The Boston Celtics opened their Summer League with a 73-65 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, though the score of these games barely matters.
Let’s get right to the early assessments. First, the returning players:
E’Twaun Moore: His shot was spotty early. He hit a few nice mid-range jumpers, but he had a tough time from long-range. He picked it up a little in the second half offensively, finishing with 16 points and 4 assists. But he still only shot 6-16 from the field.
I’m less concerned about his offense than I am about his defense, though, which was largely not very good. He stuck to picks like velcro, even obvious picks that came from a mile away. He was beaten off the dribble often and he looked lost many other times. I know Moore is going to score the ball. He’s aggressive and he’s got a nice touch. But his defense HAS to improve if he’s going to have a chance at making this squad. He needs to do basic things better, or else his presence out there is simply going to put too much pressure on the guys behind him to rotate… leading to total breakdowns in the team’s defense.
JaJuan Johnson: Very much a non-factor in this. Considering we’re just more than a month from the Celtics elimination from the playoffs, I’m not sure what I expected. This is the same old JaJuan Johnson that we remember from this past season: He’s awkward and his body is slow to react to what his mind is telling it to do. He’s still got a nice touch and he’ll work to get after some blocked shots and rebounds, but you can tell his body hasn’t reached full maturity yet. He still needs to grow into his length.
As for the rookies…
Jared Sullinger: He impressed in his first time out… but let’s keep in mind that this is summer league, and this came against a lot of guys who won’t be in the NBA. Still, he showed decent footwork around the hoop and the ability to use a short jump hook and nice touch to score the ball. He also faced up and showed the ability to hit a mid-range jumper. He was 6-12, including 7-7 from the line for 20 points to go along with six rebounds. He has talent, that’s for sure. We’ll have to see how it translates against a regular NBA team, but this game should give us some confidence that he’ll be a contributor at some point over the next year or two.
Fab Melo: Good shot blocking instincts, including one block of a shot where he came all the way across the lane to prevent an easy bucket. His individual defense was questionable, as he was beaten a couple of times by Perry Jones III (who displayed some nice skills, by the way). Melo was not a factor offensively, though the one basket he hit was a free-throw line jumper. There’s no way to tell if that was luck or if he’ll hit that shot more often than not. Melo, though, was as advertised in game 1: Raw, but potentially disruptive on D.
Kris Joseph: He played 17 minutes, but in the first half, he was taking, and making, jumpers with confidence. He moved well, flashing nice agility and ability to get to the spots he wanted on the floor. Considering he’s a second round pick, his expectations are a little lower… so that might be why he seemed impressive. But so far, he’s at least worth keeping an eye on.
The only other guy with a shot of making this team, I think, is Sean Williams… and he had a couple of very Sean Williams moments today. Early in the second half, he was wide open from beyond the arc… for good reason… but he shot it anyway. Tyronn Lue, running the team for Doc Rivers, immediately pulled him and sat him for most of the second half. Later, with the Celtics up 7 with just under :16 left, Williams fouled a 3-point shooter… who hit all three FT’s to get within four. That level of stupidity on the court won’t fly, and if it continues, I wouldn’t expect Williams to hang around for very long.
Other guys, like Dionte Christmas, for example, are out there trying to make impressions on other teams… and that can gum up the works a bit. There were a few times where I saw two guys coming towards the ball with their hands out looking for a pass… leading to a jumbled mess of an offense. It’s summer league, and it’s going to to be sloppy, so let’s not make any snap judgments yet. Still, I do like Sullinger’s ability to work on the block. I feel like he’ll be able to take advantage of size mis-matches there at the very least… so that’s a good start.
What I do think is we’ve at least got a baseline for these guys. Let’s see who takes steps forward and how quickly those steps are taken. This is a major learning process for all of these guys. The goal is improvement and education. If all of these guys can show both by the end of July, they’ll be ok.