Acquiring both Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari has already ensured Brad Stevens has presided over a second successful off-season, but there are still multiple roster spots that need to be filled. Sure, whoever earns one of those open spots will likely be joining the team to provide depth rather than compete for a rotational role, but competition can bring out the best in you, so you can never write off someone's chances of making an impact.
Perhaps that’s why the Celtics are avoiding the appeal of rounding out their bench with veteran talent, despite their need for a proven big man and the presence of Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins, and Hassan Whiteside on the free agency market.
It’s often easy to forget that Boston boasts a young core, and finding additional talent to grow with the team, and potentially become a role-playing cog down the line is arguably the better route to take. It would seem that Brad Stevens agrees. According to Jay King of The Athletic, the Celtics intend to hold ‘open competition’ for their final roster spots once training camp is underway.
The signs of this report are already clear. Over the last few days, the Celtics have added Bruno Caboclo and Noah Vonleh to their training camp roster, and it looks like there could be more additions on the way.
“As of Tuesday, the Celtics mostly were expected to fill out the rest of the training camp roster with young veterans willing to vie for those spots. Recent additions Noah Vonleh and Bruno Caboclo will be in that group, while last year’s two-way player Brodric Thomas and former Kings draft pick Justin Jackson are viewed as strong candidates to join them,” King reported.
We’ve known for a while that Stevens and Udoka were keen to add depth at both the center and wing positions, and by focusing on talent in their mid-twenties, it’s clear they’re banking on athleticism and untapped upside to fill out the end of their roster.
However, it’s worth remembering that Boston can also call upon two-way players Mfiondu Kabengele and JD Davison, should they prove more capable than their auditioning counterparts in training camp — something Stevens’ did last season when he converted both Luke Kornet and Sam Hauser into full NBA contracts around the trade deadline.
“Though Davison is currently signed to a two-way contract, the Celtics could save a bit of money by converting him to a standard NBA deal. For luxury-tax purposes, a minimum salary for him would count as roughly half the salary of another player because of Davison’s status as a drafted rookie.”
Of all the talent expected to be given an opportunity by Boston, Vonleh comes with the most experience, having participated in 339 regular-season NBA games, proving himself as a reliable rebounder and capable drop defender. However, his offensive game is rather limited, which could make him less desirable that a multidimensional talent such as Kabengele.
On the wing, Justin Jackson boasts 255 NBA games, and was impressive during his three-game stretch in Summer League, where he averaged 19.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3 assists per game on 43.2% shooting. It’s also worth remembering that Jackson spent some time with the Celtics last season, as he joined them for a brief stretch courtesy of the hardship exemption, and as such, will be somewhat familiar with their offensive and defensive scheme.
Sure, that same can be said for Brodric Thomas, who was with Boston for the entirety of last season, but given Jackson’s superior experience in the league, and untapped potential as a scorer and perimeter defender, it makes sense to see him as the favorite to win any potential roster battle between the two.
Unfortunately, according to King, it doesn’t look like Matt Ryan will be part of the Celtics training camp, as he continues to look for opportunities around the league.
Stevens could also decide to head into the new season with an open roster spot, as he waits to see if any suitable players become available via waivers. He can utilize his multiple trade exceptions without having to give up anything in return, which he has previously stated is his current modus operandi.
Overall, we’re going to see some young, hungry talent battling it out for a chance to get an NBA lifeline, and once they sign a contract, you never know who’s going to break into the rotation and impress.