Five things to watch from Celtics at Vegas Summer League
The Celtics open play at Vegas Summer League on Saturday against the Al Horford-poaching Philadelphia Sixers (5 p.m., NBC Sports Boston). There are only two players from last season's NBA roster — Robert Williams and Guerschon Yabusele — but no shortage of intrigue with all four of the team’s recent draft picks out west (though it doesn’t seem likely that top overall selection, Romeo Langford will play as he recovers from thumb surgery).
Here are five things we’ll be watching in Boston’s extended Vegas residency:
1. It’s his time, Lord
The Celtics have a bunch of frontcourt minutes to fill with the departures of Horford, Aron Baynes, and Marcus Morris. Even with the addition of veteran big man Enes Kanter, there’s going to be playing time available for whichever young big shows he’s most eager for them. We’re most intrigued to see if Robert Williams can state his case beginning with summer league.
Williams played only two minutes in Vegas last year due to knee tendinitis but he enters this summer slimmed down and cardio'd up hoping to show more sustained explosiveness. Still three months shy of his 22nd birthday, Williams is exactly the sort of rim-running big man who could pair nicely with Boston’s young core pieces including Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. He turned plenty of heads with his lob dunks and loud blocks last season, now it’s time to show a better understanding of defensive concepts and impact the game beyond the highlights.
2. Look at this nerd!
A self-professed goofball, Grant Williams is going to win Celtics fans over with his personality alone but his basketball skills could really endear him around here, too. He’s going to be giving up size against NBA giants but the 6-foot-8 Williams has the strength to joust with most behemoths and his high basketball IQ should help him as he learns to modify his game at the pro level. The Celtics have some intriguing lineup decisions ahead and Williams is an intriguing option at the 4, especially if the Celtics want to keep Tatum at the 3 more often. At Tennessee, the Vols ran their offense through Williams and the Celtics could do the same while letting Williams set some bone-rattling screens for team ball-handlers.
3. Now or never for Yabu
Three years after being drafted, Guerschon Yabusele is headed back to summer league again and it’s time to figure out if he’s got an NBA future. The bow-and-arrow slinging, dab-happy Frenchman will turn 24 this season and, despite flashes of intriguing potential, he’s yet to prove he’s capable of being an NBA rotation player. There are no excuses now in a depleted frontcourt. Yabusele needs to assert himself or risk becoming a contract lumped in Boston’s next trade.
4. Second-round picks, first-round talent?
Carsen Edwards and Tremont Waters — Boston’s two second-round selections in last months’ draft — each bring some unique strengths to the guard position and will get every opportunity to showcase them in Vegas. Edwards put himself on the national radar with a loud NCAA tournament showing that included a pair of 42-point outings (including against eventual national champion Virginia). Will that scoring translate to the NBA level and can he showcase his combo guard potential? Waters earned some of the loftiest praise from summer coach Scott Morrison before the team ventured out west and the undersized guard can wow with both is playmaking and pestering defense.
5. Tacko Time!
Listen, we have no idea if Tacko Fall can state a case to make the Celtics' roster but it’s going to be fascinating to watch how he holds up against NBA-caliber competition. What we learned from simply watching him go through basic shooting drills after practices in Boston is that you can’t take your eyes off of him. He’s 7-foot-6 with an 8-foot-4 wingspan and a standing reach of 10-foot-2. He can essentially dunk without lifting his size 22 shoes off the ground. How he handles the speed, strength, and athleticism of NBA bigs might just dictate whether a team is willing to put the time and energy into molding his very raw skills.