Celtics

"20 Under 25" Boston Celtics Candidates for 2022

Celtics
NBC Sports Boston Illustration

The Boston Celtics' kids are growing up.

For the past several years, the young trio of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams has been a mainstay in our annual ranking of the 20 best players under 25 years old in Boston sports. The 25-year-old Brown has officially graduated, though, and the 24-year-old Williams is in his final year of eligibility.

The Celtics are in great shape with Tatum and Brown, arguably the best young duo in the NBA. But who's behind them in the pipeline?

"20 Under 25" candidates for other teams: Patriots | Red Sox | Bruins | Revs

Boston didn't have a first-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and has just four players on its active roster from the previous three drafts. Whether those four players can make an impact could go a long way in how far Tatum and Brown can carry the C's in the next few seasons.

Let's meet the six Celtics candidates for our "20 Under 25" rankings in 2022. Below that, you'll find a ballot to vote for each player using a video game-style rating system.

Jayson Tatum, F

LAST YEAR'S RANK: 1 | RATING: 93.4

Remember when Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball were drafted ahead of Tatum in 2017?

Since then, the Duke product has blossomed into a two-time All-Star who narrowly missed his second All-NBA Team in 2021. He averaged career highs in points (26.4), rebounds (7.4) and assists (4.3) last season and has topped our "20 Under 25" list two years running. Oh, and he's also an Olympic gold medalist.

 

It's hard to believe Tatum is just 23 while in his fifth NBA season. When an early-season "shooting slump" means averaging more than 23 points per game, you know you've arrived.

Robert Williams, C

LAST YEAR: 13 | RATING: 79.3

The Celtics' lone draft pick (No. 27) in 2018, Williams has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency, appearing in 61 games total over his first two NBA seasons.

Time Lord flashed more of his potential last season, though, averaging 8.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game as an uber-athletic rim runner.

Williams finally has earned the starting center job in his fourth season, and his early-season play -- 10.0 points on a 73.4% shooting percentage with 9.2 rebounds per game -- suggests he's ready to put it all together. He just needs to stay healthy

Romeo Langford, Wing

LAST YEAR: N/A | RATING: 78.4

We've heard about Langford's potential for a while, but injuries have prevented that potential from becoming a reality -- the No. 14 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft appeared in just 50 games for the C's over his first two seasons.

The good news? Langford is a strong defender who at 22 is still the youngest player on the roster. If his confidence and offensive game develop (he's shooting a career-best 47.4% from 3-point range this season), he could become a solid contributor on the second unit.

Grant Williams, PF/C

LAST YEAR: 18 | RATING: 79.0

Few thought Williams would contribute much this season after the team brought in Al Horford, Enes Kanter and Juancho Hernangomez. But Boston's other first-round pick in 2019 (No. 22) keeps finding ways to make an impact.

Williams is averaging a career-high 6.5 points while hitting 41.5% of threes, providing a spark off the bench for Ime Udoka's club and even making a handful of starts. Does he have Robert Williams' potential? No. But he's been getting decent results.

Aaron Nesmith, Wing

LAST YEAR: N/A

The No. 14 pick out of Vanderbilt in 2020 came to Boston with a reputation as a 3-point specialist. After playing sparingly early in his rookie year, though, Nesmith has embraced being the "hustle guy" on the second unit, throwing his body around without any apparent concern for safety.

Udoka hasn't played Nesmith much in 2021-22, and his 3-point shot has suffered (below 20%). But shooters gotta shoot, and that combination of hustle and range could benefit the C's down the stretch.

Payton Pritchard, PG

LAST YEAR: N/A

The Celtics appeared to land a steal in Pritchard, who finished third among all qualified rookies in 3-point percentage (40%) last season as the No. 26 pick.

"Fast PP" (aka "P-Rabbit" aka "8 Mile") gave the C's a huge scoring boost off the bench last season but has struggled in limited minutes this season. He's averaging just 1.8 points over 10.6 minutes per game with Marcus Smart and Dennis Schroder handling the majority of point guard duties.