Training camp is still a couple of weeks away, the preseason doesn’t start for another month, and the Boston Celtics don’t open their regular season until October 18. Despite all of that, the team is already missing one of its newest members.
The Celtics have a Danilo Gallinari-sized hole in the lineup.
During the NBA Finals, it became evidently clear that depth was an issue. When players began struggling, Ime Udoka had nobody to turn to at the end of the bench. So, when the offseason opened, Brad Stevens waved his magic wand and dropped Malcolm Brogdon and Gallinari into Udoka’s hands.
But before Udoka even got the chance to make use of his newest weapons, they got cut in half, as Gallinari tore his ACL playing for the Italian national team at EuroBasket. Now, Boston will have to scramble to replace Gallinari’s production, even though he’s never suited up in the green and white. However, as things stand, they seem content to roll into the season with the players they have.
Carmelo Anthony was the hottest name in the rumor mill as soon as Gallinari went down, but according to Brian Robb of Mass Live, Boston isn’t interested. In fact, they aren’t too inclined to bring in anybody ahead of training camp.
“Multiple league sources tell MassLive that the Celtics are not expected to have interest in bringing in the veteran for a signing ahead of training camp. That’s not to say the team is done shaping the roster ahead of the preseason but Anthony isn’t a priority at this point at names that could be brought in. Boston likes a lot of their internal replacement options from what I’ve heard and want to give those names the first crack at minutes.”
The last line of that blurb is the most important information to note - the Celtics are fond of their internal options. At first glance, Grant Williams seems to be the obvious choice to step up, but he was already set to earn big-time rotational minutes. That leaves one other player who Boston could be talking about: Sam Hauser.
Hauser only appeared in 26 games during his rookie season, where he began the year on a two-way contract and eventually earned a spot on the 15-man roster. He averaged just 6.1 minutes per contest and cracked 10 minutes in only five games. However, he was dominant in the G-League and showed enough for Brad Stevens to offer him a three-year contract.
The 6’8 forward played in 13 games for the Maine Celtics, starting 12 of them and averaging 35.0 minutes. He put up 20.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists on 46.0% shooting from the field and 40.7% shooting from deep on 10.8 three-point attempts per game.
Now, it’s important to note that G League success doesn’t always translate to the NBA. Last year, Carsen Edwards averaged 26.7 points in 31 appearances, and Celtics fans know that he didn’t work out too well in the league. However, there have also been plenty of examples of G League success stories. Duncan Robinson spent a year in the G League before the Miami Heat called him up, torching opposing defenses from behind the three-point line.
In the case of Hauser, the most noteworthy stats are his three-point numbers. Defenses will obviously be much better in the NBA than in the G-League, but with the style of offense the Celtics run, having an elite shooter in the lineup is crucial. For all the same reasons Williams found success from behind the three-point line last year, Hauser will be able to thrive, if given the opportunity.
And based on comments made by people throughout the organization, Boston has the utmost confidence in Hauser.
Last season, Hauser’s best game was on April 7 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, and Robert Williams were all out, so Hauser was one of Boston’s top options off the bench. He ended the night with a career-high 11 points, including 3-of-4 shooting from distance.
After the contest, Udoka had some high praise for Hauser:
“First and foremost, his shooting stands out. Elite shooter. He’s been that since I saw him, had him in the building and obviously with the G-League team he’s been doing that, but he’s a very cerebral player across the board. He’s fit in well in games that he’s played early in the season when guys were injured, we plugged him right in and he didn’t really miss a beat as far as defensively and some of the things we were looking for.
“So always in the right spot, great team defender and knows how to use himself, his angles and cerebral guy, like I said, not just offensively but defensively as well. So he’s a guy that we’re comfortable putting in with starters and other guys any time of the game. The shooting’s always there, but it’s more than that. He’s a well-rounded player.”
Shooting is important, and it’s clear that Udoka believes in Hauser as a shooter, but to hear him praise the forward’s defense is something to note. Boston’s defensive system relies on the idea that everybody should be able to switch. If Hauser wants to earn minutes in Udoka’s rotation, he’ll have to do that, too.
Brad Stevens also has lots of good things to say about Hauser. In the press release issued by the team when Hauser inked his long term deal, Stevens expressed his excitement for the young shooter.
“We are very excited that Sam chose to continue his journey with us. He has a chance to make a real impact with his size, feel, and shooting – both stationary and on the move. He’s hard-working, unselfish, and competitive – a great combination for a young player.”
Hauser’s teammates are also fond of him. During an interview on The Long Shot Podcast with Duncan Robinson and Davis Reid, Grant Williams was discussing the idea of a shooting competition. While the conversation initially involved both Robinson and himself, Williams quickly turned his attention to Hauser.
“If he ever cracks our rotation, because he has a gauntlet ahead of him right now, this man, if you see him shoot, it’s absolutely absurd. I don’t know who I would take in a shooting competition besides Sam Hauser. Sam can spray it.”
A player shooting 40% from deep in the G League doesn’t automatically mean that they’re going to make it in the NBA, but those around Hauser clearly believe in him. Plus, he shot that efficiently on over 10 attempts per game. Combine that with the constant praise for Hauser, and there’s definitely cause for optimism.
And, as mentioned, the Celtics’ offensive system is built for Hauser to succeed.
When the Celtics signed Gallinari, expectations were clear. He was brought in to be a shooter and scorer off the bench. There are clear hurdles for Hauser, as he has almost zero experience in the NBA, but from purely a play-type perspective, he should be able to mimic what Gallinari was supposed to do fairly well. Gallinari isn’t, and has never been, a great defender. Boston knew that when they signed him and it was clear that the Celtics would have to cover for him a bit on that end. So to hear Udoka praise Hauser’s team defense should give fans some confidence that he can fit in well.
Hauser isn’t as dynamic as Gallinari and he can’t create his own shot as much, but in Boston’s offensive system, he won’t have to. Just look at the success Grant Williams found last year. Out of the 258 threes Williams took last year, 130 from the corner. That’s just over half of his attempts, and most of them were as a result of drive-and-kick scenarios.
Plus, most of Boston’s offensive role players almost exclusively took catch-and-shoot threes. Of Williams’ 258 attempts, 235 were catch-and-shoot opportunities. Payton Pritchard took 245 threes last year, and 168 of them came on catch-and-shoot attempts. Al Horford - 265 attempts, 245 catch-and-shoot threes. Marcus Smart - 360 attempts, 290 catch-and-shoot.
Hauser’s offensive role would be clear as day - stand on the three-point line and shoot threes. That’s what Gallinari’s role (for the most part) was going to be, and based on Hauser’s track record, he should be able to fill his shoes perfectly.
Let’s be clear. Hauser isn’t going to be a guy that plays 30 minutes a game. He’d be lucky if he cracks 15 minutes a game next year. But for the role Boston would be asking him to play, he won’t need to.
At 34 years old, Gallinari wasn’t going to be a 30-minute guy for the Celtics, either. He hasn’t played more than 30 minutes a night in three years, and for the past two seasons, he played roughly 25 minutes a night for an Atlanta Hawks team that counted on him for 12 to 15 points a night.
The Celtics have a lot of mouths to feed on offense. Tatum and Brown are going to combine for roughly 50 points a night. Smart, Brogdon, and Derrick White will probably account for 30 to 40 points. The frontcourt Horford and Williams should put up around 20-25 as well.
That right there is (at least) 100 points a night. Obviously, it’s not as simple as that, but to think that Gallinari was going to push 12 to 15 points per game on the Celtics is a bit outrageous.
Grant Williams will be able to step up and cover for some of the minutes that Gallinari was going to play. The backcourt rotation of Smart, Brogdon, and White should be able to as well if the Celtics play more small ball. Seeing Hauser earn 10 to 15 minutes a night wouldn’t be the biggest shock. And based on how well he’s shot the ball in the G-League, it could actually help him develop into a future piece for the Celtics to utilize.