When Doc Rivers was the head coach of the Boston Celtics, we all knew what was going to happen to rookie point guards: they were going to spend a lot of the time on the bench. It happened with Gabe Pruitt, Avery Bradley, Lester Hudson, and E'Twaun Moore.
But now Brad Stevens is in town and brings a new philosophy to the organization. Will undrafted rookie point guard Phil Pressey ride the pine for most of the season or will he receive playing time? Well, no one really knows at this point in the year. Stevens has never coached in the NBA before and even if he had, this is a brand new situation.
And what about the Rajon Rondo factor? The Celtics have one of the best point guards in the NBA, and even though he won't come back until at least December, he's still the man once he returns.
Defense comes first
There are a number of variables factoring into Phil Pressey's potential for his rookie year, but it might be best to look at Stevens' track record with point guards in college. Doing that, it's obvious that he appreciates point guards that play stellar defense. Ronald Nored spent four years with Brad Stevens, and was on both National Championship runner-up teams in 2010 and 2011. Nored is a two-time Horizon Defensive Player of the Year and is tied for the most steals in Butler history with 207.
Along the same lines as Nored, Stevens recently talked about Avery Bradley as a player with elite potential. He said, "I don't think there's any doubt that Avery has elite ability in a lot of ways as a point guard. And when I say that, he's an elite defender at the point guard position, he's an elite athlete at the point guard position."
Considering Stevens' history (albeit brief) with point guards and his recent statements on Rondo and Bradley, I think there is a chance that Phil Pressey gets playing time his rookie year because of his abilities on the defensive end of the floor.
What does Pressey bring anyway?
Four words can describe what Phil Pressey brings to the court: aggressiveness, inconsistency, flashiness, and speed. Phil Pressey is a tenacious point guard that plays hard on defense. He is tied for career steals at Missouri with 196, and was the Big 12 steals leader in 2011. In the Orlando Summer League the 22-year-old guard showed up and played great defense from day one.
The rookie guard occasionally used his hands too aggressively, which could get him in foul trouble in the NBA, but he knows how to move his feet quickly side-to-side and stays in front of the ball-handler. He is also very good at utilizing his speed to jump passing lanes for deflections or steals. Pressey can earn playing time this season by playing hard on defense and becoming one of the pit bulls, alongside Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee.
I have a hard time assessing Phil Pressey's play on the offensive end of the floor because of his lack of consistency. There are performances like his 19 point, 19 assist performance against UCLA that make me go "WOW," yet there are others such as his 2 point, 8 turnover stink show against Florida that make me throw my face into my palms and sigh.
Who is the real Phil Pressey? He confused Missouri fans and he certainly did the same to me in the summer league. I thought Pressey was horrible for the first game and a half in the summer but was exceptional after that. To start, Pressey was wild on offense, throwing high-risk passes into traffic, taking bad shots, and was totally out of control. Yet, somehow, things turned around after that. He calmed down and started making dependable, efficient plays. When a risk had to be taken, he knew when it was time to pull the trigger and when to hold back.
One thing Celtics fans shouldn't expect from the rookie guard is a jump shot. Pressey was not a very good jump shooter at Missouri and will have an even harder time getting off his shot against the talent in the NBA. Pressey will score most of his buckets by driving hard to the basket in transition. The best course of action for Phil is to get in the ear of Rajon Rondo and learn how to play like he did early in his career: full-throttle, minimize risks, and do your job.
There's a lot of depth at guard
Brad Stevens recently said that he necessarily believe that the point guard has to play a traditional type of role, which could be either bad news for Phil Pressey. The C's have a myriad of different players at the guard position that can play point guard, even if it isn't in a traditional role. In addition to Avery Bradley, players like Courtney Lee, Jordan Crawford, and even MarShon Brooks can all bring the ball up the court efficiently.
Then when Rajon Rondo comes back, everyone gets pushed back on the depth chart. If Bradley starts the year at point guard, and Courtney Lee is at shooting guard, then it's very possible Bradley shifts to the two-guard and Lee goes to the bench. There will be a much stiffer competition for playing time, which raises the question: Does that leave enough room for a true point guard like Phil Pressey to get playing time?
So, will Pressey get playing time?
Personally, I don't think so. Pressey will have to shine in workouts, practices, and pre-season, in order to receive significant playing time. I do think there is a chance he gets time early in the year considering his potential on the defensive end, but I think, for his sake, he is better off getting sent to the Developmental League. This is not to say he isn't ready for the NBA, but there is far too much talent ahead of him on the depth chart to warrant playing him for extended minutes.
If Phil Pressey is sent to the Developmental League he'll be able to learn the ropes from Ronald Nored, who received a prominent role with the Maine Red Claws. Nored will be able to teach Pressey how to take his defense to another level and remove any significant flaws in his game. There's also a chance that Pressey tears it up in the D-League, just like Avery Bradley did years ago, and will be back in Boston sooner rather than later.