Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens shared his thoughts on the team’s Summer League performance yesterday. He emphasized the importance of viewing Summer League play as a distinct experience from regular and postseason NBA basketball, noting that there will be a transition in roles for those players that make it from the Summer League team onto the official roster.
“Summer League’s great,” he said. “You get a chance to do things. You get the ball in crunch time, and all those other things, but you know some of those roles are going to be much different once the season really starts.”
Such is the reality of nearly every young player. Acclimating to the NBA is a difficult process, one that almost always means carving out a niche that fits a player’s primary talents, as he develops the ancillary skills and athleticism needed to take on a more central role.
Stevens, based on his comments, seems abundantly aware of this, but he has found a sense of optimism in the potential for immediate contribution from one of his rookies in a somewhat unlikely place—second-round pick Semi Ojeleye.
“I think what he’s doing translates,” Stevens said while speaking of Ojeleye. “His flexibility defensively is going to be enormous. I think that he will compete to be one of our better defenders right out the gate.”
That’s meaningful praise from a coach that is happy to wait for his younger players to earn their time on the court. Perhaps Ojeleye’s effectiveness shouldn’t come as a surprise. He’s an uber athlete, built like a Mack truck. At age 22, he’s considered old for a rookie, and he has had more time to develop both his body and his game than many of his peers.
He’s shown he’s stout enough to defend in the post, quick enough to defend on the perimeter, and a good enough shooter to make life a major pain for big men tasked with defending him. If those skills do in fact translate against NBA-level competition, then the Celtics may have found themselves something of a second-round diamond in the rough.
It’s probably a little to early to count on Ojeleye to be a substantial cog in the rotation just yet, but that Brad Stevens, a man not prone to hyperbole, believes he could be ready to play from day one is certainly encouraging.