For the first time since 2007, the Boston Celtics have fielded a roster for both the Orlando and Las Vegas NBA Summer Leagues, and the early returns are encouraging. Wednesday’s 85-77 victory over the Indiana Pacers has the C’s sitting pretty at 3-0 on the week.
Sully Does Work
The Celtics brain trust can start to breathe easier.
2012 first-round pick Jared Sullinger continued to impress, chipping in 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go with eight rebounds over 29:23. In addition to an impressive array of post moves, he took charges, showed a nice spin dribble in the lane and even knocked down a three.
Sullinger, who fell precipitously in the draft after doctors discovered bulging discs in his back, has so far played with a chip on his shoulder without sacrificing his thinking man’s approach to the game.
The knock on Sullinger has long been his toughness against NBA-level size and leaping ability, so that extra intensity has been a welcome sight for Summer League coach Tyronn Lue.
One Up, One Down
The current frontrunner for Celtics Summer League MVP, however, has to be 2011 second-rounder E’Twaun Moore. The combo guard has shown a nice feel for finding his own shot in transition and off the catch from three-point range while averaging 15.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists over three games.
Moore has been somewhat turnover-prone (2.17 assists per turnover) in an unfamiliar role as the point guard, so he still has plenty to work on if he hopes to secure a spot in the rotation this year, but it’s safe to say that he has made the largest year-to-year improvement of any Celtic on the summer roster.
On the other hand, former first-round pick JaJuan Johnson is one player who Doc Rivers, Danny Ainge and company probably wish had made more significant strides since the 2011 draft. After struggling against Oklahoma City and Brooklyn, the slender power forward lost his spot in the starting lineup.
He responded to the demotion with an 11-point night on 5-of-8 shooting, but without adding significant strength it seems unlikely that he’d be able to guard a true NBA power forward beneath the basket.
Rookies Whose Last Names Don't End in "Ullinger"
Kris Joseph has looked like the scoring-minded forward that Boston expected when they selected him in this year’s second round, and he continues to get excellent looks at elbow jumpers on weak-side pin-down screens.
Fab Melo’s interior passing ability has perhaps been the surprise of the week thus far, as the big man has made a number of spectacular dump-off passes in the lane.
He’ll have to be careful not to rely too heavily on the pass, though, as opposing defenses will quickly adapt and collapse to the cutter. If he can consistently knock down a 13-foot jumper that he’s shown a few times already, Melo’s contributions shouldn’t be limited to the defensive side.
The Celtics continue their Summer League schedule against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday. You can catch the action live on NBATV at 11 a.m. ET.