Terry Rozier played his best basketball when the Celtics needed it most last year. With his team down six and on the verge of losing momentum in Game 2 against the Washington Wizards, Boston's third string point guard showed up.
He buried a three-point shot, followed up his team's stop on the following possession with an 11-foot jumper, rebounded the Wizards' next miss, and dished out an assist to Marcus Smart. In just a hair over one minute of game time, Washington's lead was cut to two, momentum swung back in Boston’s favor, and the threat of the game and home court advantage slipping away from the Celtics disappeared.
Those fears would return throughout the course of the game, but Rozier had played a critical role in keeping things from getting out of hand early, a problem that plagued Boston for much of that series. It was a small but important sequence and likely the enduring memory of Rozier's year as a whole.
Unfortunately, Rozier's brief playoff brilliance and a stretch of competence at the start of the season, were the only real positives from his second year as a pro.
At times he looked like a better, more confident shooter, but his numbers still hovered at barely unplayable levels. Rozier posted .367/.318/.773 shooting splits, which combined to make the third worst true shooting percentage of any player in basketball that attempted more than 400 field goals for the year (per NBA.com).
That's really bad and it's not putting a strong foot forward to embracing the possibility of more of an off-ball role on offense. Rozier could use that flexibility, given some of the limitations he’s shown with the ball in his hands. He was still prone to over dribbling at times and stalled out offense possessions with sequences like the following, more often than was desirable.
Possessions like these were most definitely an issue, but they occurred less often than in the previous year. In that sense, there is some reason for hope. Rozier played with an increased level of decisiveness that was encouraging, though at times detrimental. Occasionally, Rozier would overcompensate and launch himself forward without any clear path to success.
This is all part of his progression towards finding the balance he'll need to strike between attacking aggressively, probing meaningfully, and moving the ball when nothing is there. Rozier has made strides to figuring that math out. It just hasn't been realized in the bottom line of his production yet.
Still, Rozier has shown enough potential for the Celtics to keep him around in a summer where most of the roster has been traded away or lost in free agency and there are certainly things to like about his game. He rarely turns the ball over, rebounds incredibly well for a guard, and is a game defender with a long enough wingspan to spend time matched up against taller opponents.
If he can figure out the pace of the game enough to control the tempo in Boston's favor, make a more respectable number of shots, and keep doing the things he's best at, then Rozier could be a valuable backup point guard. The Celtics could really use that. They'll need Marcus Smart to spend some time on the wing and that will only be tenable if Rozier can fill in minutes at the point consistently, and really that's what this entire season comes down to for him.
The type of oscillation in production that Rozier has exhibited throughout his career to date isn't abnormal for a player in his early years, but at some point he needs to put it all together. In his third season with the team, and with a clear path to a more substantial role, the Celtics need Rozier to take a significant jump in consistency and play at the level he's shown he's capable of reaching.
That can be hard to do. Coming off the bench for brief periods of time, without an opportunity to warm up or an opportunity to embed oneself within the flow of the game isn't easy, particularly at the NBA level. That is what Rozier is tasked with here though. It's time for him to prove he can do it night in and night out.