For sports fans, training camp is little more than when the NBA slowly begins creeping back into the collective conscious following months of free agency, summer league and general inactivity.
However, for a handful of players on the league’s fringe it is the most important time of the year, as they battle for one or two spots on a team’s 15-man roster.
The Boston Celtics, a team with more questions than answers after hiring Brad Stevens and dealing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, are a franchise with plenty of holes that could use some help on the cheap.
After waiving Donte Greene, per ESPNBoston’s Chris Forsberg, the C’s now have one roster spot open and have invited four players to compete for it: Chris Babb, Damen Bell-Holter, DeShawn Sims and Kammron Taylor.
None of them are going to set the league on fire in 2013-14, but let’s look deeper at the four players that Celtics fans should be getting well acquainted with in training camp as well as what undrafted rookie point guard Phil Pressey must do to earn consistent minutes.
Chris Babb, SG
A terrific, versatile defender, Chris Babb went undrafted in 2013 but managed to find his way to the Celtics’ training camp.
At 6’5”, Babb is best suited to play 2-guard, but he is also capable of covering point guards and small forwards if necessary.
He has the ideal size and frame to defend most wing players in the NBA and should not have many problems on that side of the ball.
After transferring to Iowa State from Penn State as a sophomore, Babb found a meaningful role on a team that made the third round of the NCAA tournament.
As a senior, Babb averaged 9.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting a solid 38.2 percent from three-point range.
With the Phoenix Suns in the 2013 summer league, he averaged just five points and 1.9 boards but shot a phenomenal 57.1 percent from distance.
His offense mostly comes from spot-up jumpers, but Babb is capable of reacting to a closeout and putting the ball on the floor in a pinch.
The problem for Babb is that Boston’s roster is already filled with shooting guards. Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, MarShon Brooks and Jordan Crawford are all best used at the 2, and Babb is not a good enough passer that he could man the point in the NBA.
The Celtics have needs at other positions they can address with their final roster spot, meaning it’s unlikely that Babb is the player who makes his way into the 15-player lineup.
Damen Bell-Holter, PF/C
The lone big man Boston invited to training camp, Damen Bell-Holter finished his career at Oral Roberts strongly enough that Stevens himself helped to get him a training camp invite, per Bell-Holter’s interview with CSNNE’s Jessica Camerato.
As a senior, Bell-Holter averaged 15.5 points, 9.4 boards and 1.2 assists while shooting 51.2 percent from the field.
Granted, he was not playing against elite competition in the Southland Conference, but Bell-Holter consistently demonstrated a versatile and refined skill set for a big man.
At 6’9” Bell-Holter uses his body well and can carve out great inside position. He also runs the floor hard and is capable of finishing at the rim on the break.
He has a solid post game that features a reliable jump hook and the ability to finish with both hands around the rim.
While he will obviously have trouble posting up in the NBA, the Celtics do not have a legitimate threat on the block that they can go to besides Kelly Olynyk.
In the NBA, Bell-Holter would likely have to transition to playing more power forward, something he could struggle with defensively when covering the league’s rangier or more athletic forwards.
The Celtics have a number of hybrid forward-centers already, but none of them are as good on the glass as Bell-Holter was at Oral Roberts.
In 2012-13 alone, the big man racked up 18 double-digit rebounding games.
His ceiling is not particularly high, and the Celtics could use a true 7-footer more, but Bell-Holter’s skills on the interior make him a real contender for the final roster spot.
DeShawn Sims, F
A 25-year-old Michigan graduate, DeShawn Sims has bounced around the NBA D-League, Europe and Asia since going undrafted in 2010.
Sims, who averaged 16.8 points and 7.6 rebounds in his senior season as a Wolverine, is an athletic combo forward who can play above the rim and also stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting.
Though he struggled from three in college, Sims has honed his jump shot and could provide the kind of floor spacing an offense featuring Rondo and Bradley desperately needs.
Additionally, his athleticism makes him a natural fit for these younger Celtics who should look to run at every available opportunity. He can run the floor well and is more than capable of finishing at the rim in transition.
Sims spent one full season in the D-League with the Maine Red Claws and thrived, averaging 20.3 points, 7.7 boards and 1.5 assists while shooting 50.6 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from beyond the arc in 2010-11, proving that he can hang with elevated competition.
His play was so impressive he won the 2011 NBA D-League Rookie of the Year Award and was a D-League All-Star the same year.
Unfortunately, Boston already has a number of experienced forwards in Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace, Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries, making it unlikely that they use the final roster spot for another with such glaring holes at point guard and center.
Sims has plenty of talent, but he is simply not a great fit for Boston as it is currently constructed.
Kammron Taylor, G
Perhaps more than any other training camp invitee, Wisconsin product Kammron Taylor has found himself in a perfect situation with Boston.
The Celtics desperately need depth at point guard, and while the 29-year-old Taylor will likely never make much of an impact in the NBA, he has proven that he can score and handle the ball effectively.
Taylor averaged 13.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.9 dimes as a senior Badger while shooting 38.2 percent from three-point range. He went undrafted in 2007 but carved out a decent overseas career.
Taylor also impressed with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2012 summer league, averaging 10 points, 2.8 boards and 2.3 assists on 51.6 percent shooting in four games.
He’s not a pure passer, but Taylor can stretch the floor with his shooting and is a competent, if unspectacular, playmaker.
For as good as Pressey looked at times in Orlando, he still struggles with his decision making and will likely not quite be ready to be the full-time backup point guard in 2013-14.
The Celtics opted not to pursue a veteran guard in free agency, but with Danny Ainge saying there is no clear timetable on Rondo’s return according to ESPNBoston’s Chris Forsberg, it would be foolish for Boston not to sign someone capable of running the point at least in garbage time.
As destructive as Bradley is defensively, he looked dreadful at the 1 in the playoffs, and the same can be said of Lee in the regular season.
Given the Celtics’ need for a competent guard off the bench, expect them to give Taylor a very serious look in training camp.
Phil Pressey, PG
Barring something shocking or unforeseen, Pressey will be suiting up for Boston in 2013-14, but the question with the Missouri point guard is whether he will actually see the court.
Pressey averaged 11.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 7.1 dimes as a junior but surprised many fans and pundits when he left the Tigers and declared for the NBA.
The book on Pressey is that though he has tremendous court vision and a great handle, he is occasionally too reckless and needs to learn when to be aggressive and when to let the game come to him.
Pressey impressed in the Orlando Summer League, averaging 9.4 point, 2.2 boards and 6.6 assists on 45.9 percent shooting, but he still averaged four turnovers per game, an unacceptable amount for a team’s primary playmaker.
The Celtics have a number of combo guards but no natural facilitators behind Rondo besides Pressey. That alone should earn him minutes until Rondo is healthy, but he will need to play with poise and a heightened awareness if he wants to be a consistent rotation piece.
He will also need to develop a reliable three-point shot since he will have a harder time penetrating against NBA defenses. He shot just 32.4 percent on threes in 2012-13 and 30 percent from deep in Orlando.
Still, Pressey is a good pick-and-roll player, a ball hawk on defense and a player who will be able to collapse defenses and hopefully create some open looks for his teammates.
He’ll have to elevate his play even further, but with Bradley and Lee both floundering as point guards in 2012-13 Pressey will have a shot to get consistent tread.
Grant Rindner is on Twitter, but only just barely.
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