Five players to watch on C's Summer League team
BOSTON -- When it comes to Summer League play, the final scores have little value.
It's all about giving rookies and undrafted free agents a chance to showcase why they belong in the NBA, while young players with limited NBA experience are out to show their growth. The Celtics have a mix of both on their Summer League roster.
But considering how stacked their roster is already, there will clearly be some players who will be watched more closely than others. And for Celtics fans, you need to know who those guys are.
Here are the five players to keep an eye on as the C's gear up for Summer League play, which begins tonight against Philadelphia in Las Vegas.
After spending most of his rookie season with the Celtics’ Gatorade League affiliate in Maine, Allen is poised to do more of the same this season. Boston’s backcourt remains a stacked one with the addition of Brad Wanamaker and the expected return of Marcus Smart.
For Allen, who signed a two-way contract after Boston selected him with the 53rd pick in the 2017 NBA draft, Summer League has to be about showcasing his talents to the Celtics or other teams in the NBA.
In his brief Boston stints, Allen’s defense was clearly the strongest part of his game. That makes sense when you consider, in addition to being named a G-League All-Star last season, he was also named to the G-League’s All-Defensive team. But this summer, he has to show an improved offensive game whether that be scoring the ball or setting up teammates for good looks at the rim.
After spending last season as one of Boston’s two, two-way contract signings after being taken with the 56th overall pick in the draft, Bird is trying to do enough in Summer League to impress the Celtics brass to re-sign him to a standard NBA contract. He's drawn interest from a handful of teams, which may make it difficult for the Celts to re-sign him.
With Bird, his future in the NBA comes down to one thing -- health. At Cal, he battled an assortment of injuries and, frankly, never quite played up to the expectations that come with being a McDonald’s All-American. But as we saw in Boston, when healthy and given an opportunity to play, the 6-foot-6 Bird can be a positive contributor at both ends of the floor. He played a key role in the Celtics' first win of the season, a game in which he was on the active roster due to the season-ending ankle injury suffered by Gordon Hayward.
We didn’t see much of Bird with the Celtics until late in the season, when Boston’s postseason position had been secured and the C's wanted to keep their core guys healthy. This meant more minutes for Bird, who, to his credit, made the most of them. It was his defense that got him on the floor initially but he displayed the ability to score, too. In the last four games of the regular season he averaged 8.5 points and 3.8 rebounds off the bench while shooting 14-for-22 (63.6 percent) from the field, which included connecting on three of his five 3-point attempts.
SECOND ACT OF SEMI
Second-round picks are supposed to be happy just to make the active roster as a rookie. It’s rare to see one in the starting lineup, let alone the starting lineup in the playoffs on a team that was among the best in the league. Yet there was Semi Ojeleye, making his first NBA start in the postseason against the Milwaukee Bucks.
But that’s in the past now. While it may seem like a mere formality that the Celtics will pick up the second-year option on Ojeleye’s contract (they have until July 15 to do so), it would be wise on his part to not plant any doubts in their minds about that being a good decision. The best way to do that is to have a strong Summer League showing. For Ojeleye, that would mean doing what he does best, only better.
At his best, Ojeleye is an elite defender who can knock down 3-pointers. Doing that in a greater volume this summer will be among the individual goals Ojeleye will be targeting. It would not only put him in better position him to have the second-year of his contract picked up, but also improve his chances of having a steadier role in the team’s rotation this season.
THE DANCING BEAR
While it’s been mostly fun and games with Guerschon “The Dancing Bear” Yabusele since coming into the NBA, things are going to get a bit more serious now. The Celtics' frontcourt depth off the bench isn’t where they want it to be, and part of that is because the team’s young bigs -- Yabusele included -- haven't emerged to the point where the coaching staff feels comfortable leaning on them consistently. A strong showing this summer will go far in helping Yabusele be a player they can turn to more often, and have the confidence he can be impactful in whatever minutes he’s given to play. With his size and strength, he has to be more of a factor around the rim in terms of rebounding. With his court vision and knack for getting teammates involved, Yabusele has to showcase his playmaking skills more often as well.
No member of the Celtics Summer League team will be watched any closer than Robert Williams, who hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts since being selected by Boston with the 27th overall pick in the June 21 NBA draft.
First he overslept his introductory conference call, which had to be pushed back an hour. And then he wound up missing his first practice with the team because he missed his flight back to Boston.
Williams has an opportunity to make folks forget about those things with a strong showing in Las Vegas. But anything short of him playing at a fairly high level will raise concerns as to whether this player -- once viewed as having lottery-pick talent -- is worth the fuss.