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Bench mob: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Knicks

We saw a bunch of new faces suiting up for the Celtics as they lost to the New York Knicks.

NBA: Preseason-Boston Celtics at New York Knicks Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA website is still in preseason mode. Clips are seldom available. Rather than lament the lack of film, we will embrace it. This version of the takeaways is going to be slightly different. We saw a bunch of new faces during the Boston Celtics loss to the New York Knicks.

So, I’m going to share some takeaways from each player's performance. We will exclude Wenyen Gabriel and DJ Steward — neither played enough to give a good account of themselves. That leaves us with 10 players for the 10 takeaways; it's funny how things work out.

#1 Payton Pritchard

Two preseason games, two big performances. Payton Pritchard is fighting for minutes in the upcoming season and is showing he can be the ideal third guard in Boston’s rotation. Pritchard has flashed improvements in his creation off the dribble, both as a pick-and-roll playmaker and as a self-creator on step-back and side-step jumpers.

There was a moment in the third quarter where Pritchard also hit an uncontested mid-range baseline jumper, showcasing his ability to develop into a genuine three-level scorer for the Celtics. Pritchard hounded the Knicks on defense, fighting over and under screens, rotating well, and switching when necessary.

It will be interesting to see if Pritchard can keep his foot on the gas when the Celtics face the Philadelphia 76ers again on Wednesday, October 11.

#2 Dalano Banton

Whenever I watch a game, I scribble my thoughts on a notepad. I usually divide them by quarter. Sometimes, I note the timestamp of a play or an action I want to go back and break down. Other times, it’s more general thoughts that I’ll reference throughout the season to see how my thinking has evolved. Every quarter, I had the same note about Dalano Banton: “gets wherever he wants on the floor.”

Banton provides rim pressure as both a ball-handler and slasher. His 6’9’’ frame makes him a matchup nightmare for opposing guards, while his length can be troublesome for defenders when he’s attacking the rim. There were also some encouraging signs of a developing jump shot. However, Banton’s shooting mechanics are still raw and need consistent work to improve.

Defensively, Banton provides some extra length in the passing lane and another long body to help protect the rim when operating as a help defender or being switched onto a slasher. He’s still a raw prospect, but you can see why Banton is such a low-risk developmental project.

#3 Sam Hauser

Sam Hauser didn’t have his best night. Shooting 2-of-9 from deep, the third-year forward struggled to showcase his elite shotmaking ability. Nevertheless, Hauser’s movement, screening, and defense were all important parts of his performance that will likely go overlooked. As a shooting specialist, Hauser will be judged on how many threes he drains, irrespective of whatever else he does on the court, fairly or unfairly.

Still, Hauser provided a reliable defensive presence and reliably executed his role as a screener. Everybody has a bad shooting night from time to time. It’s not worth reading into the shooting numbers. It is preseason, after all.

#4 Oshae Brissett

Full disclosure: I’ve been low on Oshae Brissett since the Celtics added him earlier this summer. Outside of one (ruled-out) highlight play against the Sixers, I haven’t seen much to change my mind. In fairness, Brissett was solid defensively against the Knicks. He executed switches well, stayed before his man, and navigated screens with pace and energy.

However, Brissett struggled on the offensive end. Again, this is preseason; shooting struggles are to be expected. Still, my first impression is that Brissett plays a little too fast, like he’s over-trying at times. He looks frantic. There’s a difference between bringing energy and controlled chaos and struggling to fit in with the flow of the game.

Brissett is getting accustomed to new teammates and a new system. It might take some time before we see his best.

#5 Luke Kornet

I’ve been a fan of Luke Kornet these past two years. From “The Green Kornet” nickname that didn’t make much sense to the “Kornet contest,” which should have been named the “Korntest” if you ask me — he’s just a fun guy to root for in the middle of your team’s bench. Against the Knicks, Kornet was okay. He moved well, was a willing screener, finished a lob play, and guarded his yard.

I wanted to see more, though. With Robert Williams gone, Kornet will have a slightly bigger role this season, operating as the third big in the rotation. The 7’2’’ big man would be wise to find avenues to provide a bigger scoring threat. Early in his career, Kornet was a budding 3-point shooting big man - averaging 36% in his first two seasons. Yet, that aspect of his game has evaporated since a poor shooting season in his third year.

The Celtics ran a lot of perimeter split actions against New York; allowing Kornet to face up and take some deep shots could help unlock his offensive game, especially if the defense has to adjust. Some food for thought.

#6 Lamar Stevens

Love him. Celtics fans are going to love him. Stevens is all energy, heart, and hustle. He’s the guy who ironically bullies the bully because he hates bullies. Stevens made a name for himself as a spot-starter on a very good Cleveland Cavaliers team and has wasted no time translating those all-action defensive performances to the Celtics.

He’s not going to get you a consistent 10-15 points on efficient shooting, but he will probably save you somewhere in that region by ensuring he has a hand in a shooter's face or puts his body on the line when defending a drive.

When the postseason rolls around and things get physical, having a wing defender willing to be the Slytherin to Tatum’s Griffindor will be important. Sign him, Brad. Sign him like yesterday.

#7 Svi Mykhailiuk

That put-back dunk was impressive. As was Svi’s three-point shooting and, at times, his isolation defense. The veteran sharpshoot will need to improve on his close-out defense, though. He got caught with blow-bys on multiple occasions, and that will be exploited throughout the season unless he tightens it up.

Offensively, though, Svi can provide an additional three-point spark off the bench. Judging by this showing, Hauser will have some competition in the upcoming season, and that’s always a good thing.

#8 Neemias Queta

He’s a rim-runner, make you work hard, make you defend hard, make you miss all of your shots. He’s a rim-runner, make you switch screens, make you regret switching screens, make you wish he was on your team. - Nelly Furtado voice from Maneater.

Queta is exciting. Big body. High energy. Good rebounder. Solid presence as a drop defender. He needs to sort out his fouling, though. Five fouls in 13 minutes is too much and could be the difference from making the rotation to spending the year in Maine without any opportunity at the NBA level. Still, those 13 minutes were fun, and there’s definitely a prospect there, but the Celtics will need to be patient.

#9 JD Davison

Davison didn’t get much playing time, but we essentially saw more of what he displayed at Summer League. Fantastic athleticism, capable of penetrating off the dribble, and can score around the bucket, and has a knack for hitting lob passes.

Screen navigation needs improvement on defense, as does timing his switches and rotations. Davison must also improve his jumper, both off the catch and off the dribble. Another year in Maine should do wonders for Davison’s overall skillset. Still, he’s unlikely to make it into the Celtics rotation this season.

#10 Jordan Walsh

Walsh is like Stevens; you have to love him. Gritty, committed, and a talented defender. Walsh had some impressive moments during his 13-minute stretch against the Knicks. We had a steal via a dig that ended in a rip-and-run bucket. We had a rear-view contest that led to a last-second dump-off pass. And some impressive high-energy point-of-attack defense.

The biggest question will continue to be whether Walsh’s 3-point shooting from Las Vegas translates against NBA talent, and a 13-minute sample size is far too little to make any firm assessment there.

Looking ahead

Hopefully, we will have some film available for game three of the Celtics preseason run, and we can dive into some of the intricacies we’re seeing from Joe Mazzulla’s offensive and defensive system. No matter what, though, basketball is back, and I hope you’re loving it as much as I am!

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