more minutes (23.0 per game) and with increased playing time the Bulls got a significant bump in production with McDermott more than tripling his scoring average (he was a 3.0 points per game scorer as a rookie, and averaged 9.4 this past season).
Hunter will be hard-pressed to enjoy a similar spike in minutes this season.
But considering his strength – shooting the ball – is something the Celtics have a clear and well-defined need for, he is the rare player who could go from barely making the 15-man roster to becoming an integral part of their second unit’s success.