I'm not going to lie to you guys, things were looking pretty gross with this iteration of the Summer Celts. A team that had taken pride in being a legitimate wagon every summer since the summer of 2017, this year's 0-2 start was rough. Some bright spots at times, but overall it was about as gross as you could get. Over 40 TOs, brutal shooting, late game collapses against the Heat for the billionth time in a row, 4th quarter no shows, we had it all to kick things off in Vegas.
Sure these games might not be real and generally have zero significance come October, but the thing is my brain is conditioned in a way (aka mental illness) that whenever the Celts at any level play a basketball game, I want them to win. I care how they play. It is both my blessing and my curse. I hear people say "who cares" when it comes to Celts summer league basketball and I wonder how their brain even allows them to feel that way. That is a life I would never want personally.
Especially in a game like last night against the Lakers.
I do not care when it happens. It could be in Summer League, the regular season, or the NBA Finals, beating the Lakers will always feel good and I have a feeling it will be that way until my final breath.
It was also our first big test for prized rookie Jordan Walsh. You see, if you plan on becoming a great Celtic, you have to be a Lakers killer. I don't make the rules, I just live by them. Russell, Bird, Havlichek, Pierce, Tatum etc just go down the list. They are all Lakers killers and some of the best Celtics to ever do it. Let's not forget when Jayson Tatum found himself in a similar position back in 2017 when it was his turn to go up against the Lakers for the first time
27/11/0 in a 5 point Celts win. Keep that in the back of your mind.
Fast forward to today, and Jayson Tatum continues to give the Lakers absolute hell (24.5 a game on 50/49% for his career). As it turned out, that Summer League performance against LAL was just a sign of what was coming.
Could the same be true for Walsh? My brain says pump the goddamn breaks but my heart says absofuckinglutely. Maybe this is just the high of finally seeing this team win a goddamn basketball game in an extremely entertaining fashion, but that's what this time of year is for.
With that said, let's talk about it.
- Through his first two games, there were plenty of reasons to be excited about what Jordan Walsh might develop into as a player. It's hard to ignore how fucking hard this dude plays and how much he cares, and while everyone was already expecting him to be a defensive menace heading into the summer, I think we're all impressed with what we've seen offensively as well. In Game 3, it was the best he's probably played on both ends
For him to have his best showing against the Lakers just means more. I don't really know how to explain it, it just does. A cool 25/8/3 on 10-20 (2-7) with just 2 TOs in his 31 minutes, Walsh was the best player on the floor which is exactly what I think we're all hoping to see in these games. Just show us you belong. This doesn't mean he's going to be ready to play 35 minutes in real games or that he's even going to be in the rotation right away, but you can always tell when someone does or doesn't belong based on how they look during Summer League. Jordan clearly belongs.
Back to Tatum for a second. I couldn't help but notice something after this game that I think we should all just put a pin in at the moment
Really makes you think…..
On a more serious note, my biggest takeaways so far for Walsh are that his length is a legit weapon. He struggled a little bit with the speed in the Vegas opener, but now? He looked way more comfortable defensively and has the potential to cause absolute hell on that end. It's not just his physical tools that have me excited, it's also his mentality. This dude wants to fuck shit up on the defensive end and be that spark, which is pretty important. The way he navigates through screens, the way he's been able to move his feet and stay in front of his guy without fouling, those are all tools you can build on.
Offensively, he's certainly been way better than I expected, mostly because everyone told me he was extremely raw on that end. I see a guy who has all the makings of a player who can be devastating in transition. I'm already a believer in his midrange pullup off the dribble, something this team can absolutely use. Then there's the three point shooting. Call me crazy, but I'll take the 36% Walsh is shooting from deep so far in Vegas. His form looks solid and he's taking them without hesitation, so consider me interested.
If you were curious, Walsh is up to 18.3/5.0/1.7/1.3 on 44/36% splits in his summer league debut, and if things continue to trend like my brain currently thinks they will, this could be the final time he ever plays in Vegas.
- While the play of Walsh may get the headlines, we've also learned something else so far in Vegas. We're at the point now where Brad cannot leave this state without giving Jay Scrubb some sort of deal
I don't care if it's the 15th roster spot, I don't care if it's a Two Way, Jay Scubb simply needs to be a Boston Celtic. You could make the case he's been their best or second best player through 3 games, and he's shooting a legit 51/46%. Scrubb was massive last night with 18 points off the bench on 6-12 (4-7), so he might just be a Lakers Killer as well. Also, I feel like this team needs a lefty. There's just something about left handed guys and I feel like Scrubb could be the one that makes us all forget about the James Young experiment (sigh).
I'm intrigued by his speed and ability to get to the rim in addition to his shooting, and I could see a world where he's the microwave scorer the team needs who gets his reps in Maine and then we see him play in a blowout at the Garden and he has like 10 points in 2 minutes and the crowd goes nuts. Now that you get 3 Two Way spots, I see no reason why he shouldn't get one of those at the very least, and you could even talk me into him snagging Champagnie's guaranteed spot. It'd be cool if the Celts finally found one of these random summer league diamonds in the rough, and so far Scrubb fits that bill.
- For the first 20 minutes of this game, it looked like the Celts were about to be blown out. Another half of 50+ points, the Lakers were hitting all their 3PA and the Celts couldn't buy a goddamn basket. Then the 3rd quarter happened. A dominant 30-17 frame with Walsh leading the way, suddenly I was watching the wagon that I remembered. Lockdown defense, unstoppable offense with ball movement combined with love and trust, you could feel the momentum swing. Given how poor they've been defensively in Vegas I certainly didn't think they were capable of holding an opponent to just 37 points in an entire half, but that's how they won the game.
When the Celts also then didn't shit their pants in the 4th quarter like they did in their first two games it was the cherry on top of this delicious summer league sundae.
- This was also the best we've seen JD Davison play while in Vegas. I wouldn't kill you if you thought he was maybe the most disappointing Celtic so far, even if you acknowledge that he's young as shit. The hope was for more of a jump, and we finally got it in Game 3.
He finished with 11/11/6/2/2 and was way more in control compared to his first two games. He finished with just 1 TO too which was a drastic improvement considering he was basically leading Vegas in TOs per game (7.5). His shot is still a work in progress and he still has a way to go in terms of playing through contact, but the turnover problems were a bit surprising considering he wasn't anywhere close to this careless during the G League season.
- I'd say Dalano Banton pretty much played the way I expected. The shooting is absolutely brutal, just 3-19 (1-7), but the size and the vision are very intriguing (6 AST, 0 TOs). I cannot stress enough how broken his jumper is, but at the same time, I don't really care. We're talking about an end of bench depth piece whose only job is going to be to defend and pass. If he had a jump shot, he's probably not available in the first place.
I will say there were a few too many instances of him simply getting beat off ball with a simple back cut, but I say focus on the positive. His passing is worth taking a look at. I hope he's also active tomorrow because I'm officially intrigued.
- His lines end up not being so terrible, but I just haven't loved how Justin Champagnie has played. He has been super active on the glass which is nice, but the shooting hasn't been anywhere close to good enough. Just 36/21% splits through 3 games, last night was another weird performance. The offense was pretty poor (4-11, 0-5), the decision making wasn't all that great, and yet he finished a team best +17.
I think I just expected a guy who was on the real roster last year to be more impactful in Summer League, and that simply hasn't happened. Given his unguaranteed deal, there's a case to be made that he's on the hot seat, especially with how well Scrubb is playing.
- What is the point of bringing in a euro sniper in Vincent Valerio-Bodon only to give him DNP-CDs in freaking summer league. Especially in a game where you're shooting like 20% from deep. Let this man play! I want to see it!
- Let's just hope the perimeter defense during the real season is nothing like what we watched last night. It got pretty old pretty quickly watching the Lakers take nothing but open 3PA. They finished 12-30 (40%) and I couldn't help but have ECF PTSD. Stop giving up wide open 3s for the love of christ. It's literally the reason your season ended.
- Where else do you think I would put 17-26 from the FT line? A gross 65.4%. Yes, I understand that I am the only person on the planet who cares about FT shooting in summer league. I don't care. FT shooting is important no matter when they happen. Real games, fake games, I do not care. Make your goddamn FTs.
Given that they're 1-2, I do not see a Summer League title in the Celtics future, but I sure as shit am excited to see them play again tomorrow night. I want to see if Walsh continues to build on his strong summer, I want to see if Scrubb solidifies a roster spot, and remember after this we don't get shit until preseason in September. It really feels like Brad may have done it again when it comes to Jordan Walsh, and that alone is enough to get excited.