If you’ve got a serious jones for actual basketball and not just trade rumors and free agency conjecture, you’re in luck. Tomorrow marks the opening of the NBA Orlando Summer League, a mainstay of the Celtics’ off-season slate.
The Celts’ outfit will play five games over the next week, all to be televised (four on Comcast Sportsnet) and while not a whole lot can be gleaned from these contests, they still offer fans and other interested observers a showcase in which players like rookie first round picks Marcus Smart and James Young and last year’s top selection Kelly Olynyk, as well as a list of other roster hopefuls, can get out on the court and play together for the first time. With that in mind, here’s a handful of possible storylines worth your attention.
Barely a week has passed since Smart became a Celtic but we’ve already heard enough about his leadership qualities to suggest he’s the greatest leader in the history of the sport. Celtics top assistant Jay Larranaga, who will be running the ship in Orlando, even brought up Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce when discussing Smart and the kind of leader he is. While that may be a bit of a stretch at this stage of the game, seeing as how this has been a theme trumpeted since draft night starting with Danny Ainge’s first extended comments about his most recent top pick, it certainly bears watching how the Celts new bulldog of a point guard runs a team.
The Other First Rounder
Young was a potential lottery pick who slid to the Celtics at No. 17 in the draft because he was forced to miss a couple of workouts due to minor, neck-related injuries suffered in a car accident last month. Sure enough, he’s only done non-contact work during the team’s summer league practices in Waltham and is a question mark to play in Orlando. It’s not that big a deal if he doesn’t see the floor over the course of the next week, as his long-term health is far more important than playing in any of these five games. And Celtics coach Brad Stevens was adamant in noting that Young’s injuries represent short-term issues. But from a curiosity standpoint, it would be great to see Young out there getting some run in with Smart for the first time.
Olynyk pretty much broke all summer leagues from here to eternity as a rookie last year in Orlando, announcing his presence with authority to the tune of 18 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while hitting 58 percent of shots. He went for 25 in the Celts’ first contest in Orlando this time last summer and the bulk of the week scoring from all over the place, drilling both mid-range and perimeter jumpers, displaying savvy post moves and basically just dominating on the offensive end all week long. He’s back for an encore this year along with Phil Pressey and Chris Babb, both of whom showed promise, particularly Pressey, for the C’s last year. With Smart in the fold, and Avery Bradley recently re-signed, playing time could be scarce for Pressey this season if the Celtics don’t trade Rajon Rondo prior to Opening Night, making this a potentially big week for him.
Diamonds in the Rough
One of the more intriguing names on the Celts summer league roster is that of Devin Oliver, a 6-foot, 7-inch wing from the University of Dayton, who led the Flyers to a shocking Elite Eight appearance in this year’s NCAA Tournament, a run that included upsets of both Ohio State and Syracuse. Oliver led the Flyers in minutes, rebounds, and assists last season, and was second on the team in scoring while shooting 48.4 percent from the floor and just under 40 percent from three-point range.
Another possible summer league breakout performer is Mike Moser, 23, who played for three different schools (UCLA, UNLV, University of Oregon) and was once thought of by Draft Express as a potential first round pick before injuries slowed him down back in 2012. This past year with the Ducks, the 6-foot, 8-inch Moser averaged 13 points and eight rebounds per game while earning Honorable Mention All-PAC-12 honors.
And then there’s Colton Iverson, the Celts’ 2013 second round pick who spent last year playing in Turkey and could be at least a piece in the team’s big man/rim protector puzzle. Iverson’s a 7-footer who plays a bruising, physical game and knows his role is, and will be, to rebound, block shots, and make life tough for opponents who venture into the paint en route to the rim. Of all the wild cards traveling to Orlando for the week, Iverson stands as good a chance to cash in as any.