BOSTON -- After crushing the Memphis Grizzlies 113-87 to cap off the NBA Summer League “regular season” with a perfect 4-0 record, the Celtics go into the playoffs as the top seed.
With only the top eight teams advancing to the playoffs, the Celtics begin their run toward a summer league crown Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET against the very same Memphis Grizzlies.
But here’s where things might get interesting for the Celtics.
It’s not unusual for teams to hold out some of their key players at this point in the summer to ensure they avoid getting injured and negate the strides they have made this summer.
Looking up and down Boston's roster, there are plenty of candidates who could be given the rest of the summer off, or short of that, be held out of Saturday’s quarterfinal game.
ROBERT WILLIAMS III
Coming off his best game of the summer with a 16-point, 16-rebound performance against Memphis, Williams has already had a “load management” game off and responded Thursday with his best effort of the summer.
He is the only player on the summer league roster who has a shot at potentially being in the Celtics’ starting lineup.
Williams has played in a total of three games, averaging a near double-double of 11.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per game while dishing out 2.3 assists with 1.7 blocked shots.
After he battled knee tendinitis at times last season, it would not be all that surprising if we saw Williams shut down the rest of the summer to keep him as fresh as possible for the start of the season, when he’ll be among a handful of players battling for the vacant starting job at center.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has already pointed out how Carsen Edwards, a second-round pick in last month’s NBA draft, is a player he believes can contribute to the team’s success right away.
Edwards has been a star from day one for Boston this summer, averaging a team-best 18.0 points in just 23 minutes per game while connecting on 52 percent of his shots.
There’s very little at this point left for Edwards to prove.
Edwards was scoring as a starter the first couple of games, while the last two Celtics games have seen him come off the bench and deliver a comparable offensive punch.
While Edwards hasn’t played nearly well enough to enter the conversation to potentially start, he has done more than enough to validate Stevens’ belief that he’ll be in the rotation and play off the bench this season.
The No. 22 pick in last month’s NBA draft, Grant Williams has been as good as advertised.
He was billed as a solid player whose greatest skill appears to be impacting winning, and thus far he has not disappointed.
Williams has appeared in all four summer league games and ranks as the team’s No. 2 scorer (13.5 points per game) and rebounder (6.8 per game) while shooting a solid 50 percent (18-for-36) from the field.
He too has played well enough to where he’ll be in the scrum to play minutes off the bench this year, showcasing a high basketball IQ in terms of his passing and decision-making out of the post while boasting a 3-point shot that has been better than what we saw in college.
While Boston may be tempted to shut Williams down, more likely than not he’ll continue playing his usual minutes, which the Celtics will need if they are to continue on their winning ways.
Another one of the Celtics’ summer league stars, the 5-foot-11 Waters has been Boston’s best playmaker as well as one of its top defenders. He’s averaging 10.0 points per game along with a team-best 5.3 assists.
Having already agreed to a two-way contract with Boston, there’s little left for him to show the Celtics coaching staff that would impact their views on him as a player.
That said, there’s still a sense that Waters will continue playing if for no other reason than to keep reminding the C's of just how impactful he can be in games despite his small frame.
Right now, the Celtics look pretty stacked in the backcourt with Marcus Smart, Carsen Edwards and Brad Wanamaker all vying for minutes, not to mention Gordon Hayward will at times slide over and facilitate the offense, too.
That all means that Waters’ best shot at staying on the Celtics’ radar while still playing probably will come as a member of the team’s G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.
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