The Summer Celtics finished their game in Las Vegas. Boston finished 3-2 in the desert, but the Summer League isn’t really about wins and losses. It’s about the players and their development.
With that said, here are some takeaways from each of the 12 players who appeared in Summer League games for Boston. We’ll tally them in order of interest, based on the not-so-scientific method of Twitter mentions and article comments. Here we are!
· Sam Hauser: Hauser started the summer as the only player signed up for the Celtics. He was quickly joined by JD Davison, but Hauser was the one we had our eyes on first.
Summer League was a bit of a failure for Hauser. He played poorly in the first game, but then found his footing in the second game. After that, we didn’t see Hauser play.
In reality, the Summer League is not where Hauser can shine. It’s a shooter and the glorified pickup nature of Las Vegas works more for ballhandlers and drivers than shooters. It would have been nice to see Hauser do a little more work off the dribble, but that’s what it is. We’ll see how much he’s improved this fall in training camp and pre-season.
· Juhann Begarin: Begarin appears as a “mystery man” for Boston. Bégarin has been holed up in France for two seasons, so he’s been a bit out of sight, out of mind. But Begarin again emerged athletically in Vegas.
The 19-year-old winger managed to overpower defenders with his speed and strength. This combo brought Begarin to the rim on several occasions, while he also racked up a good number of free throw attempts. Defensively, Begarin is a little lost. But he’s very, very young, so it will get better with time. He has all the physical tools to be a good defender.
In contrast, Begarin didn’t show much as a shooter. Her pull-up needs a lot of work. He looks confident shooting spots, but his form is a bit inconsistent. His right elbow tends to fly out when he enters his shot. He is also a mess as a passer. Begarin will look better in a structured system than one that relies on him to create so many transitions and semi-transitions.
All in all, Begarin looks like he’s going to be an NBA player…eventually. He will probably stay abroad for another year and settle down further. That should bode well for Begarin and the Celtics.
· JD Davison: The 2022 second-round pick didn’t disappoint. If anything, it turned out better than anyone could have reasonably expected. Davison was the other Boston player to appear in Las Vegas, having signed a Two-Way shortly before the game started.
Davison’s goals were to show that he could play under control, execute an offense, and that his defensive skills would translate to the NBA game.
Check. Check. And check.
At times, the Alabama product overwhelmed opponents with his speed and athleticism, but that wasn’t the only thing in his bag of tricks. Davison did a good job directing the attack in half court. Yes, the turnovers were still a bit high, but that’s part of the deal in the Summer League. Davison’s 8.2 assists per game were much more encouraging.
In defense, Davison has all the qualities to be a force. He’s both fast enough to stay in front of almost anyone, but also strong enough to make contact without getting knocked down. His instincts for stealing and blocking are off the charts.
Davison needs to log time in the G League, which is why he’s on a two-way. The Celtics also have great depth of guard with the big club. But, in time, Davison looks like he’ll be playing off his two-way deal and onto a standard deal. The next step ? Let’s see if the good shot in the Summer League translates to the G League. If so, Boston has a potential steal in its second round in 2022.
· Mfiondu Kabengele: Kabengele was someone the Celtics fans were really excited about, and he delivered. Enough for Boston to sign Kabengele for his second-place finish both ways. And that seems fair for where the big man is.
Kabengele isn’t much of a center, but he can sort of get away with it. He’s much more of a stretch-4 right now. And that’s fine. Kabengele showed a nice inside-out combo in attack. He has a good touch on his sweater. It’s a solid finisher, but it needs a little more craftsmanship inside. If it’s not a catch and go straight up play, Kabengele gets in a bit of trouble around the edge.
In defense, he is a solid rebounder. The older ones were sometimes able to strengthen Kabengele inside. He’s a good athlete with good length, so recovering blocks was a skill, but it’s not something you can count on in the NBA. Anything else to watch? Perhaps because of his lack of volume, Kabengele is a filthy machine. He averaged 4.4 fouls per game in 24.5 minutes in Vegas. It needs to be cleaned up.
Kabengele should do well in Maine, and that will earn him call-ups if a big Boston regular isn’t available. But it’s not quite ready to hold a real back-up spot just yet. So the Celtics will likely find a veteran big man, while Kabengele continues to hone his game in Maine.
· Trevon Williams: The “other” big man was someone a lot of Boston fans wanted to see. Williams showed some skill, but it looked like he was far from contributing to the NBA.
On the plus side, Williams can really pass the ball. He’s a good choice for the Celtics, who like to attack their big men a lot. He is also a good rebounder.
In contrast, Williams is ground bound. His defense is all about positioning, but he’s also a little slow. If he puts a body in someone, they won’t move it. But the great sportsmen gave him a hard time.
On offense, because he’s not a great athlete, Williams needs to use his strength better to create space for his finishes. And her sweater needs a lot of work.
Williams needs to log a fair amount of time in the G League. There is definitely a player in there. Boston should try to camp him out on a 10-piece deal, then Maine at the end of the preseason.
· Matt Ryan: Last season’s Two-Way players were sort of the Summer Celtics’ forgotten men. At least at the start. They are not shiny and new, nor registered players.
But Matt Ryan has done a good job of reminding everyone that he can play in a short amount of time. It was only two games, but Ryan was the Summer Celtics’ best player. He shot the ball very well, including a game-winner on a mad dash down the pitch.
Unfortunately Ryan injured his ankle on that play and that was it for the summer. The silver lining? Ryan would have been good enough to play again later in Vegas, but Boston chose to hold him off. It’s usually a good sign of things to come contractually.
If Ryan can hold his own defensively, and that’s a very real question, he could be an NBA player. He has a knack for gaining playing time. Ryan does a terrific job of getting square when he comes up, and he’s great at getting the ball out. He is also a solid ball passer.
Since Boston has three standard spots to fill in the regular season, look for Ryan to get one on a partially guaranteed deal. Then he can spend the year learning from Danilo Gallinari and Grant Williams how to play at both ends of the court.
· Brodrick Thomas: Thomas was Boston’s other two-way player last season. He was up there for the best Summer Celtics. Thomas is an NBA level athlete and he can defend on both sides.
In attack, Thomas shot very well. He showed a game a little more offbeat than before. Thomas has also done a great job creating for others.
Defensively, Thomas has the size and speed at hand with most attacking players. A few of the stronger players are able to force him to shoot, but Thomas has the length to fight most guys.
Familiarity and spots on the open roster should get Thomas at least one camp contract. There’s also a chance he’ll be part of the out-of-camp roster on a partially guaranteed deal.
· AJ Reeves: Most Summer League teams bring at least one local kid as a welfare story. It was Reeves for Boston. He hasn’t had the opportunity to play much. Still don’t be surprised if Reeves emerges as a brief camp signing, with the idea of bringing him to Maine as an affiliate player. Wings with size that have potential are in demand, so the Celtics would do well to continue working with the Boston native.
· Jordan Bone: Bone was basically in Vegas to be JD Davison’s replacement. And Bone played that role very well. He can commit an offence. He hangs on to it defensively. But Bone can’t shoot. This is ultimately what will keep him in the G League or playing overseas.
· Justin Jackson: Jackson was a late addition to the Summer Celtics, but he made the most of it. Jackson is 27 and has five years of NBA experience, so he should look very good in Las Vegas. There is a chance he will get an unsecured camp contract from Boston. You can do worse than add a wing with size to compete for a spot on the backend roster.
· Robert Francs: Franks was another later addition. He has already signed for next season with the Adelaide 36ers of the Australian NBL. Essentially, Franks should have dominated in Las Vegas to have a real NBA hit. He’s played well in his limited action, but he’ll be leaving for Australia hoping to show up and earn an NBA shot later this season or next.
· Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins was the last of the latest additions. He’s a good size for a wing, but Dawkins failed to shoot well enough to really pop for the Summer Celtics.
Dawkins played very well in Turkey last year, and he will probably get a great offer abroad. Otherwise, he’s a decent candidate to run in the G League. At 27, NBA opportunities are probably a bit fleeting for Dawkins.