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Terry Rozier showing positive signs at the D-League level

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time not too long ago when being sent to the NBA’s Development League was thought to be a sort of basketball death sentence. It was a place where the careers of fringe-NBA players went to die, a place with no obvious path back to the game’s highest level and, quite frankly, it was a place where guys were embarrassed to be.

That couldn’t be any further from the truth these days.

Having grown from eight to 19 teams—with three more to be added in 2016—over the course of its 15-year history, the D-League has slowly become the NBA’s equivalent to Major League Baseball’s farm system. It’s a place where players have the opportunity to work on their game while also getting valuable on-the-job experience.

Nobody takes advantage of that opportunity better than the Boston Celtics, who constantly shuffle their young talent between Boston and their affiliate Maine Red Claws—something rookie guard Terry Rozier certainly can attest to.

The No. 16 overall pick from the 2015 draft has already suited up for the Red Claws on five separate occasions, averaging per-game numbers of 19.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 9.8 assists compared to just 2.8 turnovers.

The Celtics aren’t concerned with the numbers, though, as they are already fully aware of his ability to fill up stat sheets at rapid rates.

Instead, they want to see Rozier improving on the nuances that all good NBA point guards can exploit: changing speeds, making the right reads in the pick-and-roll and creating good looks for teammates.

Here you see Rozier bringing the ball up and working the pick-and-pop with fellow rookie Jordan Mickey. Rozier rejects the screen, slows up as he gets a step on his defender and then explodes as if he’s going straight to the rim. This forces Lucas Nogueira to drop further into the paint, which, in turn, leaves Mickey wide open for the 18-foot jumper.

This next play is a little bit different. Instead of starting the play with the ball, Rozier runs his defender off a pin-down screen set by Omari Johnson and proceeds to execute a dribble handoff with Coty Clarke. Rozier then attacks the basket, giving the impression he’s going straight to the rim before firing a pass back to Johnson for a wide-open corner three.

Both of these actions are ones the Celtics use consistently at the NBA level. In a vacuum, they’re rather simple, but it takes practice for it to become second nature, practice that Rozier will only receive at the D-League level for the time being.

The sooner he becomes accustomed to running plays like these, the better his chances of making an impact in a Celtics uniform.

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