The Summer Celtics have wrapped up play in Las Vegas. Boston finished with a 3-2 record in the desert, but Summer League isn’t really about wins and losses. It’s about the players and their development.
With that said, here’s some Takeaways from each of the 12 players who appeared in Summer League games for Boston. We’re going to count them down in order of interest, based off the not-so-scientific method of Twitter mentions and article comments. Here we go!
· Sam Hauser: Hauser started the summer as the only rostered player for the Celtics. He was quickly joined by J.D. Davison, but Hauser was the one we initially had our eyes on.
Summer League was a bit of a bust for Hauser. He played poorly in the first game, but then found his stroke in the second game. After that, we didn’t see Hauser play.
In reality, Summer League isn’t the place for Hauser to shine. He’s a shooter and the glorified pickup nature of Las Vegas works more for ballhandlers and drivers than shooters. It would have been nice to see Hauser do a little more off-the-dribble work, but it is what it is. We’ll get a sense of how much he’s improved this fall in training camp and preseason.
· Juhann Begarin: Begarin comes in as still somewhat of a “Man of Mystery” for Boston. Begarin has been stashed in France for two seasons, so he’s been a bit of out of sight, out of mind. But Begarin popped athletically once again in Vegas.
The 19-year-old wing was able to overpower defenders with his speed and strength. That combo got Begarin to the rim repeatedly, while he also racked up a good amount of free throw attempts too. Defensively, Begarin is a bit lost. But he’s very, very young, so that will improve in time. He has all the physical tools to be a good defender.
On the downside, Begarin didn’t show much as a shooter. His pullup jumper needs a lot of work. He looks confident shooting spot-ups, but his form is a bit inconsistent. His right elbow tends to fly out as he gets into his shot. He’s also a mess as a passer. Begarin will look better in a structured system than one that relies on him to create so much in transition and semi-transition.
Overall, Begarin looks like he’s going to be an NBA player…eventually. He’ll probably stay overseas for another year and get more seasoning. That should bode well for both Begarin and the Celtics.
· J.D. Davison: The 2022 second-round pick didn’t disappoint. If anything, he showed up better than anyone could have reasonably expected. Davison was Boston’s other rostered player to appear in Las Vegas, after he signed a Two-Way shortly before play started.
The goals for Davison were to show that he could play under control, run an offense and that his defensive skills would translate to the NBA game.
Check. Check. And check.
At times, the Alabama product overwhelmed opponents with his speed and athleticism, but it wasn’t the only thing in his bag of tricks. Davison did a nice job of running the offense in the halfcourt. Yes, the turnovers were still a bit high, but that’s part of the deal in Summer League. Far more encouraging were the 8.2 assists per game that Davison averaged.
On defense, Davison has all the skills to be a force. He’s both quick enough to stay in front of almost everyone, but also strong enough to take contact without getting thrown off. His instincts for steals and blocks are off the charts.
Davison needs to log some G League time, which is why he’s on a Two-Way. The Celtics also have great guard depth with the big club. But, in time, Davison looks like he’ll play himself off his Two-Way deal and onto a standard one. Next up? Let’s see if the good shooting from Summer League translates to the G League. If so, Boston has a potential steal in their 2022 second rounder.
· Mfiondu Kabengele: Kabengele was someone Celtics fans were really excited about, and he delivered. Enough so that Boston signed Kabengele to their second Two-Way spot. And that feels about right for where the big man is at.
Kabengele isn’t really a center, but he can sort of hold his own there. He’s much more of a stretch-4 right now. And that’s just fine. Kabengele showed a nice inside-outside combo on offense. He’s got good touch on his jumper. He’s a solid finisher, but needs a bit more craft inside. If it’s not a catch and go straight up play, Kabengele gets himself in trouble a bit around the rim.
On defense, he’s a solid rebounder. The bigger bigs were able to muscle Kabengele inside at times. He’s a good athlete with good length, so recovering for blocks was a skill, but that’s not something you can rely on in the NBA. Something else to watch? Possibly because of his lack of bulk, Kabengele is a foul machine. He averaged 4.4 fouls per game in 24.5 minutes in Vegas. That needs to get cleaned up.
Kabengele should do well in Maine, and that will earn him call-ups if a regular Boston big is unavailable. But he’s not quite ready to hold down a true backup spot yet. So, the Celtics will probably find a veteran big man, while Kabengele continues to hone his game in Maine.
· Trevon Williams: The “other” big man was someone a lot of Boston fans wanted to see. Williams flashed some skills, but he looked like he’s a long way away from contributing in the NBA.
On the plus side, Williams can really pass the ball. That’s a great fit for the Celtics, who like to run a lot of offense through their big men. He’s also a pretty strong rebounder.
On the downside, Williams’ is ground bound. His defense is all about positioning, but he’s also a bit slow afoot. If he gets a body into someone, they won’t move him. But athletic bigs gave him some trouble.
On offense, because he’s not a great athlete, Williams needs to be better about using his strength to create space for his finishes. And his jumper needs a lot of work.
Williams needs to log a good amount of G League time. There’s a player in there for sure. Boston should try to get him to camp on an Exhibit 10 deal, and then off to Maine when the preseason ends.
· Matt Ryan: Last season’s Two-Way players were kind of the forgotten men for the Summer Celtics. At least at first. They aren’t shiny and new, nor are they rostered players.
But Matt Ryan did a good job reminding everyone that he can play in a short amount of time. It was only two games, but Ryan was the best player for the Summer Celtics. He shot the ball great, including a game-winner on a wild rush up the court.
Unfortunately, Ryan hurt his ankle on that play and that was it for the summer. The silver lining? Ryan was reportedly well enough to play again later in Vegas, but Boston chose to hold him out. That’s usually a good sign of things to come contractually.
If Ryan can hold his own defensively, and that’s a very real question, he could be an NBA player. He’s got the shot to earn playing time. Ryan does a tremendous job getting himself square when he goes up, and he’s great about moving off the ball. He’s also a solid ball-mover.
Because Boston has three standard regular season roster spots to fill, look for Ryan to get one of them on a partially guaranteed deal. Then, he can spend the year learning from Danilo Gallinari and Grant Williams how to play on both ends of the floor.
· Brodric Thomas: Thomas was Boston’s other Two-Way player from last season. He was right up there for the best Summer Celtics. Thomas is an NBA-level athlete and he can hold his own on both ends.
On offense, Thomas shot it really well. He showed a bit more off-the-bounce game than he’s shown before. Thomas also did a good job in creating for others.
Defensively, Thomas has the size and quickness to hand with most offensive players. A few of the stronger players are able to muscle him off shots, but Thomas has the length to still contest against most guys.
Familiarity and open roster spots should get Thomas at least a camp contract. There’s a chance he makes the roster out of camp on a partially guaranteed deal, as well.
· A.J. Reeves: Most Summer League teams bring in at least one local kid as a feel-good story. That was Reeves for Boston. He didn’t get a chance to play much. Still don’t be surprised if Reeves pops up as a brief camp signing, with the idea of getting him to Maine as an Affiliate Player. Wings with size that have potential are in demand, so the Celtics would do well to keep working with the Boston native.
· Jordan Bone: Bone was basically in Vegas to be J.D. Davison’s backup. And Bone played that role quite well. He can run an offense. He hangs in there defensively. But Bone can’t shoot. That’s ultimately what will keep him in the G League or playing overseas.
· Justin Jackson: Jackson was a late addition to the Summer Celtics, but he made the most of it. Jackson is 27 years old and has five years of NBA experience, so he should show up really well in Las Vegas. There’s a chance he gets a non-guaranteed, camp deal from Boston. You can do worse than adding a wing with size to compete for a backend roster spot.
· Robert Franks: Franks was another later addition. He’s already signed for next season with the Adelaide 36ers of Australia’s NBL. Essentially, Franks would have needed to dominate in Las Vegas to have a real NBA shot. He played fine in his limited action, but he’ll head off to Australia with the hopes of showing out and earning an NBA shot later this season or next.
· Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins was the last of the late additions. He’s got good size for a wing, but Dawkins failed to shoot well enough to really pop for the Summer Celtics.
Dawkins played really well in Turkey last year, and he’ll probably get a nice overseas offer. If not, he’s a decent candidate to show up in the G League. At 27 years old, NBA opportunities are probably a bit fleeting for Dawkins.