Player Takeaways from Celtics Summer League 2014
With three players already signed to guaranteed contracts next year (Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, James Young) and five other players realistically competing for roster spots with the team this upcoming season (Phil Pressey, Chris Johnson, Colton Iverson, Chris Babb, Mike Moser) a significant portion of the team's roster came into the week with plenty to play for.
Young, Boston's second first-round draft pick out of Kentucky was unable to take part in the summer league due to concussion-like symptoms suffered in a car accident back in June, but the rest of Boston's roster tried to leave lasting impressions with the team's coaching staff during the week of action.
Which players helped their stock? Which players hurt their chances of making the team next season? I took a look at a few key takeaways from several players of note on Boston's roster.
Kelly Olynyk arrived at the summer league looking to piggyback upon a strong close to his rookie season in Boston, during which he averaged 16.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in April. As the team's default top scoring weapon in Orlando, Boston's coaching staff pushed the 7-footer to be aggressive looking for his shot all week, especially from three-point range.
Olynyk fired away early and often, leading the team with 16.1 field goal attempts per game in Orlando, but his accuracy left a lot to be desired. The second-year forward hit just 40 percent of his shot attempts, include a meager 27.8 percent from beyond the arc.
The bright spot for the big man? He averaged 7.3 rebounds per game to lead the team.
The work on the glass helped salvaged Olynyk's week, but the big man needs to continue working throughout the summer on his range if he wants to secure more minutes for himself in Boston's crowded frontcourt rotation next season.
Most guards that shot an abysmal 30.8 percent from the field last season probably would be looking for NBA work elsewhere next season, but Phil Pressey has been lauded by Brad Stevens and the rest of the Celtics coaching staff for the energy he brought the team last year on both ends of the floor.
In Orlando, it was clear that Pressey was focused on trying to prove the poor shooting during his rookie year was a fluke, but after a week of action, Pressey's scoring efficiency remained lackluster. Despite averaging 10.6 points per game in Orlando, he shot an ugly 32.2 percent from the field on the week and fared even worse from three-point range, hitting just 4-of-20 attempts from beyond the arc.
The good news for the 23-year-old point guard is that despite these numbers, Pressey still showed the type of energy offensively and defensively that makes him a promising prospect. He capped his week with a double-double, posting 12 points and 13 assists, and his 11 steals on the week was a team-high.
For a rebuilding team like Boston that can afford to be patient with their young players, Pressey did enough to earn himself another chance to contribute for the team next season.
You couldn't find a player in Orlando that showed more hustle on the floor than Chris Johnson. Despite the fact the summer league games didn't count in the standings, Johnson made his presence felt all over the hardwood, diving for loose balls, providing strong help defense and communicating sets to his teammates on both ends of the floor.
That kind of effort and a smooth three-point jumper earned Johnson a role with the Celtics last season after the team dealt away Courtney Lee, but Johnson's shot failed him during his play in the summer league this week.
The swingman out of Dayton went just 3-for-16 from three-point range and shot 30.6 percent overall on the week as he failed to knock down open jumpers from all spots on the floor. It's just one week so the limited sample size shouldn't be held against Johnson too much on a team that struggled with shooting all week.
Given his lack of penetration skills, Johnson will probably need an improved showing for Boston during the preseason to secure a roster spot next season.
Undrafted rookie Mike Moser had a strong senior season with the Oregon Ducks, but most NBA observers didn't give him a chance to make much of an impact on a competitive Celtics summer league roster at the start of last week. That changed quickly on Day 1 in Orlando as Moser displayed a skill set that translated well to the NBA.
He provided the Celtics with a reliable partner for Phil Pressey in the pick-and-roll, providing spacing within the Celtics offense thanks to his accurate shooting from three-point range (42 percent on the week). By game three, head coach Jay Larranaga head plugged Moser into the Celtics starting lineup in place of a struggling Colton Iverson and the 6-foot-8 forward's production just continued to get better with the added playing time.
"I feel like the NBA game opens up a little bit more than the college game with the spacing and driving lanes," Moser told reporters on Friday. "It makes the game a lot easier.”
Moser's strong offensive effort and adequate defense led to Boston giving him a training camp invite by the end of the week after averaging 13.6 points and shooting 45 percent from the field.
With Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass and Kelly Olynyk already signed at the power forward spot, it may be tough for Moser to make the Celtics' roster, if he accepts the invite. His Orlando performance could give him additional opportunities around the league with teams looking for stretch 4s.
There was no bigger disappointment on the Celtics' summer league team than 25-year-old center Colton Iverson. The big man earned strong reviews for his summer league play in Orlando last year, and the team had high hopes that Iverson would be able to build on that after playing overseas during the past year. Unfortunately, the 7-footer was not up to the task on both ends of the floor.
Offensively, Iverson shot 65 percent from the field, but only took 20 shots, looking timid on the floor throughout the week. His lack of shooting range outside the paint clogged up the spacing of the floor for Boston, which caused the Celtics to shift him out of the starting lineup by Game 3 of the week.
Iverson's main skills were supposed to come on the defensive end of the floor, but Iverson was bullied down low by fringe-level NBA bigs all week. He grabbed just 2.4 rebounds per game and only blocked two shots all week long.
As the Celtics continue to search around the league for a rim-protecting big, Iverson did little to show he could help out in that department anytime soon. His prospects of making the team's roster in October were damaged in a big way.
Along with fellow rookies Aaron Gordon and Nerlens Noel, plenty of attention was placed on Boston's newest guard Marcus Smart in Orlando. The former Oklahoma State star did not shoot the ball well all week (29.4 percent from the field) as he bounced between point guard and 2-guard, but left a lasting impression with the Celtics coaching staff.
“Marcus reinforced a lot of things we were hoping for when we drafted him,” Celtics summer league head coach Jay Larranaga said when asked about Smart’s play. “He’s a tremendous competitor and teammate. He’s really skilled in all areas. He can dribble, pass, shoot, defend, rebound. ... We’re really happy with his performance.”
Smart's production spoke for itself across the board. He showed an ability to get to the rim, attempting a team-high 30 free throws for the week, and showed off the versatility to defend a number of different positions on the defensive end of the floor.
Perhaps most importantly, Smart showed the ability to hit the three-ball (nine on the week). If Smart continues to improve his consistency from that range, he will make Boston's backcourt that much better when the regular season rolls around.
Chris Babb was a late-season call-up to the Boston Celtics last season after spending much of the season playing for the Maine Red Claws in the D-League. Outside of Colton Iverson, Babb may be the longest shot to make the Celtics' roster this fall, and he did not help his chances with his performance in Orlando last week.
The small forward worked hard on both ends of the floor but doesn't have many noteworthy components to his offensive game besides a semi-reliable three-point shot that was regularly off the mark during his summer league play (3-of-16). He was stuck behind Mike Moser and Chris Johnson in the playing time depth chart for much of the week as well, which limited his chances to impress.
Defensively, Babb is a savvy player, but in Orlando, he didn't show enough on that end of the floor to outweigh his offensive limitations. Babb will be competing for a roster spot in training camp with Boston, but unless the team moves a wing player like Gerald Wallace or Jeff Green in a trade this offseason, Babb didn't do enough in Orlando to show he deserves a roster spot.