Boston Celtics' Most Intriguing Prospects from NBA Summer League
On the surface, the Boston Celtics' seventh-place finish at the Orlando Summer League may seem a bit lackluster. However, many positive signs emerged from the week.
The old adage remains that you can't judge a player by his Summer League performance. The yearly tournaments serve more as an indication of who cannot play in the NBA than who can. If you can't cut it in a small gym with a handful of bloggers, you stand no chance in front of 20,000 fans.
That being said, the Celtics introduced a few faces that will likely never be seen again in a professional capacity. Some will head overseas and play for international teams in countries like Spain, France, China or Russia. Others will (gasp!) actually pursue regular full-time employment.
But a select few will succeed down the line. And that's what makes the whole process worthwhile.
The following prospects highlight the Celtics' summer squad, from the least exciting to the most promising. They definitely won't all make the final roster, which already sits over the league-maximum 15 players. But they could all very well make it in the NBA.
All Summer League stats courtesy of BostonCeltics.com and NBA.com.
In one of those “only in the Summer League” moves, Darius Johnson-Odom picked up midway through the week to jumpstart his travels to Las Vegas. Possibly recognizing the sheer size of Boston's roster and his relatively low odds of cracking it, he bailed and probably went to play craps before joining the Denver Nuggets' summer squad.
But before that, DJO showed a few flashes of brilliance as the starting 2-guard. In the July 8 game, the 6'2” Marquette product logged 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field (2-of-3 from deep). He showed off his hops, his strong motor and his competitiveness.
Of course, he also showed that he can be a bit inconsistent. In three games total, he shot 37 percent from the floor and averaged 10.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and three turnovers.
DJO really stood no chance of becoming a regular Celtic, considering he has a weak handle, a low assist-to-turnover ratio and an undersized frame for the shooting guard position. Hopefully he had better luck in Vegas, at least on that craps table.
Second-year Brazilian center Fab Melo is intriguing, but for all the wrong reasons. Celtics fans just want to know if the 2012 first-round draft pick will ever be ready for NBA competition.
So far, no good. Melo showed positive signs here and there, blocking shots and throwing in some dunks as well as the occasional jump-hook. But overall, he struggled mightily.
The biggest issue continues to involve strength and conditioning. Scouts may salivate at the mere glance of his 7'0”, 275-pound body, but they likely look away in disgust when he appears winded after five minutes of play.
Even worse, Melo still makes poor decisions with the basketball and seems out of place on defense at times. He only averaged 6.2 points and 3.4 rebounds during the tournament and gave up on even trying to run down the floor after a couple of his many turnovers.
Additionally, Melo got dunked on a handful of times. He got rejected by guys who stood four inches shorter than him. He tried to hackey-sack the basketball after fouling someone and kicked it square out of the camera's focus. It was all-in-all just plain ugly.
And that's the one word that defines his game: ugly. He's out of shape, he has a low basketball IQ and he lacks instincts. As a guaranteed contract until 2014, the Celtics are stuck with him for one more season. And by that I mean the Maine Red Claws of the D-League are stuck with him.
Last season's Developmental League Rookie of the Year, “the other” Tony Mitchell was thought to be one of the potential breakouts of the summer. After averaging 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, many expected him to wow the big-boy scouts. Nope.
Instead, the small forward mostly gave way to the Kelly Olynyk show. He didn't exactly call for the ball or attempt much one-on-one offense. He served mostly as a solid role player.
That said, he did a lot of things well. He moved well without the ball, hustled for rebounds (3.4 per game) and tip-ins and played solid defense.
He showed good accuracy from short and medium range (16-of-27), but struggled from beyond the arc (4-of-18). Unfortunately for Mitchell, that could be the deciding factor. As an aggressive slasher who works hard and gets to the line (where he shot 12-of-14), someone will take him. It just won't be the Celtics.
Where Fab Melo failed, rookie big man Colton Iverson shined. The Colorado State seven-footer banged down low all week, and even replaced Melo in the starting lineup twice during the week.
This kid knows how to utilize his 255-pound wide frame. He boxes out, sets jaw-rattling screens and commits hard fouls. Many regard him as “six fouls a game” and nothing more, but his play during the summer series suggested otherwise.
Ainge knows that much. That's why he acquired him for cash from the Indiana Pacers late in the second-round of the June 27 draft. He's a blue-collar type who never fears contact. As a matter of fact, he welcomes it.
Of course, his offensive game is far from polished. He gets rid of the ball like a hot potato unless he's right near the rim and doesn't have much a post game. He draws fouls, but struggles from the line (69.2-percent shooting during the Summer League).
Unlike Melo, Iverson is a promising work in progress. According to Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald, he will likely play overseas this upcoming season and return a more polished player for the 2014-15 campaign.
Undrafted Missouri point guard Phil Pressey dazzled during his Summer League opportunity, showing the spectacular court vision and quickness Danny Ainge has coveted. A spot on the roster seemed to be Pressey's to lose, considering the Celtics' president of basketball operations called him minutes after the draft to sign him.
He didn't lose a thing. According to Jeff Goodman of ESPN, Boston is now working out the details of a one-year deal with the confident floor general.
He'll be close to home, considering he played high school ball in Waltham, Mass.—down the street from the Celtics' practice facility (Phil's father Paul, current assistant coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers, previously coached under Doc Rivers).
There's not much to dislike about Pressey's game. He's lightning quick, he drops dimes into the smallest of alleys and openings and he plays Avery Bradley-like man-to-man defense. He also has a fairly smooth touch and flashes some strong moves to the basket.
However, he's not perfect, so don't get too involved with thoughts of Pressey taking the baton from Rajon Rondo. For one, he's a thin 5'11”. And he turns the ball over more often than an NBA point guard should.
The pros outweigh the cons with this All-Summer League honorable mention, for sure. Once the cons decrease, he could be an All-Star-caliber talent. Give him a couple years before going all-in, though.
I think we can go all-in on Kelly Olynyk. The No. 13 draft pick and All-Summer League First Team selection went absolutely crazy from start to finish, vanquishing the doubters like yours truly.
Olynyk shot lights-out from all over the floor, dropping 18 points per game on 57.8-percent shooting. The Gonzaga product affectionately called “The Big KO” by NBA TV broadcasters mixed his range from deep with solid play in the low and high post, stifling defenders left and right.
The long-haired stretch power forward also ran the floor as well as anyone. He hustled almost as hard as Iverson, diving for loose balls and wrestling opponents for possession. He grabbed 7.8 boards per contest, assuring critics that he'll do his best to combat Boston's woes in that department (the Celtics were the second-worst rebounding squad last season).
Olynyk also dished out 2.4 assists per game, often looking more like a shooting guard in a seven-footer's body. Don't crown him the next Dirk Nowitzki yet, but don't fall asleep on him either. He can't jump high or run fast, but he more than makes up for what he lacks with pure scoring ability and a very high IQ.
This kid is the real deal, and the most intriguing prospect not only on the Celtics, but in the entire league.