Countdown to Celtics Camp: Does Tacko Fall make Boston’s roster?

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: Does Tacko Fall make Boston’s roster?

The Boston Celtics open training camp on October 1 and we’re counting down the days by examining some of the top storylines for the 2019-20 season. 

Today’s topic: Does Tacko Fall make Boston’s roster out of camp?

In one of the NBA’s wildest summers, one that saw the Celtics swap out an All-Star point guard (Kyrie Irving) for another (Kemba Walker), no Boston player drew as much national attention as Fall, an undrafted camp invite.

Since the start of summer league in Las Vegas, Fall has been the most searched Celtics player on the internet. Try a Google query for “Celtics roster” and Fall is the first suggested player ahead of Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Gordon Hayward. It’s been that way since July.

The 7-foot-7 Fall became a sensation not just because of his height but because of his raw abilities and the way he carried himself in the face of rising celebrity. Casual Celtics fans probably can't name a member of Boston’s new-look frontcourt following the departures of veterans Al Horford and Aron Baynes, but chances are they now know Fall.

After going undrafted in June, Fall signed what’s called an Exhibit 10 contract with the Celtics. That pact is essentially an invitation to work out with the team over the summer and attend training camp. Players that are waived at the end of camp and accept an assignment to the team’s G-League affiliate can earn up to $50,000 for being funneled to the parent team’s minor league squad.

Fall is going to get a chance to state his case for an NBA job at training camp. The Celtics have an open roster spot after waiving Guerschon Yabusele during summer league and the team is bringing in summer league standouts like Fall and Javonte Green to compete for that spot. The Celtics do not have to sign another player but that spot is there for someone to win if they prove themselves valuable enough.

Outside of the 15-man roster, the Celtics also have a pair of two-way player slots that allow young players to develop in the G-League with an ability to be called up to the parent club for part of the season. Boston has already committed those slots to Tremont Waters (a late-second round pick) and Max Strus, an undrafted rookie. But either of those players could be converted to the 15th roster spot — or waived — to open a potential two-way spot for Fall.

The most ideal path for the Celtics would be to funnel Fall to the G-League as an affiliated player if he’s waived after camp but doing such would require the team to expose him to waivers where a rival could snag him on a minimum-salary deal, particularly any team with an open two-way spot.

Outside interest might hinge on what Fall shows during camp, as it will be our first real glimpse of where he stands against NBA talent. He showed well in summer league but there is a great difference in defending other rookies versus trying to joust with NBA veterans like Enes Kanter (though Kanter offered praise of Fall after playing some 2-on-2 with him this summer).

So, does Fall make the final roster out of camp? This writer's belief has been that he can force the team’s hand with his play in camp. If he shows he’s already made strides this summer and that there’s a potential to develop into a serviceable big man, then the Celtics are going to have to think long and hard about finding a way to keep him around. It seems more likely that Boston would elevate, say, Waters to the 15th roster spot and ink Fall to a two-way deal, but is still gets him on the roster.

There is a business component to all this as well. Fall’s development is going to be of high interest, particularly at the minor league level. This summer, the Celtics purchased their G-League affiliate, and one way to guarantee a sold-out arena is to have someone like Fall to generate interest. It’s further incentive to keep him as a part of the program, but only if the team truly believes he has a potential NBA future ahead of him. Danny Ainge has said the team is invested in Fall’s development.

Would the Celtics be brazen enough to expose Fall to waivers in hopes of simply pushing him through to the G-League as an affiliated player? It seems like a risky move, even if Fall has a rough camp. But if someone else kicks down the door to that 15th spot, and if Waters and Strus hold firm to those two-way spots, it might be a dice roll the team must take.

Abby Chin: Two-way player

We’ve seen situations change quickly in the past when different opportunities pop up for the guys at the end of the bench. I don’t think the Celtics would mind getting a glimpse of Tacko at the NBA level. But he’s clearly not ready to be an every-night contributor.


Sherrod Blakely: Two-way player

Prepare for Tacko Tuesdays to become a mainstay of the Maine Red Claws this season. At 7-foot-7 and still learning the NBA game, Tacko has too much size, potential, and drawing power to let go. He's not quite good enough to hold down the 15th roster spot but slotting him into one of the two-way contracts — that means Boston would likely waive Max Strus — makes a lot of sense.

Max Lederman: Two-way player

I think they'll end up keeping his rights with a two-way deal. He's too fun to get rid of but probably not worth a spot on the 15-man roster. That said, he's a massive body to throw out there versus teams who deploy traditional bigs.

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Celtics' bench power surge just in time with trip out West on the horizon

Celtics' bench power surge just in time with trip out West on the horizon

BOSTON — There has been little to be overly critical about when it comes to the Boston Celtics this season. 

Wednesday’s high-scoring affair with Washington ended with Boston prevailing 140-133, giving them a ninth straight win to improve upon their league-best record of 9-1. 

But the win over the Wizards was different than most this season because of the significant contributions made by the bench, a group that hasn’t been that impactful this season. 

According to Hoopsstats.com, the Celtics bench averages just 27.7 points per game, which ranks 29th (out of 30 teams) in the NBA. 

But against Washington, the second unit outscored their Washington counterparts 40-29, with all six of the Celtics off the bench scoring at least two points.

That was a bit surprising, not only because of Boston’s lack of scoring punch off the bench, but also because bench scoring has been one of the few strengths of the Wizards this season. Washington’s bench averages 43.4 points per game, which ranks sixth in the NBA.  

For Boston to have such a collectively strong game could not have come at a better time with the Celtics heading out for their longest road trip of the season beginning Friday at Golden State. 

Among the backups to step up against Washington was Brad Wanamaker, who had 10 points and five assists in the Celtics' victory. 

He is well aware that the team’s second unit is viewed by some as the team’s weak link. But such talk doesn’t faze him. 

“Ignore the outside noise,” Wanamaker told NBC Sports Boston. “We know what we’re capable of doing in this locker room.”

Part of the challenge for Boston’s bench has been injuries that have forced the Celtics to elevate players on the second unit to starter status. 

Marcus Smart has been called up from the bench and inserted into the starting lineup to replace Gordon Hayward, who will be out for another five or so weeks following surgery to repair a bone fracture in his left hand. 

And Daniel Theis — who has been the team’s primary starter at center — did not play against Washington due to a dislocated finger injury. His primary backup this season, Robert Williams III, was a late scratch Wednesday with a sore ankle. 

That meant Enes Kanter (13 points, nine rebounds) was back in the starting lineup while rookie center Vincent Poirier was eleveated from the end of the bench to be a prominent part of the rotation. 

“It is great to help the team,” Poirier told NBC Sports Boston. “I knew I would play because we had two guys out (Theis and Williams III). I was ready. Ready to help the team and do my best.”

Poirier tallied three points, four rebounds and three assists in addition to setting screens that frequently freed up teammates for great looks at the basket. 

Boston also got a career game from Carsen “Boogie” Edwards, who led all of Boston’s backups with a career-high 18 points. 

“It’s important for nights like this,” Edwards said. “It’s good for games like this when we do get minutes, to try and make the best of them and help the team.”

And that aid will be needed in the coming days as Boston (9-1) puts their league-best record to the test beginning on Friday at Golden State, followed by road games at Sacramento (Nov. 17), Phoenix (Nov. 18), the Los Angeles Clippers (Nov. 20) and finally Denver (Nov. 22).

“We gotta have everybody; it’s gonna be team wins so we’re going to need everybody,” said Jaylen Brown. “So for everybody to stay ready, that’ll be great for us.”

Kemba Walker had similar thoughts on the bench’s impact going forward. 

“It’s about staying ready,” Walker said. “We need our bench, we need those guys to step up and just come in and just do what they can to help us. Of course a lot of attention will be on myself and the rest of the starters, but those guys coming off the bench and come in, they’re gonna be huge for us.”

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Warriors, which tips off Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Are the Celtics better than we thought? Or will the West be a reality check?

Celtics Talk Podcast: Are the Celtics better than we thought? Or will the West be a reality check?

With the Celtics riding a league-best nine-game win streak, Kyle Draper, Chris Forsberg and A. Sherrod Blakely discuss the key ingredients to Boston's surprising start, the biggest differences between this season and last year, and what lies ahead on the C's road trip against the Western Conference.

1:00 — How surprising is it that the Celtics have the best record in the NBA?

3:15 — How much will this West Coast trip tell us about the Celtics potential?

4:50 — Forsberg explains how Kemba Walker’s ‘got a little I.T. in him in the fourth’

8:00 — What has been the most surprising thing about the Celtics hot start?

10:00 — What is the biggest difference between this season and last season?

13:30 — Draper explains why blaming Kyrie for all the struggles last year isn’t fair

16:30 — Why is the play of Marcus Smart flying under the radar?

19:00 — What record would make this a ‘good’ West Coast trip for the Celtics?

20:30 — Breaking down A. Sherrod Blakely’s NBA Power Rankings

23:00 — Impressions of Isaiah Thomas’ return to Boston, will he ever be close to the same player again?

25:30 — Do the Celtics still NEED a big man?

29:00 — Our crew gives out their ‘My guy!’ of the week awards.


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