The 2009 Boston Celtics’ summer league roster is very intriguing. It has guys who were stars in college (Mike Sweetney, Nick Fazekas, Chris Lofton, Lester Hudson), guys who have been fringe NBA players but have the potential to be better than that (Robert Swift, Darius Washington, Coby Karl, Bill Walker, J.R. Giddens, Gabe Pruitt) and some intriguing up-and-coming prospects (Hudson, Kevin Rogers, Bryce Taylor, Bryan Mullins). I am very excited to watch this crew play in the Orlando Summer League, which serves as a time of hope for all the players involved.
|#57 Nick Fazekas F 7’0″ 235 lbs. Nevada|
Fazekas was a stud at Nevada, leading Nevada to some great years on his way to breaking Nevada’s all-time scoring record. Drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 2007, Fazekas played for a little over half a year before being cut and signed by the Clippers. The Clippers cut him, too, and Fazekas could not find another team to play for. Since then he has played overseas, and now hopes to return to the NBA. Fazekas is a great shooter and has a very high basketball IQ to help offset his athletic limitations.
|#4 J.R. Giddens G 6’5″ 215 lbs. New Mexico|
Giddens is one of three players in Orlando who played on the Celtics this past year. Playing behind Ray Allen and Paul Pierce in Boston, Giddens struggled to find minutes. Instead of letting him toil on the bench, the Celtics assigned him to the Utah Flash of the NBDL, where Giddens showcased his all-around game. A good shooter and a very good athlete, Giddens has the potential to be a solid defender and role player for the Celtics, but needs to put it all together before he earns Doc Rivers’s trust.
|#26 Lester Hudson G 6’3″ 190 lbs. Tennessee-Martin|
Hudson, the Celtics’ only draft pick, is a truly intriguing player. Blessed with great strength and explosiveness, Hudson has a package of skills rarely seen from a guy drafted 58th. He can really score the ball and has the potential to be a pesky defender who applies terrific ball pressure. Look for Hudson to get a lot of minutes in the summer league and, one way or another, prove his worth as a player.
|#46 Coby Karl G 6’5″ 215 lbs. Boise St.|
For the last couple years, Karl has bounced around with the Lakers, the NBDL, and the Spanish ACB League. Karl, the son of Nuggets’ coach George Karl, is a long and surprisingly athletic guard. He still needs seasoning, but has shown that he can be a solid tenth or eleventh man in the NBA. Amazingly, Karl is one of two players on the Celtics’ summer league roster who have survived cancer.
|#37 Chris Lofton G 6’2″ 200 lbs. Tennessee|
An absolutely prolific shooter, Lofton has yet to make the NBA because of his size and quickness. For such a small guard, Lofton lacks the quickness to excel defensively and to be anything more than a shooter on offense. Still, he can light it up from outside, and takes and makes tough shots from the perimeter. During his senior year at Tennessee, Lofton battled cancer but didn’t tell anybody on his team besides his coach. He played his entire senior season while recovering from his cancerous tumor.
|#38 Bryan Mullins 6’3″ 190 lbs. Southern Illinois|
To be blunt, Mullins is probably the least of all the Celtics’ summer league prospects. He had a very solid career at Southern Illinois but never was more than a dependable, steady hand. Mullins is a good defender and a great leader, but I doubt he will make an NBA roster.
|#13 Gabe Pruitt G 6’4″ 170 lbs. USC|
Honestly, Gabe Pruitt is fighting for his NBA life during this summer league. Unless Pruitt can prove to the Celtics’ brass that he can be a dependable contributor in the 2009-2010 season, they may decline to pick up his contract option for next year. Pruitt is an agile guard and a good shooter, but hasn’t shown the aggressiveness nor the consistency to be a rotation player for the C’s. If Pruitt doesn’t have a good showing in Orlando, look for the Celtics to decline to pick up the last year of his contract.
|#58 Kevin Rogers F 6’9″ 250 lbs. Baylor|
After a breakout sophomore season at Baylor, Rogers failed to develop during his final two seasons, and his numbers were more or less the same his senior season as they were his sophomore campaign. An athletic but somewhat undersized power forward, Rogers uses his quickness and bulk to do most of his damage. Look for him to be a bruiser in Orlando, but I’m not sure if he’s an NBA talent.
|#47 Bryce Taylor G 6’5″ 210 lbs. Oregon|
After a solid but unspectacular career at Oregon, Bryce Taylor went undrafted in the NBA. The son of former NBA player and ABA Rookie of the Year Brian Taylor, Bryce spent last year in the Italian leagues and had a very productive year. Taylor can score the ball and is a very skilled offensive player who can do a lot of things on the court. Taylor should be a solid contributor in Orlando.
|#56 Mike Sweetney F 6’9″ 270 lbs. Georgetown|
After being the 9th selection in the 2003 NBA Draft, Mike Sweetney played a couple seasons for the Knicks and two more for the Bulls before being cut. Sweetney is a very talented low-post scorer, but has always battled weight issues in the past. If Sweetney can keep off the extra pounds, he still has the soft hands, inside touch, and low-post moves to be a good addition to an NBA roster. However, that is a big if.
|#59 Robert Swift C 7’1″ 270 lbs. Bakersfield HS|
When healthy, Robert Swift is a tough defender and able rebounder, but Swift has failed to stay healthy much during his NBA career. His most recent injury was a torn meniscus to his right knee in 2008, and he has also had an ACL tear of the same knee. If healthy, Swift can be a physical presence down low and a menace on the glass. Swift is one of the biggest wild cards for the Celtics in Orlando, a guy who could really help their team if he comes back strong from injury.
|#12 Bill Walker F 6’6″ 220 lbs. Kansas St.|
Of all the players on the Celtics’ summer league roster, Bill Walker is the one who is the most ready to make an impact on their real team. Walker has unbelievable athleticism, and is truly a threat to dunk at any time. He is a fearless finisher and relentless attacker of the basket. Once he fully grasps Doc’s defensive system, look for Walker to play meaningful minutes for the C’s. In Orlando, Walker should be the star from day one.
|#36 Darius Washington G 6’2″ 195 lbs. Memphis|
A guard who was rated one of the top five players in his high school class, Washington has never lived up to his lofty expectations. His downfalls as a shooter and limitations offensively have kept the Florida-born Washington from ever reaching his potential. Still, he has the ability to run a team and actually played pretty well in a short stint with the Spurs. If Washington improved his jumper during his time in Greece and Russia, he could be a pleasant surprise in the Orlando summer league.