This year's Boston Celtics summer squad in Utah and Las Vegas had talented players that could eventually carve out a role in the NBA. The Celtics' core of young players were reviewed on Monday and for the second part of our series, we're looking at six of the other top rotational players from this summer that have a chance to earn a training camp invite or fight for a professional contract.
Jonathan Holmes, Forward, Undrafted in 2015
Holmes was one of the best players for the Celtics this summer. The 22-year-old Texas senior forward did it all on both ends of the floor and looked like a perfect fit in Brad Stevens' system.
He displayed consistent shooting mechanics and shot 46.4 percent on 28 three-point attempts, a drastic improvement from his career with the Longhorns. Holmes set strong screens and especially looked threatening on the pick-and-pop. Though he didn't drive much, he did flash his ability to put the ball on the floor with a plan to score or kick it out to open teammates.
Holmes is a potentially versatile defender, 3-point shooter, high energy, has hit clutch shots, and tough. I'll take that guy on my team.— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) July 22, 2015
Holmes was active crashing the boards. He played with high energy and did a good job of tracking second chances and putting it back up for a basket. He brought the same energy on defense, showcasing the versatility to defend both forward positions. He certainly isn't the best athlete, but he makes up for it with his hustle and technique closing out to the perimeter and helping inside.
"A number of teams have expressed interest" in Holmes already, according to the Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach. But he played so well that it may have plummeted Boston's chances of hanging onto him. With 16 guaranteed contracts, it's likely there are other situations that can offer him more playing time. If the Celtics are able to sign Holmes, they should, otherwise he could end up being the one that got away.
Marcus Thornton, Guard, Drafted 45th in 2015
Drafted 45th overall by the Celtics, Thornton will play part of this coming year in Australia with the Sydney Kings. Their NBL regular season ends in late February, and the playoffs are completed in early March, so Thornton could play the latter half of his season with the Maine Red Claws, if they choose to sign him.
Thornton is William & Mary's all-time leading scorer and clearly came to the summer league with a scorer's mentality. He had just a 42.3 eFG percentage, but he did have his moments, including a 21-point performance against the Heat.
The ball doesn't slow him down and he didn't have trouble creating space against set defenses. He's quick and can change speeds. He likes to elevate from mid-range, where he looks very comfortable shooting. Thornton was solid as a passer out of the pick-and-roll and didn't appear to be turnover prone.
He was a knockdown spot up three-point shooter in college, hitting at over 40 percent overall in his career, but struggled on his couple of attempts from NBA range. It could be that he's getting adjusted to the line, but it was a small sample size nonetheless.
Thornton's man-to-man defense wasn't anything special, since he's slightly undersized. But he has good lateral quickness and was consistent in his approach, both closing out and fighting over screens. He will likely never be a lockdown defender, so it was encouraging to see him bring a consistent mindset after being featured as a go-to scorer for a bulk of his career.
Corey Walden, Guard, Undrafted in 2015
Walden didn't play enough minutes to properly assess his play because of a pre-draft hamstring injury that limited him, appearing in just two games and attempting seven shots. But he did display high-end lateral quickness as a perimeter defender. His closeouts were also strong and he did a good job of contesting shots. In theory, he's a good fit as a tenacious defender that can also get hot and score from the perimeter.
C.J. Fair, Forward, Undrafted in 2014
Fair led the Fort Wayne Mad Ants to the NBA Development League title last season, but struggled this summer for the Celtics. Early on, especially in Utah, Fair attempted shots that didn't mesh within the flow of the offense. While his harmony with his teammates improved in Las Vegas, his production didn't. He shot just 21.4 percent from three-point range, as range continues to be a weakness for him.
There could be a role in the league somewhere for Fair. He's a solid all-around player and is capable of playing multiple positions, but he likely doesn't have the shooting range or the feel for the game required to make him a perfect fit for the Celtics compared to some of the other possibilities.
Malcolm Miller, Wing, Undrafted in 2015
Miller could be a rotation player for an NBA team after developing for a couple years. The product of Holy Cross hit 37 percent of his threes in his four-year college career and displayed his smooth stroke for the Celtics. He has a quick, seamless release, uses the hop, and is comfortable hitting shots above the break.
The 22-year-old also showed flashes of his excellent athleticism by flying around defensively, contesting shots, and hustling around screens. He needs to improve his technique, both off-ball and man-to-man, but it doesn't appear that the physicality of the NBA will ever be a notable hindrance for him.
Miller is an average, yet fluid ball handler. On a few occasions he turned on the jets, showing what he is capable of as a complementary scorer when surrounded by NBA level talent. If he successfully develops as a defender, he is a strong candidate to be a 3-and-D role player on a competitive roster. If the Celtics are able to lock him up, they may have a super sleeper developing in their system.
Royce O'Neale, Wing, Undrafted in 2015
O'Neale shot 44.8 percent from three as an upperclassman at Baylor, but didn't see his shot translate, hitting just a pair of his 12 attempts, albeit in an extremely limited sample. He gets his shots off in a flash, but the concern still is that he doesn't really leave his feet and has a relatively low release, so he might be more prone to seeing his shots altered.
Nevertheless, he did a good job of playing in the system, which is how he projects as a player anyway. Whether it was making flow passes or handling the ball, O'Neale is capable of doing the little things as a jack-of-all-trades role player. However, in order to become a consistent rotational player he'll need to hit his jumpers.
O'Neale frequently switched on the perimeter and he had mixed results. But for a player that played zone for nearly his entire career he wasn't bad overall, he just lacks experience in man-to-man situations. Though he does a solid job of moving his feet against wings and forwards, guards were able to blow by him. O'Neale would be a solid fit for the Red Claws and is possibly a bench player at the NBA level in the future, provided he develops as a shooter.
The Celtics have reportedly already added Alabama wing Levi Randolph to the training camp roster. Look for players, possibly the names above, to be added before camp begins.