No one can accuse Semi Ojeleye of not being a good teammate and not lacking in work ethic. In his three seasons with the Boston Celtics, Semi has been involved in a bit of everything for the team, from routinely being the poster boy of Weird Celtics Twitter memes for his massive biceps and chiseled physique to defending the likes of Giannis and Harden routinely through grueling 82-game seasons.
The Celtics have a team option on Ojeleye for the 2020-21 season to the tune of $1,752,950. Not a large sum by any means, which makes the call to retain or move on from Semi even more interesting. That figure is pretty minimal for a backup with his versatility to defend positions 3 through to 5 on any given night.
However, the lack of creativity and variety with Semi is something which grinds most Boston fans. Many times throughout the course of a game, Ojeleye appears to be stuck in a lower gear with no room to shift any higher. He’s steady and dependable most games but is lacking in virtually any playmaking abilities which is key to Brad Stevens’ small ball, wing-heavy lineups.
With so much uncertainty heading into the draft, it’s very likely the C’s front office don’t pick up Semi’s team option. As seen in the bubble, Boston desperately needs to pivot its bench focus toward scoring over defensive acumen. The Celtics were a poor bench scoring team all season and when the injuries ultimately hit, it exasperated the offensive depth even further.
With Jayson Tatum facing double coverage on a regular basis, Boston needs more reliable and efficient bench shooting and in my eyes Danny Ainge needs to look to veteran shooting as a prime target going into the 2020-21 season.
The 6’6”, 240-pound power forward grew into a makeshift 3-and-D guy in his three years in Boston, but ultimately, Boston will need to press the upgrade button to increase the talent on the team. The bubble growth of rookie Grant Williams saw Semi slip down the rotational pecking order slightly to somewhere around the 11th man based on both the eye test and output. Struggling with his three-point shooting early on in the season, Grant Williams would finish his rookie year with a respectably consistent three-point shot and he would supplant Semi as the jack of all trades defender across multiple wing positions, especially against the larger bodied teams.
Danny Ainge may indeed offer up Semi a contract extension to stick around, but at the same time, don’t be surprised if we see Semi rounding out a roster someplace else next season. If that happens, Celtics fans will wish him well, as he’s been a consummate professional and good teammate in Boston for three seasons.