It's time to get back to some normalcy; the Boston Celtics kick off their five-game summer slate Sunday morning at 11 a.m. Entering a transition season, this set of Summer League games will be extremely important for the players participating this coming week. Even though assistant Jay Larranga will be coaching the summer team, new head coach Brad Stevens will be in Orlando for every game, keeping a watchful eye on all the young players participating this week.
Fab Melo: Any Improvements?
• On-Ball Defense
• Hook Shot
This is obvious; everyone will have their eye on Fab Melo to see if he made any strides in his game. I was able to watch only three or four full Maine Red Claws games but I do think he's made a few improvements that are worth noting.
On the offensive end, he looked like he was a lot better at setting screens than he was at Syracuse. With his huge body, I believe he has finally gotten a handle on how to properly set a screen without fouling. However, I still don't think he finishes nearly as well as he should at the rim if it's a pick-and-roll play. After receiving a pass he still fumbles the ball around far too much. This makes him a liability in turning the ball over or just missing what should have been an easy look. I'll be keeping an eye on his footwork as well as his ability to finish strong at the rim.
Be on the lookout for a little 5-to-8 foot hook shot he has incorporated into his skillset; he used it quite a bit towards the end of the season with Maine. Here is one clip of it and here is an even better one. I would hope that he has found more consistency with this shot, though I am pretty impressed with what I see so far. He shows good form and touch on the shot but must improve his consistency.
The star defensive potential is there, that's why Melo was a first round draft pick last year. Fab was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, and was on the first team of both the NBA D-League All-Defensive and All-Rookie teams. He averaged 3.1 blocks per game with Maine, and set the D-League record with 14 blocks in a single game. I think he made strides as a weak-side help defender; check out this clip here to see an example. In the Summer League, I want to see if he has improved his ability to defend on the post and on the perimeter. A lot of that is based more on technique than anything else, so he must improve there in order to contribute this year in the NBA.
Kelly Olynyk: Transition to PF
• Three-Point Range?
• Perimeter Defense
Kelly Olynyk played center with the Gonzaga Bulldogs but will look to make the transition to power forward with the Boston Celtics. Danny Ainge said that he didn't even think of Olynyk as a center when drafting him -- I agree -- I believe that Olynyk's positive attributes fit him much more at the four.
Kelly Olynyk can hit a mid-range jump shot, but he has been trying to extend his range to beyond the arc. I don't doubt that he will be able to accomplish this -- it's only a matter of when it happens. If Kelly is able to find some consistency from three-point range as early as Summer League he could carve out a role in the team's rotation from the start of the season. Look for him in both the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop. He sets very strong screens but was mostly used on the roll with Gonzaga. I hope to see him utilized on the pop as well.
Kelly Olynyk's perimeter defense at Gonzaga was very weak. He struggles defending the pick-and-roll and doesn't have the lateral speed to stay with faster forwards. I'll be looking to see if he has made any improvements on his technique since the end of the season with Gonzaga.
Kelly Olynyk does a very good job at boxing out but had a hard time outrebounding superior athletes in college. At the power forward position, I'm curious to see if he has much more success against smaller opponents. Of course, players are even more athletic in the NBA, but he might be able to use his strength to his advantage with his new position.
The Guards: Who Stands Out?
• Who is the real Phil Pressey?
• Learning about Jayson Granger
• Does Darius Johnson-Odom have PG skills?
Besides Rajon Rondo, the C's don't have a true point guard on the roster. Sure, Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee can play the position, but it might make more sense to have a young one-guard on the roster that can be groomed behind Rondo. Fortunately, the Celts have a handful of candidates on the Summer League roster including Missouri's Phil Pressey, Europe's Jayson Granger. Marquette's Darius Johnson-Odom, and Duke's Nolan Smith.
Phil Pressey is a 22-year old point guard from Missouri whose greatest strengths are also his greatest weaknesses. Phil is extraordinary aggressive and constantly pushes the pace, creating plays for his teammates; but this also makes him turnover prone. Pressey averaged 7.1 assists and 3.5 turnovers per game. He had a few terrible games - 10 turnovers against Florida and 8 against Louisville - but he also had plenty (too many to list) when he cut down his mistakes and was an absolute star, like the clip of him versus UCLA embedded below.
So I wonder...who is the real Phil Pressey? Is he the far too aggressive turnover-prone point guard? Or is he an energy player that can make the strides needed to improve his efficiency and consistency? Hopefully he's the latter. Putting aside his offense, I think his man-to-man defense is the reason why he might make the final roster. Pressey only averaged 1.8 steals per game but has elite lateral speed and very quick hands. If Avery Bradley has an increased role on the team, Pressey's press defense (pun intended) could be valuable to give Bradley a breather here and there.
Jayson Granger is the other point guard to watch closely. He's 23 years old, has great length with a 6'7" wingspan and had a lot of success in Spain's first tier league. Other than that, I don't know much about him. In 25.9 minutes per game, Granger averaged 11 points, 3.4 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.8 turnovers, and 1.1 steals per game last season with Club Baloncesto Estudiantes. I'm interested to see what his game is like. Is he more of a scoring point guard? How does he play defense? Is he more of a combo or true point guard? Danny Ainge and the Celtics love to scout International talent, so Granger intrigues me.
Nolan Smith and Darius Johnson-Odom are combo guards more so than true point guards, so I question their chances of making the final roster considering the surplus of combo guards already on the team. Johnson-Odom had a terrific year in the D-League, averaging 21 points, 5.2 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 3 turnovers, and 1.3 steals per game. Even though he only played 13 games, those numbers are extremely impressive. He might be one of those guys that could explode against the talent in the Summer League, so let's promise not to overreact to anything he does. Instead, pay attention to his pure point guard skills: his ability to be an orchestrator on offense, his passing, creativity, and playmaking ability.
The Wild Cards
• Is Colton Iverson good enough for the NBA?
• Expectations for Tony Mitchell
Tony Mitchell was the D-League Rookie of the Year for good reason. In 48 games with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Mitchell averaged 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Mitchell isn't that effective of a perimeter shooter, with 31.7 shot percentage from beyond the arc, but he did average a respectable 47.7 percent from two-point range.
Mitchell looks like he has the ability to finish very strong at the rim. This clip here is an example of something that I have consistently seen from him. He finishes well with both his left and right hand, though he's much better handling the ball with his right. He also has a pretty nice shot from 10-to-14 feet, whether it's a pull up jumper or a floater. Beyond that, he seems far too inconsistent, though I need to see more of him before I can say that in full confidence. Considering Tony Mitchell's stellar play in the D-League, I'd be surprised if he didn't excel this summer. With that said, don't overreact to what you see.
I'm excited to see Colton Iverson play. There have been rumblings that he'll go to Europe to begin his professional career but during his introductory press conference he said he hopes to make Boston's roster. At 23 years old, I believe Iverson has enough experience and has the body to play in the NBA; it's only a matter of ability. In the limited footage I have watched of him, he appears to have an extremely high basketball I.Q and work ethic. Play for Brad Stevens -- a coach that values intelligence, grit, and hustle -- Iverson might have an advantage sticking around. I'll be keeping a close eye on Iverson's ability to defend the pick-and-roll and the post. I know he can rebound very well and I'm not expecting him to do much on offense, but he must prove he can defend at an efficient level to have a chance at cracking this roster this season.
What will you be watching for this summer? Help start the conversation by commenting below or by following and tweeting me @Kevin__OConnor with your thoughts!