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What I’m Excited For Week: Jake Layman looking to make it in his hometown

The Massachusetts native has joined the Celtics training camp roster, but can he make the cut?

Portland Trail Blazers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

On Monday, reports surfaced that the Boston Celtics were adding 28-year-old Jake Layman to their training camp roster. Layman is a Massachusetts native, who has been in the NBA for six years and has spent the last three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

It’s clear that Brad Stevens is committed to filling out the Celtics' remaining roster spots with young-ish talent that have fallen out of the league in recent years, with the hope of finding some low-cost upside that won’t upset the applecart if they don’t get minutes.

So, now we know who Layman is, but how much do we really know about his game? Let’s take a closer look at the type of player he is, and how he could fit within the Celtics rotation.

Portland Trail Blazers v Boston Celtics Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

Whenever the Celtics acquire a player I’m not familiar with, the first thing I like to do is look at where the lion's share of their shots come from. That gives us a good starting point in evaluating their offensive fit. According to Cleaning The Glass, Layman is a two-level scorer, with 38.8% of his total shots coming within 4 feet of the basket, and a further 40.2% of them coming from the perimeter.

Layman’s actual conversion rate on those shots is another story. The veteran is currently shooting just 30% from deep, while his career 69% shooting at the rim is skewed due to his 341 non-garbage-time career attempts around the cup.

Still, there are some things that Layman does well, and for him, it all begins with his willingness to move off-ball.

Layman utilizes the space afforded to him by opposing defenses, opting to continually move without the ball, forcing defenders into tough decisions, and creating pockets of space for him to attack from.

Take the above play for example. Layman attempts to cut baseline, before seeing the play switch to a side pick-and-roll, so he relocates back to the corner, before lifting towards the slot area to give the ball-handler the best possible passing angle in case they need to move the rock.

Beyond operating as an off-ball outlet, Layman can also incorporate give-and-go actions into his offensive game due to the lack of respect defenses give his scoring ability, which can sometimes lead to possessions like the one below.

Unfortunately, Layman’s impact on the offensive end is rather limited due to the role he plays, so outside of his off-ball movement, the only other area he impacts the game is by his willingness to move the rock — yes, he’s a team player.

“Jake Layman was generally a good contributor for the Wolves. He fell out of the rotation as they preferred Taurean Prince’s defensive mobility and went from small-ball around KAT to having Jarred Vanderbilt as the weak-side helper and filling the dunkers’ spot on offense. Layman’s a relatively smooth offensive player when attacking closeouts. He’s not a ball stopper either. He’s got some nice moves on the interior and can hit hook shots.

The hypothetical problem for Jake is that he hasn’t always drawn the closeouts because he’s never had the efficiency to justify his coaches’ giving him volume. On the defensive end, he rotates well and does the basics to an above-average level. He can hang with some bigger wings, but he’s not super shifty and may struggle there. His timing and fundamentals are good though and he should fit Boston’s philosophy when he plays,” Canius Hoops’ Joe Hulbert told CelticsBlog when asked about Layman’s ability as a defender and offensive connector.

As noted by Hulbert, Layman is a versatile defender, capable of operating within a switching system and holding his own against a multitude of different players across multiple positions. According to Basketball Index, Layman spent the majority of his time switching between 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s last season but did occasionally switch onto guards.

It’s also worth noting that Layman is fairly adept at navigating screens, and generally makes the right decision on when to go under, over, or switch on a screen - and given his size and frame, he can be a useful wing when guarding mismatches inside the perimeter.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Layman does split his time between the 3 and the 4, so he’s used to guarding both bigger and smaller opponents. He’s coming from Chris Finch’s system that preaches switchability and ball pressure, not unlike Ime Udoka.

After looking back through all of the Norwood native’s possessions from last season, it’s clear he’s a capable rotation player who can slot right into what Boston likes to run on both ends of the floor. By all accounts, the Celtics are confident that both Sam Hauser and Luke Kornet will be able to make up for the loss of Danilo Gallinari and that Layman, along with players like Denzel Valentine, Noah Vonleh, and Bruno Caboclo, are battling for back up back up minutes. However, it’s fair to say that the competition for a rotation place has intensified, as Layman will come into training camp as one of the more experienced and complete players that are vying for a contract with a contender.

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