The Boston Celtics summer league team wrapped up five games of action in Orlando last week and finished in fourth place out of the 10-team pool. The team results are not what anyone is really managing attention to for the week, instead it’s the play progression of young players that team personnel is focused on.
Summer league performances have to (rightfully) be kept in perspective due to the small sample size and level of competition but several pieces of the Celtics roster had plenty of stake throughout the week. Whether it was a rookie like Marcus Smart getting adjusted to the NBA level, or summer league veterans like Phil Pressey, Chris Johnson, and Colton Iverson trying to prove they deserve a spot on Boston’s roster next year, the action out there did matter for these guys.
With that in mind, I took a look back at the team’s five games and handed out some player grades for the week. Keep in mind when reading, I handed out grades based on the expectation of play for a specific player. For example, more would be expected out of a player like Kelly Olynyk than say Chris Babb, so, a C grade for Olynyk is different than the same mark for Babb.
Without further ado, let’s get to the grades:
Kelly Olynyk: Boston’s seven-foot big man led the Celtics in scoring in Orlando, averaging 17.5 points per game, but wasn’t nearly as efficient as the team’s coaching staff probably had hoped. The 2013 lottery pick shot just 40 percent from the field and 27.8 from 3-point range, not exactly the kind of production you want to see from a player who counts on offense as a strength of his game.
Olynyk tried to be more aggressive with his shot in the pick-and-pop game, but failed to find a rhythm all week. Defensively, like his rookie season, Olynyk struggled to stay in front of mobile big men, a trend that should continue in year two of his NBA career. Overall, the strides the former Gonzaga star made in the final two months of his rookie season failed to translate fully during summer league action.
Marcus Smart : It’s rare you see a rookie live up to the high expectations set for them after months of draft hype, but Smart proved himself worthy of the talk with his defensive effort in Orlando. The hybrid guard made life miserable for guards all over the floor for the majority of the week, although he did have trouble staying in front of speedier players at the point.
Smart’s team defense and recognition stood out as well, as he provided timely double teams and disrupted passing lanes like a veteran, piling up 10 steals in five games. Offensively, Smart spent time between the point and two-guard. He displayed a nice ability to get to the charity stripe (team-high 30 free throw attempts) but his shot selection (29.4 percent from the field over five games) could use some work. All things considered, the pros outweighed the cons of his week.
Phil Pressey: It was the second stint for the undersized point guard in Orlando Summer League, and Pressey played knowing he had a lot on the line, with a July 15th deadline looming for the Celtics to guarantee his $816,432 salary for the 2014-15 season. The 23-year-old had quite a roller coaster ride during the week with his play. He battled through a 1-for-15 performance in Game 4, highlighting one of his weaknesses as he hit just 32.2 percent of his field goal attempts on the week.
Pressey also committed a team-high 18 turnovers over five games, doubling the numbers of miscues of every other player on the roster. Despite the hiccups, Pressey still added a spark to Boston’s offense most nights, dishing out 5.5 assists per game and forming a formidable defensive backcourt in this time on the floor with Smart. After a rookie season filled with signs of potential, Pressey likely did just enough to secure a roster spot for himself on a rebuilding Celtics team next year.
Chris Johnson: The swingman quickly became a fan favorite in Boston last year as a mid-season signing thanks to his reliable 3-point shooting and all-around hustle. Unfortunately, Johnson brought just one of those two attributes with him to Orlando, as his 3-point accuracy failed to make the trip. Johnson was just 3-of-16 from downtown on the week and shot just 30.6 percent from the field overall. Despite the shooting woes,
Boston’s summer league head coach Jay Larranaga raved about Johnson’s effort all week on both ends of the floor. Whether it was chasing down an open man on the fast break or making the extra pass on offense, Johnson exhibited the type of team play Brad Stevens is looking for at the bottom of his roster. Boston already has a crowded backcourt in place with the recent addition of shooting guard Marcus Thornton and that makes a roster spot for Johnson (who has an unguaranteed contract) less of a sure thing. The third-year guard will get a chance to earn a spot in training camp this year.
Chris Babb: The small forward out of Iowa State is your classic 3-and-D player that served as roster filler at the end of the bench for Boston last season. The odds were stacked against him to make next year’s roster, and he didn’t help his cause in Orlando. The 3-point range was not there all week long (18.8 percent from downtown), and Babb does little else on an NBA-level right now besides showing good hustle on both ends. Over five games, he averaged a meager five points and two rebounds per contest. With Gerald Wallace, Jeff Green and James Young firmly entrenched ahead of him on the depth chart, Babb didn’t do enough in Orlando to help himself make next year’s roster.
Mike Moser: The undrafted power forward out of Oregon helped himself the most out of any player on the Celtics summer league roster last week. On a team that by and large lacked any sort of reliable outside shooting, Moser emerged as the exception. He was on the receiving end of dishes from Smart and Pressey all week long from beyond the arc via the pick-and-pop, and he shot a tremendous 42.3 percent from deep.
The soft touch earned him a spot in the team’s starting lineup over Colton Iverson midway through the week, and Moser did not look back. He finished up averaging 13.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 blocks per game, which was enough to earn him a training camp invite next year. It is not clear whether Moser will accept the camp invite (he indicated last week he was unsure at this stage) but his overall impressive play guaranteed the Celtics uncovered at least one diamond in the rough in Orlando.
Colton Iverson: Celtics brass came into the week with high hopes for their 2013 second round pick. Iverson returned from a year playing overseas in Turkey to suit up for the Celtics and to prove he’s worthy of a roster spot this year. After a strong first game against Miami, Iverson had a dreadful stay in Orlando. He fumbled a number of passes in the post and was manhandled down low by D-League players such as Willie Reed and Kevin Jones.
His lackluster effort on both ends led to the Celtics pulling him out of the starting lineup by Game 3, and he saw just five minutes of action off the bench in the summer league finale. Boston still has an opening for another center on the roster, but Iverson may need another year or two overseas to show he can contribute at the NBA level.
James Young: Boston’s first round pick did not suit up for summer league due to lingering health issues stemming from a car accident in June. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge indicated he would be ready to go by the start of Boston’s training camp.