Celtics Players Who Can Benefit Most from Strong Training Camp Performances

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2021

Celtics Players Who Can Benefit Most from Strong Training Camp Performances

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    The Boston Celtics feel more familiar than they probably are.

    With Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart leading this roster, the Shamrocks resemble their most recent iterations. Still, a series of alterations this summer has made Boston more different than it appears on first glance.

    Brad Stevens ditched the sidelines for the front office, hiring Ime Udoka to take his old spot. Al Horford came back to Boston. Josh Richardson and Dennis Schroder joined the club. Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier headed elsewhere.

    There are enough moving parts to give this club a quietly mysterious feel ahead of training camp. There is much to sort out with this roster, but the following three players stand out as having the most at stake when this club breaks camp.

Romeo Langford

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    Romeo Langford somehow feels older and younger than you think.

    When you want to buy him as this up-and-coming prospect, you're reminded he'll turn 22 before the calendar flips and already has two NBA seasons under his belt. But when you try writing him off as a wasted lottery pick, you must remind yourself he's only 21 and has played all of 50 games in his career.

    The Celtics haven't given up on him, but he must give them a reason to heavily invest in his development. His first two seasons were largely shaped by injuries, but when he's been able to make it inside the lines, he hasn't been good enough to stick out there. So far, he has shot a miserable 35.3 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from range, all while posting a putrid 5.2 player efficiency rating (league average is 15), per Basketball Reference.

    Teams won't stick with struggling prospects forever, particularly those who want to win sooner rather than later. Langford needs to change his narrative. If he does, he could play his way into a not insignificant role in the perimeter rotation. If he doesn't, he'll either find himself buried on this bench or even on someone else's roster.

Aaron Nesmith

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Rumor has it that if you hold an Aaron Nesmith jersey to your ear, you can hear opportunity's knock.

    The sharpshooting sophomore-to-be could have a path that takes him all the way to the starting lineup. It'd be a massive jump for someone who didn't even log 700 minutes as a rookie, but it's easy to see why the Celtics might want his lethal long-range shot alongside the Tatum-Brown-Smart trio.

    But Nesmith needs to check at least two boxes at training camp to grab anything near a starting role.

    First, he must be elite as an outside shooter. Last season, he was good—but not great (37.0 percent). Second, he needs to show he can contribute in other areas. Growing as an off-the-bounce scorer or showing better consistency on defense could do wonders for his workload.

Josh Richardson

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    It feels like forever ago that Josh Richardson was a player the Miami Heat reportedly refused to move for Jimmy Butler. Truth be told, it probably feels even longer for Richardson.

    He was eventually involved in a trade for Butler, which routed Richardson to the Philadelphia 76ers. But he never found his footing in Philly and was shipped off to the Dallas Mavericks a year later. Things weren't any better in Dallas, so he was traded for the third time in as many offseasons this summer.

    So, what happened to Richardson the past few seasons? Was he exposed as someone who struggles to create and make shots? Or was he the victim of tough circumstances and worse roster fits?

    The Celtics might find out in training camp. If he gets back to filling three-and-D and secondary playmaker roles like he once did in Miami, he could force his way into the opening group. But if he can't find his shooting touch or create shots for his teammates, he could get passed over for the younger players in this perimeter rotation.