ORLANDO- For those of you who care (anybody? Bueller?), Phil Pressey sunk two free throws with about 10 seconds left and the Boston Celtics defeated the Indiana Pacers, 76-74, at the Amway Center Tuesday.
The more the Boston Celtics summer league team plays, the more Kelly Olynyk looks like he’ll be able to contribute at the NBA level–and the more convinced I become that he’s the only NBA caliber player on the summer roster.
Olynyk (21 pts, 9 rebs, 4 assts) has dominated the Orlando Pro Summer League, turning heads with his highly-developed offensive repertoire. Sure, you can say it’s just the summer league, but it’s his diverse skill set, not his production, that is most impressive–and will translate to real NBA games.
At Gonzaga, Olynyk showed flashes of his ball-handling, passing, and shooting ability, but he primarily played around the hoop. His shooting form, arc, and rotation were good, but he only took 30 3-point field goals last season, so it was reasonable to wonder if he’d be able to make the transition to the NBA three-point line.
Olynyk has quieted those doubts by shooting the NBA three-pointer with ease and effectiveness this week. He’s been hesitant at times, but with more repetitions and practice, that shouldn’t last too long. The 7-footer from Gonzaga has also revealed a potent pick-and-pop game and an ability to make plays against a closeout.
For those unfamiliar with the terminology, a closeout is when a defender leaves their man to play help defense and must recover out to a shooter on the run. In these situations, Olynyk often utilizes an effective ball-fake, using the threat of his silky shot to get around the defender and into the paint. Once in the paint, Olynyk has proven himself a clever finisher and a deft passer. He really does handle the ball like a guard or forward, which is rare to see from a 7-footer.
As Celtics summer league coach Jay Larranaga said, “In my experience, you don’t see many 7-footers who can dribble, shoot, and pass like that.”
As for the other players, second-round draft pick Colton Iverson has played well and showcased why president of basketball operations Danny Ainge sent cash to the Indiana Pacers to secure the pick (he plays REALLY freaking hard), but he is limited offensively and likely needs some development before he contends for a roster spot.
Signs point to Phil Pressey and Nolan Smith receiving training camp invites, though the former is probably more as a favor to Pressey’s father, who was previously an assistant coach with the Celtics. Pressey is a good player, and has performed well in summer league so far, but he’s a 5-foot-9 turnover-prone point guard with an inconsistent shot. Those guys don’t make NBA rosters very often.
The summer league roster is filled with talented, but (fatally?) flawed players, who are one skill, or a few inches short of being NBA players. Darius Johnson-Odom (6-foot-2) is a talented, explosive two-guard in a point guard’s body. Tony Mitchell is a high-usage scorer, who doesn’t do the little things (defend, rebound, score efficiently) that a role player needs to do to thrive in the NBA.
And then there’s Fab Melo. I’m not going to get into too much depth about Melo here, because I plan to write an article about him specifically, but let’s just he’s pretty much been the laughingstock of the summer league so far.
After officially signing Olynyk on Sunday, the Celtics now have 16 players under contract, though Shavlik Randolph, D.J. White, and Kris Joseph (when the trade becomes official) are on non-guaranteed deals. Ainge probably isn’t done moving players just yet, which makes it harder to predict how many spots will be open.
A few of these players will likely receiving training camp invites from the Boston Celtics, but don’t be surprised if Olynyk is the only face you see in the regular season.