It’s all about making shots for Celtics’ R.J. Hunter


It’s all about making shots for Celtics’ R.J. Hunter

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with R.J. Hunter. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – For most of R.J. Hunter’s basketball career, he has been on a mission to prove himself.

Too skinny.

Too one-dimensional.

Too this, too that.

There’s always been some kind of knock on his game.

So, the idea that he enters his second NBA season in a fight to not just play, but actually hold down a roster spot with the Celtics, isn’t the least bit overwhelming to the 22-year-old.

And while the uncertainty of his status might result in some anxious moments, Hunter heads into training camp knowing his future with the Celtics is very much in his control.

The ceiling for Hunter: Regular playing rotation

When the Celtics drafted Hunter with the 28th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, he came to town with a well-earned reputation as a shooter.

Hunter hit more than his share of big shots at Georgia State, but none bigger than the deep, Steph Curry-like 3-pointer in the 2015 NCAA Tournament with just 2.6 seconds to play that lifted the 14th-seeded Panthers to a 57-56 upset win over third-seed Baylor.

Hunter didn’t shoot the 3-ball nearly as well in his rookie season, but his confidence in shooting – and making – 3s looked a lot better in summer league play.

He missed some action this summer with a sore wrist injury, but certainly had more positive moments than negative ones when it came to shooting the ball.

Hunter averaged 10.2 points this summer, along with 2.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists. Even more significant was that he shot 47.2 percent on 3s.

Now that’s unlikely to hold up in the regular season, but it’s a good sign for a guy who knows he has to make shots in order to maximize his value to this team.

No matter how well he performs when it comes to intangibles such as screening, making the extra pass on offense or deflections, Hunter has to make shots or at least shoot better than the 30.2 percent he connected on 3s last season.

You should never put too much stock in summer league play good or bad, but to see so many of his 3s go down this summer can only help Hunter in terms of confidence and just as important, solidify his role heading into this season.

The floor for Hunter: On roster of another NBA team

Hunter is among the players that Boston could potentially be unloading prior to the start of the season whether it be via trade or simply waiving him.

It’s not about potential or how he has performed.

It’s a numbers game, pure and simple.

Boston currently has 16 players with guaranteed contracts, Hunter being among them. By the time the season starts, that number has to be down to the league-maximum of 15.

No calculator needed for this problem.

At least one player with a guaranteed contract has to go, and we’re not even factoring in second round pick Ben Bentil who has a partially guaranteed deal who is also in the fight for one of the last remaining roster spots.

At this point it seems unlikely that Hunter will be one of the guys to be moved, but a poor training camp might shift the winds of change in his direction.

Because of his age and experience, Hunter won’t have a problem latching on with another NBA team if the Celtics waive him. He is still a young player, has shown promise, has a great contract and doesn’t bring any kind of knucklehead, baggage-type issues with him.

But ultimately he has to be a shot-maker in this league. He’ll get a better chance at doing that in camp. And if he succeeds, they will keep him. But if he struggles and others surge ahead of him, Hunter will be donning a new uniform next season in another NBA city.


Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

File Photo

Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas back in green? Maybe there's a chance after all.

The former Celtics guard, now with the Lakers, started a Q&A session on Twitter and was asked whether he'd consider returning to Boston this offseason. This was his answer...

That's not a no.

Thomas has had a rough go of it since leaving the Celtics. His brief tenure in Cleveland didn't go according to plan, and things haven't gotten a whole lot better out in L.A. The 29-year-old is averaging 15.3 points per game just a year after averaging 28.9 with Boston.

Let the speculation begin.


Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Al Horford understands that there’s plenty of blame pie to go around following Boston’s 108-89 loss to New Orleans. 

Considering how Pelicans stud Anthony Davis dominated the game on so many levels Sunday night, Horford was quick to acknowledge his role in the loss. 

“He (Davis) was able to get behind our defense a lot,” Horford told reporters after the loss. “Some mistakes on my end; gotta give him credit. He dominated tonight. I’ll definitely take the blame for that.”

Davis finished with a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds, a total that would have been higher if not for the game being so lopsided which allowed Davis to head to the bench early in the fourth. 

MORE - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from C's-Pelicans

And Horford’s struggles defensively were just as problematic on offense as the five-time All-Star tallied just six points on 3-for-11 shooting to go with four rebounds and three assists. 

Boston has been a team whose collective sums have fueled their success. 

But Horford understands he has to be a high impact performer, a job that’s even more vital when key starters like Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) and Jaylen Brown (concussion) are out as well as top reserves Marcus Smart (right thumb) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus). 

And by Horford’s own admission, he just didn’t bring it on Sunday at a level to give him and the Celtics a legit shot at winning the game.

“Defensively we had too many breakdowns,” Horford said. “And the game got away from us in the second half. So there’s no excuses. I didn’t give us a chance, either; missing a lot of looks offensively. I just need to be better.”

And he’ll have to be if Boston (47-23) is to get back on track with a win on Tuesday against a talented Oklahoma City squad led by Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. 

At full strength, the Thunder would be a significant challenge for the Celtics. 

But having a roster with a number of key players out with injuries, it becomes even more imperative for Boston’s top players to elevate their play. 

And as you scan this Celtics roster and examine those who are healthy enough to play, it’s clear that Horford more than any other Boston player, has to find a way to become more impactful.

Certainly, more points and rebounds would help. 

But as we’ve seen time and time again with Horford, often his greatest contributions to winning games don’t necessarily show up in the final box score. 

That being said, a six-point, four-rebound game doesn’t cut it. 

Horford has to be better, something he knows better than anyone. 

“I’ll definitely look at the film and see how I can be better individually,” Horford said. “The good thing about the NBA, is we have a chance to play on Tuesday. Hopefully we’ll learn from this game and be ready to go Tuesday at home.”