Phil Pressey Will Have Chance to Prove Himself with Boston Celtics

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2013

Mar 14, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Missouri Tigers guard Phil Pressey (1) drives against the Texas A&M Aggies during the second round of the SEC tournament at Bridgestone Arena. The Tigers beat the Aggies 62-50. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics have made their first big transaction of the 2013 offseason.

Well, at least ones that can be made official, anyway. While the rest of the world has spent the last day-plus losing their collective minds over Boston's trade of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets, Celtics president Danny Ainge was busy doing his normal post-draft business.

On Friday, that was good news for former Missouri guard Phil Pressey. According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Pressey and the Celtics have agreed to a contract a day after he went undrafted:

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but most undrafted free agents of his caliber are given an invite to summer league and possibly training camp. Anything in the way of guaranteed salary or a roster spot is highly unlikely.

A 5'11" point guard from Dallas, Pressey entered the 2013 draft one year early out of Missouri. He averaged 11.9 points and 7.1 assists per game, while shooting 37.6 percent from the field.

While there were many who questioned Pressey's decision to declare a year early for the draft, seeing 60 picks go by without his name being called was a shock. Most had the 22-year-old guard pegged somewhere midway through the second round.

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From a basketball perspective, judging Pressey's immediate value to the Celtics is inherently a waste of time. Only first-round draft picks in the NBA even get guaranteed contracts, and as we saw plenty of draft-and-stash names come off the board, it was obvious teams don't even feel that many are ready to immediately contribute. 

From a financial perspective at least, there is little difference between going undrafted or being taken in the second round in the NBA. Contracts are non-guaranteed outside of a few exceptions—mostly early second-round choices—and teams employ an NFL-like ruthlessness in dispatching of those players if they prove unworthy.

Second-round picks obviously have a higher success rate than undrafted players—that's why a draft pick was used on them. That said, Pressey has a real chance at making a Boston squad that's in rebuilding mode.

Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley are the team's only two heavy ball-handlers guaranteed to return next season, though Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports Keith Bogans will be headed to Boston as part of the Garnett-Pierce deal. 

Still, can we all agree to steer clear of making any proclamations about what his signing means for the Celtics?

If you see one column that quizzically looks at Phil Pressey and what his arrival could mean for Rajon Rondo, permission to throw tomatoes granted. Undrafted free-agent signings have little to no bearing on current players—especially ones the caliber of Rondo.

The enigmatic guard is no more or less likely to follow Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce out the door now with Pressey in the fold than he was three weeks ago.

Will Rondo ultimately find himself on the trading block? There is plenty of reason to think that answer is "yes." Rondo is still just 27 years old and could be a part of the team's future foundation, but he'll be at least pushing 30 by the time this team is ready to compete again. 

Phil Pressey, though? Ain't nobody got time to think about the nonexistent complications his presence brings. And while the initial thought on that matter is "of course it doesn't mean anything," I'd like to introduce you to the Internet if you don't think those hypothetical columns are being pounded away at a laptop screen as we speak.

The process of training camp and summer league for Pressey—as it is for all players whose contracts aren't guaranteed—is to prove they are worthy being on a 15-man roster. It's about getting that first deal, that first paycheck that proves you're in the NBA and have a chance to be sticking around.

If that seems like a small-peanuts goal, well, it's hard to describe what a precarious tight rope guys like Pressey are walking on.

When he declared a year early, there was no way Pressey could have ever thought all 30 teams would tell him "thanks but no thanks." A flawed player—which we'll speak on later—Pressey was still one of the nation's more tantalizing playmakers at Missouri.

Gifted with an elite first step and good athleticism—he has a maximum vertical leap of 38.5 inches—Pressey did not play like a man under the six-foot barrier.

His game was brimming with confidence, finding teammates through holes in the defense that guards five inches taller would be unable to find. That court vision led the Missouri guard to increase his assists total in each of his three collegiate seasons.

Last year, Pressey's assist rate was 37.8 percent, according to Ken Pomeroy. That ranked 22nd in the country, and the Celtics' overarching goal signing him had to be finding out just how well that translates to the NBA level. 

However, the one thing that Boston will probably look at more than anything else will be Pressey's decision-making. His dreadful conversion rate from the field came mostly as a result of poor shot selection, with those bad shots oftentimes coming in bunches. 

Here is how ESPN's Chad Ford described Pressey's workout in Brooklyn during the draft process, according to the Kansas City Star's Terez A. Paylor:

(Then) he goes into Brooklyn, in front of a horde of NBA general managers and scouts, and does exactly the same thing — at first he’s making some great passes, he’s running his team well, and then all of a sudden, like a switch goes off in his head and he thinks that he needs to be Kobe Bryant and get out there shoot and score and you’re almost screaming at him from the sidelines ‘No, no, just keep passing it and a team will take you in the first round.’

And then he’s undersized, and you just question that about him, and I think that’s why he’s in the second round and not in the first round.

That's the type of stigma Pressey is working against. If he goes into training camp or summer league with his "Kobe Bryant" attitude, he might want to start checking out his overseas options right now. But should Pressey have learned anything from this process—anything at all—it's that NBA teams want to see him in creator mode, not self-combusting as he tries too hard to be something he's not. 

If Pressey plays within himself, there's no reason for him not to make the back-end of an NBA rotation. He's a hardworking kid whose penchant for bad decisions came from a place of competitiveness. You can see how much he loves the game. 

And it doesn't even have to be with the Celtics. Players hop around summer league teams and training camps like high schoolers do relationships. If a team is willing to give you a better chance at making the roster, Pressey should take it. 

That said, the Celtics gave him a shot on Friday. Sometimes, as an undrafted free agent, that's all you need.

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