Ex-Boston Celtics Summer Leaguer signs two-way contract with west foe

Boston Celtics (Photo by Louis Grasse/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics (Photo by Louis Grasse/Getty Images) /

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday evening on the east coast, Boston Celtics Summer League big man Udoka Azubuike agreed to a two-way contract with the Phoenix Suns.

He was one of five players on the Vegas Celts to contribute in all five contests this summer. No. 51 in green and white played 16.4 minutes per game under Tony Dobbins, averaging the second most rebounds on the team with over 6.5 behind Justin Champagnie. He made the most of his limited minutes, finishing the summer with a field goal percentage of over 81%.

The news comes just a few days after another Celtics Summer League big man Olek Balcerowski put pen to paper on a two-year deal with Panathinaikos Athens, joining forces with former Celtic Juancho Hernangómez.

The former University of Kansas star center played his first three seasons in the association with the Utah Jazz, averaging 3.3 points per game in 68 total contests. six-foot-10, 280-pound frontcourt player could have landed with the Maine Celtics next season with the team still owning one more two-way contract. In his short stint in a Boston Celtics uniform, Azubuike could not impress Brad Stevens enough to send him up to Portland with potential opportunities in Beantown.

Phoenix, given its lack of depth, will be the more likely team to provide him with time at an NBA level. He is not the type of frontcourt player that the Boston Celtics are willing to take a flyer on, most likely due to his inability to stretch the floor from the 3-point line. The Kansas product was the only one in Vegas for Boston to not put up a single shot from the 3-point line in five games.

Instead, the Suns added Azubuike as their second two-way player including guard Saben Lee who will also contribute in Phoenix and on one of the soon-to-be newest G-League teams. Currently, the Suns are the only NBA club without a G-League team, but owner Mat Ishbia has made it clear that will change before the start of the campaign.

Udoka Azubuike will not be the third two-way player for the Boston Celtics next season

So far, Stevens has signed two guards to two-way deals. It would make sense for the next one to be a frontcourt contributor. The asset will most likely come from outside the Celts’ 2023 Summer League roster given that the top two centers from that team have reached deals with teams elsewhere.

Azubuike was not that defensive anchor that Mfiondu Kabengele was in Vegas last summer, averaging over two blocks per game in July 2022. The roster still needs to be filled out, and part of the new CBA means another two-way deal. At the end of the day, Boston does not have to add another player on this type of deal along with JD Davison, and Jay Scrubb, but it doesn’t hurt.