By: Kenny Doyle
NBA Summer League often gets bashed for not giving the fans an accurate read on what kind of a career any of the young participates will have. Well it’s true that players who may go on to do nothing in the NBA put up huge numbers in the Summer League, it gives fans an early look at the players their teams have just drafted and does give some indication of what young players can and can’t do on the floor. With that said, here are the players who impressed and disappointed at Celtics Summer League.
Top Player: Jayson Tatum
Stats: 6 games. 18.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, 45% shooting
Trading the #1 pick to draft Jayson Tatum at #3 put Danny Ainge under a lot of pressure to nail the pick. Although he will need to do more than have one good Summer League to justify the move, Tatum looked sensational. His post skills are unquestionably some of the best of any wing player ever going into their rookie season. Even LeBron James didn’t develop a post game until 2012, 9 years after he was drafted, and Tatum is already more polished than guys like Andrew Wiggins and Ben Simmons were in the post coming out of college. His fadeaways and up and under moves are a marvel and the combination makes him extremely tough to cover. Pair that with his incredible size-up drive and he will be tough a headache for defenders when he gets the ball in his spot.
His 3 point shooting left something to be desired, but he showed enough moves inside the arc to prove he will be able to score at the next level. It looks like Tatum can immediately step in as a rookie and be a better version of what Evan Turner was coming off the bench for the Celtics in 2015-16. His rebounding and wingspan would even allow him to play some 4 in certain sets for the Celtics. How the Celtics will fit him into the rotation is a good problem to have, but it’s a problem all the same. They will need to find an effective way to spread all their small forwards minutes out between the 2, 3, and 4 positions and they will need to figure it out fast. They should be able to figure it out, but it’s worth noting that having a lot of players who play the same position has rarely worked in the NBA. (See 2014-15 Suns and 2016-17 Sixers).
Star 2: Ante Zizic
Stats: 7 games. 8.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.9 blocks, 56% shooting
Despite what you may have heard, Ante Zizic doesn’t suck. When people started talking about Zizic being the Celtics starting center for next season back in June the bar was definitely raised on his Summer League expectations. However, being a pick and roll center on a team with Demetrius Jackson didn’t exactly benefit him, but we’ll get to Jackson later.
Zizic was unable to be properly utilized at times, but that didn’t stop him from putting up 13.6 rebounds per 36 minutes. If the Celtics needed to add anything to their roster it was players that can rebound and although it’s just summer league, rebounding is one of the most translatable stats in basketball. Zizic is a player who’s game will improve by playing a complementary role with better players around him and could carve out a nice spot as the Celtics backup center this season and could potentially get opportunities to start in spots alongside Al Horford when the Celtics need to go bigger.
Star 3: Jabari Bird
Stats: 8 games. 7.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.1 steals, 0.3 blocks, 55% shooting
Bird, the Celtics 2nd round pick, will more than likely be spending all of next season on the Celtics Maine Red Claws G-League affiliate team, but he did show some nice promise in Summer League. He is a great cutter and although he only scored 7.8 points per game off the bench, he made the most of his opportunities when he got them shooting 55% from the field. Even if he doesn’t have a place on the Celtics roster in the near future, he put himself on the radar of other teams around the NBA. Jabari comes into the G-League as an early favorite for G-League rookie of the year.
Biggest Disappointment: Jaylen Brown
5 games. 13.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 40% shooting
Jaylen Brown by no means was the Celtics worst player at Summer League. He WAS the Celtics biggest disappointment. After a sensational stand out 29 point-13 rebound game against the Sixers, people raved about how good Brown was and how he looked like he didn’t even belong at Summer League. He was already drawing comparisons to Devin Booker’s performance at the 2016 Summer League and was on track to be the story of the Summer League for the Celtics. But in the rest of the games, Jaylen was awful. Take out that one great performance, and here are his stats:
4 games. 9.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 31% shooting
His 40% shooting was bad enough to earn him consideration for this list, but 9.3 points on 31% shooting is down right embarrassing. This should’ve been a chance for Jaylen to really assert his dominance on a younger group of players with ample playing time, but Jaylen couldn’t do it. On top of that, Jaylen’s ball handling in the half court hasn’t gotten any better since the end of last season. If you cut off his driving lane he’s a deer in headlights. He even had one play in the Utah Summer League where he got cut off and jumped in the air looking for someone to pass it to. When he couldn’t find anyone he threw it right into the waiting hands of a member of the Sixers, 1 of the 7 turnovers that Jaylen had in his 29-13 game. Jaylen showed what he’s capable of, but if he doesn’t get more consistent Jayson Tatum will quickly pass him on the Celtics depth chart.
2nd Disappointment: Semi Ojeleye
Stats: 5 games. 10.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.2 blocks, 40% shooting
The steal of the second round didn’t play like it. Ojeleye came into Summer League as one of the 2 or 3 2nd rounders that draft experts loved. His big body and 3 point shot make him an ideal player mold for today’s NBA, but Ojeleye didn’t play like the player he was touted to be. He got pushed around by Brandon Ingram of all people, didn’t shoot the ball well at 40%, and showed little to no ability to rebound at a high enough level to play the 4 in the NBA. On top of all that his defense left a lot to be desired after averaging less than a steal and block per game. If Ojeleye is going to make an impact on the Celtics, he has a lot of work to do.
3rd Disappointment: Demetrius Jackson
6 games. 7.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.2 blocks, 40% shooting
Speaking of 2nd round steals, Demetrius Jackson was once seen as a potential lottery pick just 13 months ago. He slipped all the way down to the Celtics in round 2 and people were dumbfounded. Today, it’s easy to see why. He turned the ball over a lot, missed open layups, and couldn’t even run the pick and roll effectively. He was even criticized by Brad Stevens when Brad spoke with the media after one Summer League game for his passing. Without naming names, Brad talked about how the Celtics were not getting the ball to Ante Zizic in the right places. As the starting point guard the responsibility fell heavily on Jackson, and he didn’t deliver.
Although it may have seemed like Jackson was a steal a year ago, those thoughts have clearly passed and Jackson would be lucky to find himself on an NBA roster in 2 years time. 7 points and 3 assists on 40% shooting in Summer League for a point guard doesn’t cut it by today’s NBA standards. There are just too many good guards. Celtics second round picks Abdul Nadar and Ojeleye have already gotten themselves 2-way contracts and Jackson is out of a job. Hopefully Jackson gets another chance and proves his doubters wrong, but after the performance he put up at Summer League his NBA future is looking bleak.
Photo: (FanSided: Chowder and Champions)