The NBA Summer League is here, which means it's time to gear up for some gross overreactions over the next few weeks. But this is also a crucially important time for draft picks to get integrated into their systems and for fringe players to prove they belong in the pros.
The Boston Celtics have a loaded roster with plenty of players who could make an impact in the future in the big leagues. Here's what I'll be watching for from all 14 players on the roster:
Core Draft Picks
Marcus Smart, 6'4, Guard, 2014
After playing most of last season off the ball, the Celtics want to get Smart more reps at point guard. He improved significantly over the course of the season by integrating change of pace dribbles, but taking that one step further would be a huge development for him entering next year. Watch for his ability to make accurate passes off the dribble, as well as his ability to shake defenders and get to the basket. And if he does get to the line, it'd be encouraging if he shoots over 75 percent.
James Young, 6'6, Wing, 2014
Though Young's three-point percentage was down with Boston last season, we already know he can potentially shoot the lights out. What's more important is for him to show he can score more diversely on offense, both off the dribble and off screens. However, he'll also need to display improved fundamentals on defense in order to carve out consistent minutes.
Terry Rozier, 6'1, Guard, 2015
The fastest player on Boston's entire roster is Rozier, so his speed is built for the summer, but it'll be key for him to cut down on his sloppy play that plagued him at times at Louisville. Look for the Celtics to use him in a lot of pick-and-rolls to get him adjusted to the pace of the NBA, as well as the spacing. There's no doubt that Rozier will be a pain for the opposition to score against, but his ability to pick up man-to-man concepts will be something to watch for.
R.J. Hunter, 6'6, Wing, 2015
Look for the Celtics to utilize Hunter as a shooter off screens. It'll be interesting to see if they run some secondary pick-and-roll actions for him, since he's a very good passer with a high basketball IQ. Hunter will need to show that he can defend his position, since he's lanky and may get overpowered from larger players.
Jordan Mickey, 6'8, Big, 2015
Mickey had only an average jumper at LSU, but showcased much improved mechanics at the NBA Combine. If he sustains that level of production, it'll bode well for his future. Even though he's unlikely to play much this year, unless injuries or trades occur, I'm curious to see how the Celtics use him in pick-and-rolls. He might be athletic enough where they can switch him, but it's probably more important to get him adjusted to "ice" defense.
Stuck in Limbo: D-League Candidates
Marcus Thornton, 6'4, Guard, 2015
We know for a fact that Thornton can score at all three levels of the floor and he'll likely be able to fill it up in the Helter Skelter style of summer league games. But, what's more pertinent to his future success is his defense. Thornton won't be tasked with tough matchups every game, but proving he can defend his position will go a long way for him.
Phil Pressey, 5'11, Point Guard, 2013
Pressey will reportedly play just a few games for the Celtics this summer, possibly as a tryout for the 15-man roster before his contract becomes guaranteed on July 15. After two years, we know that he's capable of playing hard-nosed defense and facilitating offense, but he hasn't shown he can hit jumpers from downtown. It's a shame his jumper mechanics haven't been revised using Pro Shot techniques.
Intriguing Undrafted Talents
Jonathan Holmes, 6'8, Forward, 2015
The draft was almost two weeks ago, but it's still stunning that Holmes went undrafted. He was a great undrafted signing for the Celtics, but it'll be crucial for him to show he can hit threes from NBA range. He was highly inconsistency after four years at Texas, but Rick Barnes' poor system didn't do him any favors either.
Royce O'Neale, 6'6, Wing, 2015
O'Neale could carve out a career as a Swiss Army Knife, because of his do-it-all skills. He could also become a shooting specialist, since he shot 43.8 percent from three at Baylor. But it'll be important to see if that translates, since he has a low release that might make him more prone to getting blocked at the pro level.
Malcolm Miller, 6'7, Wing, 2015
Miller is a super athlete who plays hard, and he can drain threes. Maybe he could be a potential 3-and-D role player years from now.
Corey Walden, 6'2, Guard, 2015
Walden projects as a microwave scorer off the bench and he works hard on the defensive end. But with his size, he'll need to show that he can translate these attributes against NBA athletes.
Eric Buckner, 6'10, Big, 2012
Buckner is a former Georgia State teammate of Hunter and is the school's all-time leader in blocks. He is a good player for these exhibition games and practices because he's a stout defender who plays hard on each possession.
C.J. Fair, 6'8, Forward, 2014
Fair led the Fort Wayne Mad Ants to the 2015 D-League Championship after a productive four-year career at Syracuse. He's solid, but doesn't shine in any one category. It'd help his cause if he shows he can hit threes, after draining just 27.4 percent with Fort Wayne last year.
Ralph Sampson, 6'11, Big, 2012
Sampson was a last second replacement for Colton Iverson, who bolted to sign with an overseas team. Sampson is unlikely to make much of an impact on the summer roster, especially since he came on so late.