Training camp is finally here. You did it. I did it. We all did it. We’ve officially made it through the tough stretch of summer/early fall and as the leaves start to change, to some that may mean football is in full swing, for me, I fall asleep to the thought of hearing the sweet voice of Mike Gorman being one day closer and next thing I know I’m stuck to my sheets when I wake up if you’re buying what I’m selling. I haven’t been this excited for a training camp/season since I dunno…like 2015. I debated doing a training camp blog and then a regular season preview blog, but then I remembered how many fellow stoolies need to kill as much time as possible while at work, so you’re getting a first ever three part preview. Yeah, you didn’t even know you wanted one of those, but you do. No need to thank me.
So, your 2016-17 Boston Celtics, where should we begin. Well, lets start by talking about everyone’s summers. If you did weird things like go outside and enjoy the summer instead of closely following what a few select complete strangers have been putting on social media, well lets get you up to speed before we get too deep. This summer had a different level of importance based on which player you want to talk about, as some most definitely had more to work on than others. Overall I had one fear after the season ended in April (smdh) and that was a fear that the Celts players would be content with the success of last season – yes it was a success so please pipe down I’m talking – and I can say with full confidence this didn’t even come close to happening. It was a wild 3+ month ride, and I can only start in one place.
1. Terry Rozier
What I would never do to you, my loyal reader, is lie. I will not sit here and blog that when the Celtics drafted Terry Rozier, I was ecstatic. In fact it was almost quite the opposite. Think of what that team was at the time, and then think of how you felt when you heard the name Terry Rozier at #16. My first thought was, who? Then, why? Then I quickly remembered that Brad and Danny know a HELL of a lot more about him as a player than me, and maybe slightly more about basketball in general. Here’s what I was promised: A young athletic defense minded guard who has a ridiculously high ceiling…….if he can learn to shoot. After taking Marcus Smart, this seemed odd, and his rookie year was pretty much nonexistent. The minutes he did play, it was what the kids nowadays call a “hot mess”. So out of control, so rushed, his jumper was broke as absolute fuck, and it made you wonder what on Earth was going on. You could see the potential, he’s fast as shit with the ball in transition, he rebounds VERY well for a guard, and the defensive reputation lived up to the hype. I think we all saw enough to say well…OK maybe there is something there that we could put into a package for a big time player that needs a guard.
Then the Summer of 2016 happened.
The biggest roadblock to Terry Rozier’s development in my mind was never Marcus Smart, but instead Evan Turner. Well, once Turner got about a billion dollars from Portland, we were in business. The keys to the second unit were being given to Rozier, if he could handle it. How did he respond? I dunno, only having maybe the best Summer League of any participating player in the history of life, and after days and days of battling, he was a runaway winner of the Greenie Summer League Crush Competition. All of the sudden Rozier played with fantastic pace, was much more in control in transition, and his jumper looks INCREDIBLE (for him). Maybe I’m still feeling some leftover emotions from his game winner to win the Utah league, nbd, but what I saw on the court against fringe NBA players had me convinced he got the message and put up work.
Then Snapchat happened.
Ok fine whatever there were some nekked ass strippers giving a lapdance to a fellow female friend and snaps on snaps on snaps of him dropping money in the club in Miami, which isn’t ideal after his Summer League performance, but it was more just a bad look than anything else. Telling sign was how fast that snap was deleted and replaced with him taking jumpers (which he made).
I needed to know that Rozier put in the work to prepare himself for what should be a drastic increase in minutes, and I’m confident in what I saw. Summer Grade: A+
2. Isaiah Thomas
Big, BIG summer for my best friend. I guess we should start there. Isaiah and I became best friends on August 8th, 2016 and I will remember that date for the rest of my life. How did it happen, well, after loyal Greenie readers came at Chris Forsberg for leaving your boy out of the ESPN Celtics Summer Forecast, one of the questions was who we thought the Celts All-Stars would be. This is what I wrote
I meant it too. Isaiah is a Top 6 point guard in the NBA whether you want to get over that and accept it or not. As he says, men lie, women lie, numbers don’t. I let him know of my high expectation, and in just 97 characters to a complete stranger that he most definitely had no idea who it was, a friendship was born. So yeah, that was pretty awesome.
But that’s not why I loved Isaiah’s summer. I loved it because this is a guy who is doing the opposite of running from the hype. In fact, he’s running right towards it and upping the stakes. Isaiah is taking charge to let the basketball world know the Celtics are coming and you better get ready. This is what I want to see from a player of Isaiah’s stature within the team, and personal relationship aside, I believe him yo. I dunno why, I just do.
Every day it seemed Isaiah was tweeting out how he needed a rebounder, or was getting off a plane and heading straight to the gym, or was holding and dominating a Seattle Pro Am. This was no more apparent than when he hit something like 12 in a row at a Seattle Seahawks meeting. You know how hard that performance was to be so auto while shooting in a freaking meeting room with jeans on? Didn’t matter. That clip showed me he is officially READY. He promised me he would be a Top 6 guard and more, and Isaiah, consider this me speaking it into existence.
It wasn’t all basketball for Isaiah though, as the gang got together to celebrate him taking the plunge into marriage. Again, not that upset I didn’t get the invite since our relationship is so new, and fortunately the internet exists and we got a glimpse of the festivities. Hilarious player interactions and an absolute white hot fire flames tux, he killed it.
If things couldn’t get any better, here’s something Isaiah did that maybe you didn’t know about. What I love about Isaiah is how loyal of a guy he is, and nothing displays that more than the work he does for the youth in Seattle. In early September he ran a backpack/school donation event and probably made the lives of a shit ton of deserving Seattle youth. God what an absolute treasure. Summer Grade: A++
3. RJ Hunter
RJ’s rookie season much like Rozier’s was pretty nonexistent. He showed flashes of his high basketball IQ, which is all fine and nice, but IQ only takes you so far if you can’t play defense. As a result, Hunter was in charge of bench celebration duties, and there of course were whispers that he was a bust pick, even though the Celts took him at 28. TWENTY EIGHT. Idiots.
What I needed to see from RJ this summer was A) He worked on his body B) He can play defense C) That sweet sweet stroke. That’s it, show me that and I can talk myself into working him into the rotation. Well, it was a mixed bag once the Summer League started. We saw that RJ was working on his body (check), and that his stroke is still as sweet as ever (check), but, that defense. It’s really this simple. Brad Stevens is not going to play RJ Hunter unless he plays defense. Unfortunately, he got hurt, missed games, and was really overall just “blah”. That’s not great, especially at a time when you could potentially be competing for a roster spot which is a whole other conversation.
After drafting a player at his position (more on this later), as I write this all I can do is hope and pray that he has a good camp and earns a spot, because nothing I saw this summer leads me to believe he’s truly deserved it yet. Summer League Grade: B-
4. Kelly Olynyk
What did I want from Kelly this summer? Well first it was to hook up Durant with a fire L at their meeting in the Hamptons to help bring him to Boston, but that didn’t really work out like we all know
Aside from that, due to his shoulder problems there really wasn’t much else I expected. Take your time, rehab the right way, and be ready for the season. From the looks of things, that’s exactly what we got inbetween roller coaster rides. Would I have preferred he had the ability to be in the gym and maybe add some elements to his game, or the weight room to help build strength so he doesn’t get hurt when he makes a pumpfake and leans into a guy, sure of course I would. But if he’s ready to roll by opening night, and doesn’t take forever to get his legs under him and conditioning under control I’ll be fine with what he gave us this summer. Summer Grade: INC
5. Jordan Mickey
It’s probably safe to say that Jordan Mickey’s summer probably got a whole lot better once the Celtics cut their ties to Jared Sullinger. Sure even though the Celtics drafted big men this past June, both are going overseas, and while Horford is now your starting PF, there is still a big man void on that second unit. Defensively, Mickey showed us flashes of this timing and athleticism in his ability to block shots and protect the rim, which the Celtics need desperately. But, here’s the thing that I don’t want to have to say, but it’s true. He had a pretty lame Summer League. His rebounding, especially on the defensive end, makes me VERY nervous, and maybe is a reason the Celts decided to bring back Tyler Zeller. That’s not a great look for Jordan.
Fortunately for him, Mickey can still have a strong camp and good preseason against better competition to show that he deserves the first crack at that second unit. Since he is so young, and there has been such a limited showing of his abilities on the NBA level, I’m still willing to buy into his 99 defensive rating per 100 possessions and 6.9 blocks per 38 mins. Summer Grade: C
6. Jaylen Brown
I don’t think it’s a stretch to call this the best summer of Jaylen Browns life. He was chosen to join the most successful franchise in NBA history, and be a huge piece at that, he became a millionaire, and his basketball this summer was solid. Heading into Summer League play, there were a few things I was curious about with Jaylen: A) Would his athleticism translate to this level B) Is his body/defense really NBA ready C) How broken is his jumper
Once they started playing the fake basketball games that don’t matter whatsoever, we knew almost instantly. Yes, his jump shot was as advertised, or in other words, it left a lot of room for improvement, but that’s OK. We knew that going in. What we learned watching him play was that his form actually looks pretty good, which tells me chances are he can be coached up. From a physicality standpoint, this also lived up to expectations. His transition game was good, he physically looked like he belonged (even though this wasn’t even close to NBA competition), and I think we were all impressed with his ability to get to the rim, and draw contact.
Now Brown won’t get those same foul calls as a rookie, that’s the price you pay, but it was his mindset that I loved. He yammed on people which showed me that he truly is an athletic freak, and I came out of Summer League play encouraged about his potential production on the second unit. He doesn’t have to put up crazy numbers to play an important role next year, and we all know if you can defend, you get minutes. Good news for Brown, bad news for RJ Hunter.
Lately we’ve seen Jaylen snap a bunch from what looks like the training facility in Waltham, and if I notice, you’re damn sure Brad and Danny see it too. Summer Grade: B+
7. James Young
Here is what I wrote almost 1 year ago to the day in last year’s training camp preview
As a card holding member of the James Young Fan Club, I wish I was more confident heading into camp about his ability to actually contribute this season. We heard this summer how much muscle he put on, and how much stronger he looked, but watching 2 seconds of the Summer League and you could just see he still plays scared/hesitant/weak whatever you want to call it. He is really young (just 20) and seems to dominate when he plays in the D-League, but so did Fab Melo. It could be too early to call him a “bust”, but at some point the proof has to be in the pudding. On the depth chart, there is definitely an opportunity for him to be part of that second unit, especially if we see Jerebko spend time at the stretch 4 like we did down the stretch of last season. Young does provide solid length, and a legit stroke, so it would be nice if he was as good in real life as he is when I use him in 2K15.
When I could literally copy and paste the same exact paragraph for this season’s preview, that’s not a great sign for your summer. What I needed to see from Young this summer was that he finally “got it”. Year 3, for starters it’s embarrassing that you’re still playing in the Summer League, but once you are there, I needed to see him dominate. Shoot the ball well, defend, rebound well for his position and be a leader to the young players.
Almost none of that happened.
His Summer League play actually got off to a great start. Honestly. His shot looked great, and I won’t lie, it got me overly excited. Sadly though, then he kept playing. His defense is still so far away, he was almost the opposite of what I would call a leader since he seemed to just stay quiet and disappear, and physically he was still getting outmatched. By the end of the Summer League, if I remember correctly there was a DNP. You get a DNP in Year 3 in the Summer League, I’m not sure how even I could spin that.
As it stands right this second, he probably gets cut. Terrible summer. Summer Grade: D-
8. Marcus Smart
Pretty quiet summer I would say for Marcus. If we’re being honest I don’t hate it. This is a really really important year for the guy. Entering Year 3, this is his “leap year”. If he is going to turn into the player we all think he can be, this is the year I need to see signs of that progression. Unlike James Young, Smart is too good to play in the Summer League, so I’m going on a bit of blind faith that he’s been getting ready. Nothing on Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram or whatever, but again, I don’t hate that. After diving into whether or not his hair was actually impacting his jumper, we saw signs that maybe it’s more than just a hot take, which leads me to believe we’re about to see a 44% shooting season. Summer Grade: B
9. Avery Bradley
People don’t forget. Summer Grade: C
10. Danny Ainge
In my eyes, really the only person whose summer truly mattered. The summer of 2016 had been a time we as a city have been waiting for on the edge of our seats. For the first time in many of our lifetimes, the Celtics finally had a good combination of success/money to spend to actually be a player in free agency. After Ainge didn’t pull of a trade prior to the draft, which I’m fine with, the “big fireworks” had to happen once free agency started. Nothing historically told us this was going to be a slam dunk, and heading into the summer there were two big time available players of this class. Kevin Durant and Al Horford. The Celtics, like every other NBA team, could obviously use one if not both, and were one of the few teams that had the space to pull something like that off.
The big chip fell when they landed Horford. Much like you, I needed to see Ainge finally pull in a big fish. Say what you want about Horford as a player, but he was the second biggest FA target available, fits an immediate need, and broke the seal for Boston to become a FA destination. I also give him credit for not getting emotional and cutting ties with Sullinger. His contract isn’t huge in Toronto, and for that price you could have talked me into bringing him back, but I like how Danny stood firm. Who knows, Trader Danny could have something else up his sleeve as we get closer to Opening Night, but for now it’s been a pretty great summer for him. Summer Grade: A-
How would I evaluate my summer? Well…..
Imagine the possibilities if I didn’t have to find a way to blog at work #hmm #Top20JustLikeIsaiah. Summer Grade: #blogGreenieblog
And thus concludes Part 1 of your 2016-17 Boston Celtics Season Preview. Now since you just wasted way too much time at work reading all this, go do some stuff so you can clear your schedule because Part 2 of 3 is coming, and it’s coming quick.