6 takeaways as JD Davison, Celtics fall to Heat in Summer League debut

Davison struggled from the floor but showed some real flashes in his debut.

Celtics Summer League
JD Davison, here pictured earlier this month, made his Celtics debut at Summer League on Saturday. photo by Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Right before the Celtics opened their Summer League slate of games against the Heat on Saturday, they made a surprise announcement: Second-round pick JD Davison signed a two-way deal.

A two-way for Davison isn’t a total shock. Shortly after drafting the 19-year-old, Brad Stevens hinted what everyone knew: He wouldn’t be getting many minutes on a team trying to compete for a championship. Still, it was interesting that the Celtics were able to convince Davison — who was a 5-star recruit before his difficult freshman season at Alabama — to ink a two-way deal prior to his debut even with assurances he could make the final roster.


Davison showed some real flashes on Saturday. His athleticism was as advertised — he zipped ahead in transition and frequently sprang free around the rim, although he struggled to finish in the first three quarters. He also blocked three shots.

Maybe more impressive, though, was Davison’s vision — he dished out six assists including several lobs, and he showed a proclivity for passing on the move when he attacked the rim. That matters quite a bit for a player with Davison’s athletic gifts.

The rookie wasn’t perfect. He finished just 3-for-11 from the field and looked like he was moving a little too fast for the game at times. When he knocked down a three and finished a gorgeous layup in the fourth quarter, he started cramping up and had to leave the game.

But the initial impressions of Davison are positive. He’s fast enough to slow the game down, and his vision is obvious. If he can finish more consistently, he will raise some eyebrows in Las Vegas.

Other takeaways

2. Sam Hauser had an abysmal shooting performance — 2-for-12 from the floor and 1-for-9 from deep. Obviously, the Celtics would like to see a more positive line from a player who they signed more or less exclusively to shoot 3-pointers, but the Summer League game is a difficult setting for a player like Hauser who excels with off-ball movement and positioning. Hauser got a lot of attention from the Heat defense, which isn’t easy for a spot-up shooter, and he didn’t have players like Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown around to soak up defensive attention.


Still, Hauser needs to shoot better if he wants to have any chance at the rotation.

3. In his mid-game interview with NBA TV, Celtics coach Ime Udoka noted that he wanted to see Mfiondu Kabengele space the floor. Kabengele went 1-for-2 from deep, and he did a lot of other good stuff. The center was a frequent lob target from Davison, and he looked great around the rim as a roll man. Defensively, he was credited with zero blocked shots, which simply isn’t accurate.

Kabengele shot 5-for-7 from the floor and posted 14 points, six rebounds, and three assists. He looked like a vet, which matters quite a bit for a team hoping to bring in players who can help right now.

Meanwhile, Kabengele might have an interesting Summer League battle with Trevion Williams. The former Purdue center looked like the type of player Brad Stevens adores — a big man who can pass and run the offense at the top of the arc. In that same role, Kabengele looked lost in the first half.

Williams can sling passes and bring the ball up the floor. He could carve out a unique role on a Celtics team that otherwise appears to have its rotation in order. Kabengele could be a more traditional back-up center option with some floor spacing potential if the Celtics like him better. The Celtics also still have a few days with the Evan Fournier TPE and could make a number of moves that would render either player redundant.


The battle to become the Celtics’ back-up center — or even back-up-to-the-back-up center — could be fun to watch.

4. Like Davison, draft-and-stash French guard Juhann Begarin shot poorly (2-for-10) but warrants some attention. He attacked the rim hard and finished 9-for-10 from the free-throw line. His size and athleticism were on full display.

5. Matt Ryan came into the game bombing away from 3-point range in the first quarter, and he finished 4-for-8 from deep after a first-half barrage. Unlike Hauser, Ryan does not have a roster spot locked up and will probably need to show quite a bit to make the roster again.

So far so good for the former DoorDash driver.

6. Summer League is pretty funny sometimes.

The Celtics take on the Bucks on Monday at 8 p.m.


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