Apr 12, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens reacts in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics: Summer League Takeaways

The Boston Celtics wrapped up summer league play in Orlando yesterday with a 86-95 loss to the Indiana Pacers. There were plenty of takeaways from the Celtics 3-2 mark in Orlando. The Celtics had more actual roster hopefuls on their summer squad than most NBA teams typically carry since they’re such a young team with players who need the development. You never want to read too much into summer league, but it’s still the first chance for rookies to play against something close to NBA competition. It’s the first, and sometimes final, chance roster hopefuls have at proving their value.

It’s not be over-analyzed, but Celtics fans should be paying attention to all the developments this summer. Here are some takeaways from the Celtics time in Orlando. All games can be watched online here.

Kelly Olynyk is going to be better than he was last year.

Kelly Olynyk is tremendously skilled for a seven-footer and has NBA experience. He should’ve been one of the best players in Orlando, and he was. More important than his 17.5 points and 7.3 rebounds a game is how he looked doing it. He looks physically stronger and in better shape. There’s no more baby fat. Olynyk is has finally given himself an NBA-level body. He didn’t shoot great, and concerns about his ability from mid-range are very legitimate, but we know Olynyk has a great perimeter jumper for a big.

Olynyk was phenomenal creating offense from the elbows. He has the shooting ability to force defenders to guard him tight there. He also has tremendous court vision, he’s one of the best passers on the team. During these games we saw Olynyk hit a cutter at the perfect time for an easy layup multiple times. He also read the passing lanes well defensively and jumped out to make a few impressive steals on the perimeter.

Olynyk isn’t a star, but he appears to be making strides towards becoming the player many thought he could be.

The Celtics shot a lot of 3’s.

The Celtics were dreadful from beyond the arc last year, shooting just 33.3%. The coaching staff let the summer squad let it fly, with not-so-great results. It’s okay though, it’s summer league, you want players to improve. So watching Marcus Smart and Phil Pressey jack up threes despite their inefficiency from deep is no big deal.

Smart took 35 threes, making just 9 (25.7%). Pressey went 4-20 (20%). Olynyk made 5 out of 18 (27.8%). Chris Babb and Chris Johnson (both 3-16, 18.8%) didn’t help themselves with their shooting. If either wants to make it in this league, they need to be effective 3-n-D guys. It’s unlikely either of them get their contracts picked up.

The bright spot was Mike Moser, who has been invited to training camp, and remains a possible choice for the 15th man on the roster. The physically strong combo forward worked hard on his 3pt shooting during his senior year at Oregon, improving it to 37.8% from 26.7%. He shot 11-26 from deep during the summer league (42.3%).

Mike Moser has a chance to make the roster.

Mar 20, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Oregon Ducks forward Mike Moser (0) grabs a rebound during the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament against the Brigham Young Cougars at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of Moser, he was the most pleasant surprise from summer league for the Celtics this year, much like Pressey last year. On top of his shooting, Moser showed great improvement as a ball-handler. I still think he should’ve been drafted. He fights for rebounds and positioning inside. He did get worked in the paint a bit, but that’s to be expected seeing as he’s just 6′ 8″. His NBA potential hinges on his ability to play on the perimeter more.

Moser has a chance, but it’s still just that, a chance. The Celtics have 13 guaranteed contracts, assume they make Pressey the 14th, and that means they have one more spot on the opening night roster. They can still invite other unsigned players to camp, and a team that frankly could use Moser more might invite him to camp as well. He could choose to go to greener pastures.

If no other moves happen the final spot will likely come down to Moser, Johnson, or Colton Iverson. Despite Johnson’s struggles in the summer, he was serviceable during the season and the Celtics appear to like him.

Marcus Smart is ready to dominate, on defense.

Offensively, Marcus Smart was a mixed bag in Orlando. That was to be expected. We know he has to work on his shot. We know he has to work on his ball-handling and court vision if he actually wants to play point (note: the summer Celtics were much more effective with Smart playing 2 and Pressey running the point). But he did bully his way to to rim a handful of times. He can score in volume, it’s just a question of efficiency with him.

There are no questions about his defense. Smart is as good, if not better, than advertised. His strength, lateral quickness, and 6′ 9″ WINGSPAN make him a terror on defense. He was dominant in every game. He has great defensive awareness as well. There were a couple occasions where he got a steal playing off ball by simply recognizing where his man was in relation to the ball and the hoop, getting in the right position, and sticking his arms in the passing lanes without even looking.

Smart will likely polarize a lot of fans this year with his offensive game. But he’s going to be one of the best defensive guards in the NBA right away.

Pressey is still who we thought he was.

Pressey shot terrible this summer. That’s because he’s a terrible shooter. He gets exposed at times on defense because of his height. He can’t finish inside the paint to save his life. It’s ok, we knew all this.

Pressey again showed how talented he is as a distributor and ball-handler. He’s the quintessential backup PG. He had 13 assists in yesterday’s loss to Indiana. The team as a whole was much more effective when he was running the point.

I can’t see the Celtics not picking up Pressey’s contract by Tuesday (the deadline to do so). The Celtics are too starved for talent to let an NBA-caliber player just walk, even though they’re so guard heavy.

Colton Iverson is still a mystery.

Colton Iverson, last years 2nd round pick, is probably not the rim protector the Celtics are looking for. But he’s still 7′ 0″ tall and that alone makes him a roster possibility.

Iverson played with a ton of energy this summer but his lack of athleticism always sees him being caught out of position. He can’t move quick enough to really help anyone on defense.  Averaging 2.4 rebounds this summer was simply unacceptable.

The acquisition of Tyler Zeller certainly didn’t help Iverson’s chances and unless Vitor Faverani runs into a major complication with his recovery from knee surgery I’d expect the Celtics to stash Iverson in Europe again.

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There you have it. Your opinion of a team or player should never be dramatically changed because elf summer league but there are certainly things that jump out at you. We’ll be monitoring these guys and their roster chances throughout the summer.


Tags: Boston Celtics Kelly Olynyk Marcus Smart NBA Summer League 2014

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