The Boston Celtics are back on the court Sunday as the summer C’s kick off a 10-day stay at Las Vegas NBA Summer League with a tilt against the Atlanta Hawks (4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Boston).
Here are eight things we’ll have our eyes on as the youngest Celtics get us warmed up for the 2021-22 season:
Editor's Note: The Celtics' next Summer League game is Tuesday, Aug. 10, against the Denver Nuggets. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Boston.
It’s probably unfair to expect too much from 2020 stash Yam Madar but we’ve watched enough grainy YouTube highlights from the 20-year-old point guard to be thoroughly intrigued by this international man of mystery.
Madar doesn’t need to live up to the hype of “Israeli Steph Curry,” but can he confidently direct an offense and use his length to be an impact defender? After declaring that he plans to join the Celtics this season, can Madar show enough to truly force Boston to carry him as a depth option behind Marcus Smart, Payton Pritchard, and Kris Dunn?
Madar played with an obvious flair overseas and we are eager to see if he can showcase it on a Vegas stage.
Health woes and the pandemic denied Romeo Langford summer reps the past two seasons. We all know what Langford is capable of on the defensive end from his regular-season reps but Vegas is an opportunity to showcase his offensive potential.
We’d like to see the summer C's put the ball in Langford’s hands and let him facilitate the offense at times. Former Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge used to gush about Langford’s pick-and-roll potential and, since his perimeter shooting is a work in progress, Langford has to find other ways to more consistently impact the offense.
"I feel like I really haven’t shown just about anything that I’m really capable of doing,” Langford said last week. "I felt like, coming into the NBA, I really wasn’t known as a defender but I felt like I’ve shown that I’m capable of playing defense and playing it pretty good.
"So that’s just a add-on of what I’m capable of doing, and knowing that I’ve been hurt my whole career every summer, and now this is my first summer where I’m not hurt and I’m able to be healthy and have no surgeries and stuff like that, being able to play the whole season, I feel like it’s more so my rookie year just because of the setbacks and things that took place in my career so far.”
Aaron Nesmith’s infectious energy helped him carve out a steady role late in the 2020-21 season. Now we’re eager to see if he can harness some of that vigor and play with even more consistency in his sophomore campaign.
The Celtics desperately need shooting around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and Nesmith should get a whole bunch of good looks next season when he’s on the floor with the Jays. Shooting 37 percent as a rookie was an encouraging sight but he can get even craftier at creating open looks for himself beyond the arc.
Nesmith asserted himself last year by routinely crashing the offensive glass and playing with breakneck energy. Can he keep that intensity but play with more control this season?
After a solid rookie season, the next step for Payton Pritchard is being able to confidently run an offense. He’s going to knock down shots and show off deep range, and he can confidently probe a defense without picking up his dribble. But can he get his teammates good shots and be more of a distributor this season?
Pritchard’s assist rate was just 13.3 percent last season, ranking in the 23rd percentile among all combo guards, per Cleaning the Glass data. His shooting is vital, but as Marcus Smart elevates to starting point guard, the Celtics need someone who can confidently direct the second-team offense.
More than offense
We all know that Carsen Edwards is capable of occasional offensive eruptions, and being able to more consistently knock down shots is important to keeping his roster spot. But we’d simply like to see him impact the game in any other way during Boston’s summer stay.
Edwards has played sparingly in 68 NBA appearances. Shooting 30.2 percent beyond the arc hasn’t helped his cause. But we need to see something else that justifies keeping him on the roster again for the 2021-22 season.
Celtics second-round pick Juhann Begarin was a late addition to the summer squad. The 18-year-old Frenchman is obviously quite raw and will certainly spend next season honing his game overseas.
But can he show a few flashes of potential at summer league? His YouTube clips are super intriguing and he’s got an obvious athleticism. But summer league will show just how far Begarin has to develop to be ready for the NBA stage.
Every NBA team is looking for their own Duncan Robinson. At 6-foot-8 with a soft shooting touch, the undrafted Hauser has a chance to be a summer darling after joining the Celtics on a 2-way deal. He shot 41.7 percent on six 3-point attempts per game last season at Virginia (and 44.5 percent in three seasons at Marquette).
The Celtics haven’t been able to consistently lean on their 2-way guys in recent years but Hauser’s shooting could be a real luxury.
Prez Brad at work
The Celtics have 15 players on their roster but that shouldn’t stop new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens from tinkering. Whether it’s the quest for more flexibility, or trying to fill some of the cracks on the 2021-22 roster (power forward depth?), we’re eager to see if Stevens makes any more moves with all his NBA GM brethren in Vegas this week.