What to Expect from R.J. Hunter & Terry Rozier's Rookie Seasons with Celtics

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJune 30, 2015

Boston Celtics draft picks Jordan Mickey, from left, Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter and Marcus Thornton are introduced to the media at the Celtics basketball training facility, Tuesday, June 30, 2015, in Waltham, Mass. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge added two more guards in the first round of the 2015 NBA draft. 

Ainge must have really thought highly of Terry Rozier, whom he selected at No. 16 overall, despite having taken Marcus Smart last June, re-signed Avery Bradley in July and acquired Isaiah Thomas at the trade deadline.

This was a clear case of a general manager overlooking team needs to grab the top available player on his board.

And that might have been the case at No. 28 overall as well. Ainge picked R.J. Hunter, another guard, though one who can bring something specific that Boston's backcourt previously lacked.

Moving forward, head coach Brad Stevens now has the challenge of putting together a five-guard rotation while creating a setting that allows for maximum individual development. 

Minutes might be tough to come by early for Boston's new rookies. And it wouldn't be surprising if it's Hunter who emerges with the bigger role early on.

Rick Wilson/Associated Press

R.J. Hunter's 2015-16 Fit and Projected Role

Hunter has the ability to offer the Celtics something that Smart, Bradley, Thomas and Rozier can't: the combination of size and shooting. 

As a team, the Celtics shot 32.7 percent from downtown last season, good for No. 27 in the league.

Stevens actually has a reason to find time for Hunter. At 6'6", Hunter hit 253 threes in three seasons at Georgia State. And many of them were from NBA range. 

His bread and butter is running off screens and knocking down quick-release jumpers. And for the most part, that's what he'll bring to the Celtics as a rookie. 

Hunter also happens to be a high-IQ passer who's improved his playmaking skills. He dished out more assists as a junior than he did as a freshman and sophomore combined. 

"R.J. has a really good feel for the game," Ainge told ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg. "He’s a good shooter, good pick-and-roll player, he can shoot deep, he has great length. He’s a real basketball player and he’s a good all-around player."

However, at just 185 pounds, he doesn't project as much of a one-on-one scorer or attacker. And chances are he'll have some trouble defensively with the strength of opposing off-guards. Hunter does a nice job of anticipating and picking up steals, but he'll be vulnerable to getting overpowered.

Still, Hunter's shot-making prowess should hold legitimate value to a team that ranked No. 26 in the league in spot-up jumpers attempted, according to NBA.com.

Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

The other thing to watch with Hunter will be how he adjusts to a much lower usage rate.

In 2014-15, Hunter was used in 29.6 percent of his team's possessions when on the floor, per Sports-Reference.com. That won't be the case next season. He'll be going from being a No. 1 option in college to a No. 4 or No. 5 in the pros. 

This may actually be just what the doctor ordered for Hunter, who really struggled this past season with inefficiency as the focal point of every defense he faced. He should receive more open looks next year with better teammates and spacing.

If Hunter can hold up physically and convert the jump-shooting opportunities that find him in Boston's lineup, he'll have a good chance to hold down a regular spot in the rotation. 

Hunter's Rookie Predictions (averages)
MinutesFG Pct.PointsAssists3PT Pct

Terry Rozier's 2015-16 Fit and Projected Role

Though Rozier may very well be a good-looking player down the road, his rookie minutes are tougher to picture than Hunter's. 

It seems reasonable to assume that Smart and Thomas will be doing most of the ball-handling next season. 

The good news for Rozier is that he's used to playing off the ball, which he often did at Louisville alongside Chris Jones and Quentin Snider. 

LOUISVILLE, KY - FEBRUARY 21:  Terry Rozier #0 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball during the game against the Miami Hurricanes at KFC YUM! Center on February 21, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Rozier is more of a natural scorer than a facilitator, anyway. He averaged 17.1 points last year but finished with a 3-2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio. And as DraftExpress' Josh Riddell points out, his .851 points per possessions off ball screens, per Synergy Sports Technology, were "among the lower rates in this draft for point guards."

The problem for Rozier is that he's also undersized for a 2-guard who struggles with shooting consistency (30.6 percent from three as a sophomore).

Quite frankly, his strengths and weaknesses mirror Bradley's, a reason why Hunter may have the edge for playing time right away.

It's also why so many questioned the pick at No. 16. 

Rozier's immediate value ultimately lies within his transition game and defense.

His athleticism and ball control translate to easy buckets in the open floor. Rozier also creates turnovers at the other end with his quickness, length and pressure. 

Defense and rebounding are ultimately attributes that differentiate him. He's active under the boards, and he locks down on the perimeter. 

In the half court, Rozier can get his own shot from any spot on the floor. But many of them turn out to be difficult, which plays to his streakiness and 41.1 percent field-goal percentage at Louisville. 

Still, throughout an 82-game season, we'll likely see many flashes of Rozier's microwave scoring ability off the dribble, where he can pull up, step back or slice to the rack.

Unfortunately, Rozier is bound to battle inefficiency throughout his rookie year, whether it's at the point or at shooting guard. He'll need a few seasons of full-time reps to work on his jumper and decision-making.

In 2015-16, look for Rozier to come off the bench and produce mixed results in a spark-plug role.

Rozier's Rookie Predictions (averages)
MinutesFG Pct.PointsReboundsAssists3PT Pct.

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 4:  Marcus Smart #36 and Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics celebrates after winning in the final second of the game against the Utah Jazz on March 4, 2015 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowl
Brian Babineau/Getty Images

Boston's Backcourt 

Ainge has been stockpiling assets in the form of young talent and draft picks. Many of them have become guards, and though each one has something to offer, none scream franchise player or All-Star. 

And neither do any of the wings or bigs in Boston.

"Our roster isn’t complete, Ainge told Forsberg. "If you’ve learned anything, that’s one thing you should know: What you see today is not what you’ll see tomorrow. We’re a team that’s building for a championship, and we’ll continue to do that by trying to find the best players we can."

It seems likely we'll see Smart and Bradley start on opening night, with Thomas as the sixth man and Hunter splitting backup minutes with Rozier. James Young should spend time behind Evan Turner at both the 2 and 3 positions. 

However, it wouldn't be shocking if Ainge began to shop one or two of his guards in hopes of balancing out the roster and landing a high-profile frontcourt player.


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