Celtics Summer League Standouts to Watch During Training Camp
Prior to last season, the Boston Celtics had won at least one playoff series in each of the previous four campaigns.
That changed in 2020-21, which is probably why the Celtics roster underwent a significant shakeup during the 2021 NBA offseason. Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier were among the subtractions, while the additions included Dennis Schroder and Al Horford.
It's part of a franchise-wide effort to put the right supporting cast around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. That supporting cast could include multiple players who suited up at summer league, so let's spotlight three standouts there who might make noise at training camp.
Drafted 14th overall in 2019, Romeo Langford is still trying to get his NBA career on track.
When injuries haven't plagued his development, inefficiency has. He has made only 50 appearances through his first two seasons, and they weren't particularly impressive. He popped at times as a finisher and defender, but there are only so many opportunities that will be extended toward someone with a career 35.3/22.2/73.0 shooting slash.
Still, the Celtics have openings on the wing if Langford can convince the coaching staff he belongs. While he only suited up three times at summer league, there were encouraging flashes. He rebounded, defended, created a bit and, most importantly, connected on 38.5 percent of his three-point shots.
With Boston's big league offense built to run through Tatum and Brown, the Celtics will want as many catch-and-shoot players as they can find. If Langford proves he's up to that task, he will have the chance to let the other areas of his game shine too.
As a rookie, Aaron Nesmith took the long road to a permanent rotation spot. But the more he played, the better he shot. And the better he shot, the more he played.
He logged just 115 minutes across nine games in December and January, shooting just 32.4 percent from distance over that stretch. By May, he was up to 154 minutes in eight contests, and he hit an elite 43.5 percent of his long-range looks (plus half of his field goals and all of his free throws).
Nesmith headed into his first real NBA offseason looking like a certainty for Boston's 2021-22 rotation, and his five games at summer league only solidified that. He averaged a team-high 17.4 points on 50.0/36.1/80.0 shooting.
The Celtics are quietly thin on the wings behind Tatum and Brown. Nesmith can help address that issue, and with a big enough showing at training camp, he could command a lot of minutes alongside Boston's stars too.
Last season, Payton Pritchard wasted no time in proving he belonged.
This summer, he just as quickly established he didn't need to take a trip to Las Vegas.
He constantly stayed a step ahead of defenders, who didn't look like they were on his level. An All-Summer League first-teamer, he paced Boston in assists (8.5) and steals (1.8) while ranking second in points (16.8) and rebounds (5.8).
It's possible this just positions Pritchard for incremental growth as an NBA sophomore, but given the changes in Boston's backcourt, he might take a much bigger chunk of the rotation. The better he looks running an offense in training camp, the higher he will climb on the pecking order.