After a 4-1 campaign in Las Vegas which culminated in a disappointing loss in the first round of tournament play to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Summer Celtics are now a thing of the past. While it ended earlier than they would’ve preferred, a slew of positives came out of it. Top picks showed out, the chemistry was at a high-level for a team who’s played limited games together, and we got a taste of Tacko Time. With so much to unpack I’ve narrowed it down to a few takeaways from what we saw in the last week and a half from our future Celtics.
Carsen Edwards can flat out play
By far the most impressive Celtic from SL play, and maybe even the most impressive out of anyone that suited up in SL, we have Carsen Edwards. The former Purdue star averaged 19.4 ppg 3.8 rpg 1.4 apg along with a steal per game while shooting 48% from the field in 5 games. The stats are one thing, but when you watch him, the one thing that jumps out about Edwards is how fearless he is. He doesn’t care where he is on the floor, he doesn’t care who is covering him, he is going to get to his spot and he is going to score. The shotmaking ability he has is off the charts and his assassin-like mentality will bring him a long way in this league. He has that swagger and moxie that the best in the business have and he’ll be a welcome addition to a Celtic bench that lacked that kind of energy last year.
We’re going to see a ton of Williams next season
I am not just discussing Grant and I am not just discussing Robert. We are talking about both of them in this here section and I’ll shout my satisfaction with the two of them to the high heavens. I have Williams fever and there’s far too much of it to ever go to waste. All jokes aside, these two had themselves quite the week in Vegas. Grant showed why so many in the business have fallen in love with him and Rob showed us he isn’t just an expert in time travel.
Grant averaged a smooth 13.0 ppg 6.0 rpg and 1.8 apg and did all of the little things that make him who he is on the court. As Celtics fans and regular viewers of Marcus Smart, we know the term “winning plays”. Grant is another prodigy out of the University of Chaos and it was on display. Taking charges, ripping down offensive rebounds, being vocal on defense, and sticking his nose into the mix whenever he could are some of the hallmarks of Grant’s game. He’s a player the Celtic faithful will fall for immediately when he steps out on the parquet this season and figures to be versatile enough for Stevens to deploy in a bevy of different scenarios.
Robert on the other hand continues to wow us with his athleticism and has even showed a nice feel for the game with his passing. The questions about him have stemmed mainly from his maturity level, basketball IQ, and ability to defend positionally in the NBA. His slides still aren’t perfect and he has moments where he relies on his athleticism a bit too much, but all in all, it’s been an improvement. If he keeps at it he could easily see himself in the starting role at center sometime this season.
Another step he’s made has been in terms of his leadership. Players around the team have attested to Robert’s leadership as Grant said that “He’s doing a great job of leading right now and I’m just trying to take as much slack off of him”. Grant also cited how Robert has been regularly teaching the new guys defensive coverages and rotations. It’s a huge step in the right direction after his shaky start to his Celtic campaign last year when he was late and slept through his introductory conference call. Either way, it’ll be fun to see these two come into their own and really make their marks on this Celtic season and beyond.
Tremont Waters and Max Strus are a smart gamble as 2-way guys
With Two-way contracts it’s become important to maximize value and get players in the door with high-upside on a low cost, high reward contract. That’s exactly what the Celtics have gotten with these two. Waters showed his high skill level and confidence while Strus showed off his pristine jump-shot and stretch potential. The thing with these two is that they both have at least one skill that they’ve developed to a point where they’ll have a spot in this league. Teams always need shooters, and they always need smart ball-handlers who can get others involved.
Waters can get wherever wants on the floor (albeit his small stature) and he’s great at finding teammates off the catch (4.8 apg in SL). He has a non-stop motor and that leaks into his defense as the former SEC DPOY gave opposing guards hell all week.
Stress started his SL campaign 1-5 from deep in his first game, but lit it up from 3-point range as he went 8-15 in his last 3 games. He has a lightning quick release and he rarely hesitates coming off of screens. The Celtics shoot a ton of threes and he figures to be a nice fit in the offense as a stretch 4.
Let’s pump the brakes on Tacko
I don’t want to get beaten up for saying this but I think we all need to step back for a second and think when it comes to Tacko. He is very fun, he is very large, and he definitely serves a purpose in the right scenario. The question is if the NBA is that right scenario. He does move well for a man his size but if he’s going to make it he’s going to have to improve at being a roll man and catching on the run. In college it was easy to just loft it over the top and let him be bigger than everybody but that isn’t going to fly in the NBA. Teams are smart and they’ll play him right off the court if he can’t be a factor in PnR situations. It also clutters the lane too much at times and the Celtics need it open to perform at their best ability.
On top of his offense, the defense is another grave concern. He can protect the rim at a high level2 and alter shots but it gets dicey when he’s forced out onto the perimeter. We saw it in Summer League that teams were able to make him a sitting duck on the outside and either go right by him, or play him into no-mans-land for a wide open jumper. He can be useful as a sort of gimmick when rim protection is needed but at this very moment it’s highly questionable if he’ll be able to defend well enough to stay on the court for more than short spurts.