Steal of the draft.
The 2012 NBA Summer League has now come and gone. Albeit a trade drastically altering the landscape for the final few roster spots on this year's coming roster, we learned a lot from the past couple of weeks.
First off, after such an impressive summer league playing the point, it was tough to see E'Twaun Moore traded in the Courney Lee deal. He was the best player on the team until the trade while showing off his well-rounded game. I thought a combination of Moore and Jason Terry as a dual combo-guard force off the bench could favor a second unit that had trouble scoring points this past season. Moore is gone and we won't be seeing him grow into an NBA rotation player in green as many of us had hoped. Courtney Lee is in and nobody can complain about that. Good luck to E'Twaun as he looks to solidify his spot in the NBA.
E'Twaun's Purdue running mate JaJuan Johnson and former BC shot blocker Sean Williams were also in the deal. While neither looked to grasp solid rotation time this coming season, the Celtics' project of turning JaJuan into a Kevin Garnett-light and the hope of having Williams establish himself as a Celtic are both gone. Johnson struggled, but showed glimpses of his oozing potential on both sides of the ball. It also looks like he added a few needed pounds. Williams ended up seeing less and less time game after game and it looked like he wouldn't end up making the team. He didn't even play bad as he showed a strong motor along with his athletic 6'10 frame blocking shots, rebounding, and getting easy dunks. The best of luck to both of these players as they both continue to further their NBA careers.
While I've spent the last two paragraphs on three players who have no possible way of joining the Celtics roster this season (per CBA rules), I'd say it's about time to talk about the four players on this summer league team who at least could be playing for the 2012-2013 Boston Celtics. I'll list each of them and tell you what they taught me during the past two weeks after the jump.
Dionte Christmas SG/PG 13.2 PPG, 3.1 APG, 1.8 SPG, 5.3 RPG, 47% FG, 70% FT, 35% 3FG
Your Summer League surprise has signed to go to camp with the Celtics this fall already. He earned this offer based on his play over the past couple of weeks. Shucks, he wasn't even supposed to play in Vegas with the Celtics until he opened some eyes in Orlando. With Moore now having been traded, Christmas now has a serious chance of legitimately earning a spot on the Celtics' roster this coming season. It's crazy what two weeks can do.
Christmas isn't your proto-typical guard. More of a two, but with the ability to play the point as we've seen since Moore's departure, Christmas is a power guard who does many things well as his stat line shown above helps explain.. He's listed at 6'5 weighing 205 lbs, but those 205 lbs go a long way. He almost looks like a running back as he enters the lane while his surprisingly good handle allows him to do so. It isn't always pretty, but the man somehow finds a way to finish around the basket despite a lack of elite athleticism. While he was decent from three in Orlando shooting 28.6 %, Christmas lit it up from deep in Vegas shooting 47.6%. What intrigued me most about Christmas was his fight to clog passing lanes. It seemed as if he'd intercept a pass to lead a fast break almost every quarter during the past two weeks.
While the Celtics have backcourt rotation presumably set for the season with Rondo, Bradley, Lee, and Terry in the mix-- remember that Bradley will probably miss the first few weeks of the season due to his two shoulder surgeries. That being said, another guard will need to step into the rotation. While a veteran such as Keyon Dooling who may come back for another season will look to grab that role, Christmas could be that man if he continues to impress in camp.
Jared Sullinger PF 12.3 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 0.9 BPG, 35% FG, 77% FT
Less than a month has passed since the NBA Draft and whenever Jared Sullinger's name is brought up between Celtic fans, eyes just light up. People love the fact that this superbly skilled power forward somehow, someway fell to the 21st pick. Although this was a very deep draft, it looks like the Celtics found themselves a steal.
Jared Sullinger has the ability to make a number of all star appearances by the end of his career. The kid is talented, really talented. You just do not see players with a frame like his that can handle the ball like he can both around the perimeter and in the post. Only 6'9, but currently weighing 280 lbs (drop 10 please Jared?), Jared will already be the second best rebounder on the team behind KG while his post touch may be second to none. The Celtics have not had a back to the basket type of player like this for a long time. He can really pass the ball too whether he's in the post or playing face up. Big Baby Glen Davis has been a comparison for Sullinger, but Jared's skill set blows Baby's out of the water. Sullinger has a knack to get to the line and use his body in a way Davis can only dream of. There is one part of his game that can be compared to Davis' and it may be his biggest fault.
Sullinger has a hard time scoring against bigger and more athletics players like Davis has throughout his career. This was a major reason for his slide on draft day and was apparent throughout this summer league. He only shot 35% from the field. Shooting 35% from the field will not be tolerated in the NBA. This was only summer league. While having more talented players around him and seeing less double and triple teams as he backs down his man, hopefully Sullinger can be more efficient. If not, he'll need to learn how to beat his man in other ways and develop a more consistent jumper. The sky is the limit for Jared Sullinger-but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves as he may have some serious work to do.
Sullinger is going to see time right away. While Chris Wilcox looks to be the first big man off the bench, Sullinger could challenge him for this role. At the very least, you're going to see Jared playing 10 minutes per night. If all goes well, he may even end up starting. I think you're going to see him average about 20 minutes per game and jump ahead of Wilcox as the first big off the bench early in the season. His role and success, or lack of it, will be a huge story line throughout this coming season.
Fab Melo C 2.9 PPG, 4 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 41% FG, 5/8 FT
Fab Melo is a project-- a 7 foot athletic freak with the talent to be an all-NBA defender, but still a project at that. He's been playing basketball for only six years and it has shown thus far, but the jump he made from Freshman to Sophomore year at Syracuse shows that he really can improve. The summer league was ugly at times for Fab Melo. There were also glimpses of a starting center in this league for many years to come.
The ugly times weren't that bad for a player who only played zone in college. You could see that he was getting used to playing man to man as he will have to do in the NBA. He'd be a step late on help defense more often than not because he was worrying about his own man. Learning man-to-man defense should come with time, but offensively he did not show much. Melo's only real chance of scoring points was on put backs or wide open dunks. He showed absolutely no post game and made some bad decisions taking and bricking jumpers (he made a couple open ones) with a man on him.
Melo is not ready to make much of an impact this season. The D-League could come in handy for Fab as the Celtics' rotation of bigs can wait for him. When he is ready, Fab Melo may turn out great. How many 7 ft centers are there in this league that can d-up the likes of a Dwight Howard? Fab Melo just may be one of them-- someday.
Kris Joseph SF/SG 8.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 37% FG, 2/20 3FG, 73% FT
While starting the summer league sizzling in Orlando, Joseph really turned it down a notch in Las Vegas. Joseph surprised many with a superb handle for a small forward and a knack for finding his own shot along with a quick release at that. You really can't teach what Joseph can do with the ball offensively creating his own mid-range shots. He has great hands even on the offensive boards where put backs were aplenty for Kris as he uses his body (6'7, 215 lbs) and athleticism to create space for himself. The name Paul Pierce came up many times, but as he cooled down in Vegas, that comparison cooled as well. He struggled from three point land badly throughout the past two weeks connecting on only two of twenty from deep. I thought this would be strength of Kris' as he has an extremely smooth release. He shot about 35% from three during his last two years at Syracuse so the 10% we've seen in the summer just may be an aberration. It seems as if he may have lost his legs playing day after day as summer league wore on.
Again because of the Courtney Lee trade, Joseph has a good chance to claim one of the last couple spots on the roster. Training camp will be big for Kris Joseph. Again, with Bradley out to start the season, playing time will be available as a backup two. Will the Danny decide to bring in a veteran to fill this vacant time or use a younger player looking for a chance in the league. If he elects to do the latter, you may see Joseph and/or Christmas seeing minutes very early in their respective NBA careers. Then again, chances are just as good that only one of which makes the team.