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Celtics development power rankings

Introducing a recurring look at the young players on the Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

One of the Achilles’ heels of last year’s Celtics was the over-reliance on young players that were not ready for the roles they were being asked to fill. Injuries, COVID, and roster construction forced guys like Payton Pritchard, Grant Williams, Romeo Langford, and Aaron Nesmith into regular rotation minutes and occasional starting roles.

Oddly enough, one of the strengths of this team is the experience those young players gained while going through the crucible of last year’s struggles. Brad Stevens reshaped the roster to build out more veteran depth without discarding the best young players. The result is a flexibility that either lets younger players thrive or default to veterans that can hold down the fort.

If the Celtics are going to build a sustainable competitive team, they are going to need a few of the guys that are still on their rookie contracts (I’m excluding Robert Williams in this analysis) to step up and become solid contributors.

I thought it would be a fun exercise to keep tabs on this group in a “stock up / stock down” perspective. And because ranking is fun and generates healthy debates, I thought I’d do a power rankings as well.

2021 Las Vegas Summer League - Sacramento Kings v Boston Celtics Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Preseason Rankings

Let’s start with where I was at the end of the preseason and then I’ll apply what we learned in Game 1 of the regular season (understanding, of course, the small sample size).

  1. Payton Pritchard
  2. Aaron Nesmith
  3. Romeo Langford
  4. Grant Williams
  5. Bruno Fernando
  6. Sam Hauser
  7. Broderic Thomas

Rationale: I tried to take into consideration the body of work from each player, which in some cases had to rely heavily on Summer League and preseason games. Pritchard was an immediate contributor last year and showed flashes of dominance in Summer League.

Nesmith got the close edge over Romeo and it basically boiled down to what I trust. I know that Nesmith is a shooter that needed to improve his ability to attack the basket. I know Romeo is a slasher that needed to improve his shooting. Both have shown flashes of defense (though Romeo gets the edge there). It just boiled down to me trusting the flashes of three-level scoring out of Nesmith over trusting Romeo’s shot. Spoiler alert: that may be changing.

Grant Williams had a rough year last year, but as I’ve mentioned before, I think he gets unfairly criticized in some online circles. He’s never going to be a stat stuffer but he does a lot of little things that coaches love really well. His intangibles help good teams get better — they just weren’t much help on an average team last year.

The rest of the roster boils down to seniority and contract status but you could give them all a TBD at this point.

Stock Up / Stock Down

Stock Down: Payton Pritchard & Aaron Nesmith

Pritchard only played eleven minutes and didn’t score a point. He missed all 3 of his shots, including 2 three pointers. Oddly enough he did manage to pull down 5 rebounds. Seems like he’s being bumped down the rotation in favor of Dennis Schröder.

Nesmith also only logged 11 minutes and also didn’t score. He was 0-4 and missed 3 three pointers. When he was on the court the team was -14, which isn’t all on him, but something clearly wasn’t working during those stretches.

Stock Up: Grant Williams & Romeo Langford

Yes, I know Grant got absolutely roasted by Julius Randle, but hear me out. First of all, Randle is a really good All-Star and a matchup nightmare for most defenders in the league. He’s got a combination of brute force strength and quickness along with footwork and touch. Al Horford might have been able to match up better with him, but at the end of the day that guy was going to get his points. Williams actually played solid positional defense and just got overpowered at times. He also keyed a critical stretch, hitting 3 of his 5 three point attempts and finishing with 15 points. When Al Horford returns to the starting lineup Grant will fall back into a more appropriate bench rotation role, but at least in one game he did a lot to justify his fill-in starting role.

Earlier in the game, Romeo is the one that caught my attention. He continued his hot shooting (2-3 from deep) from the preseason and finished with 10 points. Unlike past years, he looks confident and aggressive on the court. If he can keep hitting the deep ball (which he’s shooting without hesitation), he’s going to rocket up these rankings. In fact, he already has.

Small Sample Size Post Game 1 Rankings

  1. Grant Williams
  2. Romeo Langford
  3. Payton Pritchard
  4. Aaron Nesmith
  5. Bruno Fernando
  6. Sam Hauser
  7. Broderic Thomas

I can’t promise that I’ll do this after every game (in fact, I promise I won’t) but I thought this was a good place to start the discussion. Leave your comments and (over)reactions in the comments below.