NBA Summer League tips off on Sunday and the Summer Celtics will help get the whole things started. While there isn’t a shiny new first round pick to see in action for the first time for Boston, there are seven players worth keeping an eye. Here’s a guide for what we’ll be looking to see out of the key Celtics in Las Vegas.
But first, a note. And it’s a relatively important one! There is a saying that front office executives like to pass around at this time of year: “Summer League doesn’t tell you who can play, but it can tell you who can’t play.” Essentially, if a player looks great, don’t get overly excited. On the other hand, if a player looks terrible, it can be a bit of a warning sign. While the first one will keep you ground, there are a few caveats with the latter:
- Is the player coming back from injury? If so, no judgements should be passed.
- Is the player playing a new role? Primary playmaker at Summer League after being primarily off-ball in the NBA, for example. If he looks kind of rough, it’s to be expected.
- Is the team so devoid of talent that the player is on an island? This happens sometimes and players can look pretty rough.
One last thing before we get into individual players: Rookies may need some adjustment time. Second-year players generally tend to look pretty good. Third-year players usually dominate Summer League. If they don’t, it’s reason to be sort of concerned.
On to the Summer Celtics!
This one is pretty simple: Can Romeo Langford look like one of the best players on the floor in Las Vegas? As a third-year player, he should be pretty far ahead of most of the other players. Yes, Langford has missed considerable development time due to injuries and illness in his career, but he should be ready to dominate against this level.
Look for Langford to have the ball a lot. Boston is trying to develop him as a playmaker. That would open up minutes for Langford vs just being a slashing wing. He should also show up big time on defense, given he’s already shown that ability in the NBA.
It was an up-and-down introduction to the NBA for Aaron Nesmith as a rookie. He missed time early and took a while to catch up. By the end of the year, Nesmith was showing why Boston took him 14th in the 2020 NBA Draft. His shot looked solid and his hustle plays were a nice surprise.
Nesmith should be comfortable as a scorer in Las Vegas. He should be able to get his own shot off the bounce, while also knocking down catch-and-shoot jumpers. There are minutes available on the wing in Boston. This is Nesmith’s springboard to earning some of them.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Payton Pritchard look great in Summer League. He was very comfortable as a rookie in the NBA, as he was part of Boston’s rotation from Day 1. Summer League tends to favor ballhandling creators. Pritchard should be able to handle some overmatched opponents.
We’ll be watching to see how Pritchard looks as a pick-and-roll passer. This part of his game was hit-or-miss as a rookie. He should have some chances to work out of those sets in Vegas. In addition, let’s see what new shots he’s added since last season ended. Players tend to add a couple of new tricks to their bag in the offseason. Pritchard might show off a couple this week.
We’re starting to get to Last Chance Saloon time for Carsen Edwards and his time with the Celtics. He simply hasn’t shown enough development over the course of his first two seasons. Edwards’ potential in the NBA was thought to be that of a microwave scorer. Thus far, he’s struggled to create good looks for himself on a consistent basis.
As a third-year player, like Langford, Edwards should dominate in Summer League. If he can’t, his prospects of staying on a Boston team that is tight with roster spots will look pretty bleak. Edwards needs to hit shots, show some improvement as a passer and compete defensively against bigger players. It’s a big ask, but this is a stage where he should theoretically shine.
Yam Madar is the player most Boston fans will have eyes on at Summer League. He’s still somewhat of an unknown, since he played last season in Israel after being drafted in the second round of the 2020 NBA Draft. But Madar is ready and eager to prove what he can do against NBA talent.
Look for Madar to play behind Pritchard primarily. They’ll probably play some minutes together too. Mostly, look for how comfortable Madar looks running the offense. And whether or not he gets beaten up and screened too easily on defense. If he looks solid enough, expect to see more of him this fall.
The Celtics 2021 second rounder Juhann Begarin was a late addition to the Summer League roster. Begarin said he asked Brad Stevens for an opportunity to show what he could do. Now, he’s going to get it, even if Boston still plans for him to play overseas this upcoming season.
Begarin said at his introductory press conference that he “likes to defense”. So, that’s what we’ll be watching for. By all accounts, Begarin is an NBA-level athlete. Can he harness that into good defense and with creating scoring opportunities? That’s the key to getting a read this week on his NBA prospects.
It’s been reported that the Celtics will fill one of their Two-Way spots by signing Sam Hauser. He went undrafted out of the University of Virginia at the 2021 NBA Draft. He’s got a good chance to catch on with a Boston team that is looking for wings and shooting.
It’s the shooting that we’ll be watching with Hauser. He’s got the rep of being a shooter, so let’s see him shoot. Hopefully a lot. In addition, can he create looks for himself? Or does he have to play off others creating for him? And how can Hauser hold up defensively? These things will go a long way towards giving us an idea of he might look between Boston and Maine this season.