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Three things to watch against the Bucks in Summer League

The Celtics will face Milwaukee in Game 2 of their Summer League season.

2022 NBA Summer League - Boston Celtics v Miami Heat Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

We’re heading into the Boston Celtics' second Summer League game, with the Milwaukee Bucks being the next opponent. After a tough loss against the Miami Heat on Saturday, Boston’s young hopefuls will have a point to prove, as they look to leave their mark and potentially earn a training camp invite or contract for the coming season.

Unlike the regular season, every individual on a Summer League roster has their own agenda. Sure, they’re going to operate as a unit on the floor and play team-orientated basketball, but the mindset is more geared towards a G-League mentality, rather than the NBA, where most players have multiple years of their future secured.

With that in mind, here are three things to look for in Monday’s game against the Bucks.

1. Can Sam Hauser find his range?

Things didn’t go as planned for Sam Hauser against the Miami Heat. The sophomore shooter’s shot wasn’t falling. Every movement seemed like it had been sped up. And there was no rhythm to his play.

Unlike most players on Boston’s Summer League roster, Hauser already has a contract in place for the upcoming season - but in a setting like this, where everybody is hungry, that can be both and good and bad thing.

Heading into Monday’s game, the Virginia product will need to rediscover his poise, as he looks to prove that he can be the bench shooter Boston’s roster sorely needs. Nobody is asking Hauser to be a playmaker or plus defender — it’s pretty clear he’s a single-skill shooter at this early juncture of his career, and that’s fine.

Still, if the second-year wing can find his range, and prove he can score off movement, as well as off the catch, then his stock could begin to rise, and isn’t that why a second-year player competes in Vegas?

2. JD Davison’s control around the rim

All things considered, JD Davison gave a fair account of himself against the Heat. The young guard looked poised as the primary ball-handler, controlled the flow of the offense, and orchestrated pick-and-rolls admirably.

“I thought for such a young kid, playing in his first game, he had a really nice floor game to him. He moved the ball well, was able to get downhill and find his teammates. And I thought he had a nice pace and control of to his game offensively,” Summer League head coach Ben Sullivan told CelticsBlog’s Bobby Manning following the game.

Unfortunately, there was one glaring flaw in Davison's debut game: his finishing around the rim. For such an explosive athlete, the Alabama native struggled to convert his looks, with the rookie guard often running himself into trouble, rather than looking to manipulate the big man before turning the jets on.

Hopefully, now the first-game jitters are out of the way, we will see Davison utilize his unique athleticism to punish teams down low. Not every finish has to be a dunk, but when you have a high level of athleticism, leaning into that can be a difference-maker for your close-range shot attempts, even if that just means you’re getting an additional lift on your layups and are taking it strong to the rack.

All things considered, Davison’s debut was pleasing, especially for such a late draft pick, but if he can figure out how to score against an improved level of defense, his route to significant minutes in the G-League will be far easier.

3. Can Trevion Williams make good on his playmaking ability?

Much like the NBA-version of the Boston Celtics, Ben Sullivan isn’t asking his big men to shoulder much of the playmaking load. But, when you have Trevion Williams on your roster, allowing some of the offense to develop out of the mid or high post seems like a viable option to explore.

“I’m a pass-first big, and even these guys, we haven’t been playing together that long, but I’ve tried to get to know them, hopefully, they get to know me as a player, the way I play on the court...I wanna be that guy that puts other guys in a position to be successful, and if that works, then everybody eats.”

After all, that’s the rookie big’s bread and butter skillset, so letting him flex it a little bit shouldn’t be off the table. Whether we see some more cross-court passes, or Williams is asked to operate in more of a dribble hand-off role, allowing the offense to develop through him could position him to have a significant impact on the game.

Of course, it will also be interesting to see if Williams can continue to make the right reads against an improved level of competition, and while playing at a higher pace than what he’s probably used to - both of those questions can only be answered if he’s given the opportunity to rise to the occasion.

Final Thoughts

While getting some victories at Summer League would be nice, and would provide a confidence boost to such a young core of hungry players, the real progress to be made is more centered around acclimation. Sure, the level of play on offer in Las Vegas isn’t what anyone will experience if they make a regula -season roster or find themselves thrust into the rotation on a two-way contract, but it’s still a step up from what most of them are used to.

At this early juncture of the off-season, even the slightest development can set the pulse racing, and hopefully, we can see one or two of Boston’s young hopefuls find their footing against the Bucks. After all, it’s not like you need to worry about slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo.