BOSTON – As good as someone may look in summer league play, it should never be viewed as a sole barometer for NBA success.
There have been countless players who dominate the floor this time of year, only to become NBA doormats when the games really count.
More than anything else, summer league helps teams get a better feel for their bench – a place where most summer leaguers will be if they are even on a roster at all.
And the Celtics must feel pretty good about their second-unit players who were on the floor in Boston’s summer league run.
Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele, and Jabari Bird were all reserves (or in the case of Bird, a two-way contract player), who are likely to have opportunities to play more prominent roles this season.
All were viewed as having a significant area in need of improvement heading into the offseason.
Ojeleye was essentially a talented defender who, offensively, was a catch-and-shoot guy who only took corner 3’s last season.
In summer league, Ojeleye put the ball on the floor more than we’ve ever seen in addition to finishing at the rim for lay-ups or dunks.
And Yabusele, who at times looked dazed and confused on the floor, was far more assertive in his decision-making – qualities he needs to display when camp starts in September and he’s competing for minutes off the bench.
Bird was the breakout star for the Celtics this summer, solidifying himself as a player who will be on someone’s NBA roster - if he’s not back in Boston - this season.
The athleticism that has been a hallmark of Bird’s game for years was on full display in Las Vegas. More than anything, he showed a heightened level of attention to detail while being consistent at both ends of the floor – traits he’ll need to display more of if he’s back with the Celtics and wants to compete for minutes off the bench.
So as Celtics fans are impressed with the strong play of Ojeleye, Yabusele, and Bird, keep in mind that all three are reserves who likely won’t be the first option off Boston’s bench this season.
Still, they have all shown skills that at a minimum, give Boston hope that when called upon, they will be ready to step up and contribute at a level greater than what we saw last season.
And as we know with all Brad Stevens-coached teams, players must always stay ready to play regardless of how deep they might be buried on the depth chart.
Ojeleye is a great example of this.
A second-round pick last year, Ojeleye played limited minutes most of the season only to find himself inserted into the Celtics’ starting lineup about midway through their first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks.
And while Yabusele saw sporadic minutes, that was in large part due to him not being effective in the minutes he was allotted. Still, the Yabusele we saw last season wasn’t nearly as mobile, athletic or impactful as the one we saw that helped Boston to a 4-2 summer league record.
Bird, on a two-way contract last season, has done enough to at least warrant serious consideration for a spot on the 15-man roster.
All three players raised the level of expectations for fans, and while it was certainly a good sign, by no means does it alone mean they are ready to make major contributions this season.
A strong showing in summer league play can certainly be part of the puzzle for a Celtics team that heads into the season as the odds-on favorite to reach the NBA Finals.