Semi Ojeleye is one of the Celtics’ biggest riddles.
He’s a defensive brute that Brad Stevens has the confidence to dispatch against the likes of NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, and yet Ojeleye couldn’t consistently crack Stevens’ rotation last season. He’s a player that Stevens routinely raved about as one of Boston’s most improved and yet his minutes plummeted from 1,150 in his rookie season to 594 last season.
Some of that was the talent glut on Boston’s roster, but Ojeleye did little to kick down the door. By the end of last season, you could sense the frustration in every single medicine ball that Ojeleye slammed against a training room wall after another night of light lifting on the parquet.
It’s a successful season for Ojeleye if…
…he develops into a rotation-caliber wing who can operate as an undersized big and keep defenses honest with his 3-point shot. Ojeleye has connected on just 31.8 percent of his 3-point attempts in his career. The Celtics posted good numbers with him on the floor last season — a plus-6.0 net rating including a sizzling 100.2 defensive rating — but Ojeleye needs to find other ways of impacting the game individually.
It’s a disappointing season for Ojeleye if…
…he struggles to gain Stevens’ confidence and watches a rookie such as Grant Williams earn minutes over him. Ojeleye had another underwhelming preseason, shooting just 32.1 percent overall and 22.2 percent beyond the 3-point arc. He looked like was pressing too much offensively and has to play with the confidence of a third-year player when he’s on the court.
Feels like a bit of a make or break year for the soon-to-be 25-year-old Ojeleye. His work ethic is undeniable and his defensive potential is obvious. But Ojeleye needs to show he’s impacting the game in other ways. There’s backup minutes to be won at the 3 and 4 spots, particularly if rookie Romeo Langford is brought along slowly, but Ojeleye must impact the offense even when his shot isn’t falling.
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