Boston Celtics: 4 Summer League Storylines

Well everybody, you ready for the lull? The Draft has come and gone, and we learned that for all the insane hubbub there are rarely that many surprises; that Zach Lavine’s reaction to moving from UCLA to Minnesota may be the most conclusive evidence we have that Kevin Love will be on the move ASAP; and that if Andrew Wiggins ever wants to ditch the NBA and become a country singer in Las Vegas, he already has the suit for it.

And we also learned about this year’s Boston Celtics, but were left with some questions. Just how much faith does Ainge put into the possibility that Rondo signs an extension? Does he really think Jeff Green is an asset to the team or just a big contract waiting to run out? And when Kelly Olynyk’s team option kicks in, do you think Danny Ainge insists he gets a haircut?

So many questions, and most of them won’t be even close to being answered until at least the preseason, and more likely the regular season. This is the lull.

But there’s still fun to be had, and that fun is the NBA Summer League! Superstars? None. Your favorite veterans? Absent. Instead we have a flurry of rookies, a group of would-be NBADL graduates, and a handful of uber-intriguing Latvians.

But it’s still important, don’t you forget it. Here are the top 4 storylines going into this week’s action.


1. Can Kelly Olynyk fill that big man need?

Make no mistake about it, Kelly Olynyk had an impressive rookie year. Kelly Olynyk put up a 9 and 5 and earned himself a 2nd-Team All Rookie berth. His Per-36 stats are even more impressive: 15.6 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.8 ast, all with a 46.6% FGP, 35.1% from three, and a nice 81.1% from the charity stripe. Not bad for the 13th pick in a historically terrible draft.

imagesAnd in the Celtics’ opening summer league game on Saturday, Olynyk jumped right back to his Summer League-dominating ways, putting up a healtyh 20 points and 8 rebounds on 8-17 shooting. While you’d obviously love a higher field goal percentage, the fact that Olynyk took so many shots is extremely encouraging. The more his confidence rises this summer, the more he’ll be able to help. He has a ton of talent, he just needs a little more Alpha Dog in him.

The one area of concern about Olynyk, and one that showed in Saturday’s game, was his defense. Let’s face it, Olynyk’s always going to have problems with uber-athletic big men. But what the Celtics are hoping is that he becomes more of a presence around the rim. Last year, Olynyk only blocked 0.4 shots a game. For a 7-0, 238 pound big man, especially one that the Celtics hope can play next to Jared Sullinger, that’s a huge problem. Reportedly Olynyk has dropped weight and added muscle, and it’s not hard to expect that Olynyk’s game IQ will help overshadow his athletic limitations on D. But it would be a huge help to the team if he can fill that role sooner rather than later.


2. If not, how about Colton Iverson?

Right off the bat, Colton Iverson is a much, much better rim protector than Olynyk (chipping in 2 blocks against Miami), but he’s still just about average in that department. Like Olynyk, Iverson makes up for his limited athleticism with an all-motor-all-the-time approach to the game, a motor that helped him put up a monster season in his final year at Colorado State, and impressive stats while playing for Besiktas last season (7.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in only 17.4 miniutes a night).

download (1)The difference is, of course, that Iverson doesn’t nearly have the same offensive repertoire that Olynyk has, which might make him a bit redundant on this roster, even as depleted of big men as it is. I’d still say Iverson makes it on the roster, especially if he manages to show off a bit more on defense this summer.

On a side note: Literally all I want is to see Kelly Olynyk, Colton Iverson, and free agent Greg Stiemsma on the same team. You can’t tell me Danny Ainge can’t convince The Steamer to come back on the vet’s minimum, become the rim protector the team needs, and spend a few years being inappropriately lauded by Tommy Heinsohn. But the comedy potential of three 7-feet tall gangly white dudes all on the same team is too much. Could they do Three Stooges routines at halftime? Can we get them large black frames like the Hanson Brothers? Can’t you picture Colton and Steamer fighting over toy trains? I mean, for God’s sake, Olynyk’s Canadian, how hasn’t this happened yet??? I would seriously forgive the Celtics for missing another playoffs if they pull this off.



3. Will Dairis Bertans be this year’s surprise roster inclusion?
So unless you’re Latvian, Fran Fraschilla, or a super-obsessive Spurs fan who knows about his brother, Davis, you’ve probably never heard of Dairis Bertans. That’s alright, neither have I. But if I had to make prediction about this summer, it’s that we’ll all know about him by the end of the summer. Whether it’s because of his level of play or his stopping in the middle of a game for a cigarette break I can’t tell.

The 24-year old measures out at 6’4, 187, and has been bestowed the nickname, “the Latvian Rocket”, because of his explosive style of play. Already I’m hooked.

images (1)But Bertans brings a lot of what the Celtics need this season. He’s a fearless gunner, taking 4 3-point attempts last season at Bilbao, and converting almost 38% of them. He’s someone who can create for himself off the dribble (huge for a team that often went stagnant when Rondo left the floor). And he’s, apparently, from every YouTube clip I could find, got balls of steel. Immediately, to little fanfare, Bertans made a difference in his first summer league game, chipping in 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting (including 2/3 from 3), with 3 assists in only 17 minutes. Even if he only amounts to a bench sparkplug if signed to a contract, he’d still be a valuable asset to a young and rebuilding team.


4. Will all of the Bench Boys make it back into a Celtics uniform?

Of course, with all the excitement over intriguing invitees like Bertans, Oregon forward Mike Moser, or Siena big man OD Anosike (who TORE things up in 30 games for Italian team Pesaro, averaging 14 and 13), as well as incoming rookies in Marcus Smart and James Young, it’s hard to overlook the increasingly roster security of Boston’s Bench Boys: Chris Johnson, Chris Babb, and Phil Pressey.

downloadAs fun as they were to have last season, and as relatively inexpensive as they were, all three find their spots threatened. Marcus Smart’s versatility as a combo guard lessens the need for a pure backup point to Rajon Rondo. And the addition of James Young, as well as the further development of Avery Bradley, means having a three-point shooter like Babb or Johnson less of a neccesity.

And on Saturday, none of the three really helped their causes. Johnson and Babb combined to go 2-11, including 1-8 from three, and Phil Pressey, while having 7 assists, also turned the ball over 6 times. Obviously it’s early, and one bad game doesn’t spell doom. But as all three lie on the roster bubble, a strong summer will be needed to keep their spots on this Boston Celtics roster.


Any Summer League storylines that you’re excited about? Any longhost players that you think could make the team? Let us know in the comments, or find me on Twitter @isportspeters.