The Boston Celtics took an unforeseen approach on draft night, selecting three guards, and one forward alongside the unexpected post-draft pickup of UCF Center Tacko Fall. The question now presents itself- Where do these guys fall in a culture-redefining season with hopes still high?
June 20, 2019- The Boston Celtics entered a 2019 draft in a “carpet pulled from beneath” finish to their season and stance in the NBA rumor-mill of pre-free agency discussion. Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens, and the Celtics held the 14th, 20th, and 22nd selection in the first round along with the 51st pick in the second round. The league-wide expected move which came into fruition, Kyrie to Brooklyn, eventually would take action, perhaps impacting Ainge’s game-plan approach on that June 20 night.
Nevertheless, it’s the first day of August, three and a half months away from opening night, and it’s fair to say the Boston Celtics team we see on paper now, is what Brad Stevens will be rolling with for the 2019-20 season. Aside from a potential aged veteran move which I expect near the deadline, all pieces appear to be officially in place for the post underachieving, Kyrie Irving led Boston Celtics which came up extremely short in the regular season and post-season.
With that being said, our best frame of reference to base judgment off of would be what we saw from the five-game Las Vegas Summer League period a few weeks ago.
Carsen Edwards, 21, guard from Purdue, was the premier attraction in regards to Boston Celtics Summer League play. Iconically known for his personal March Madness magic back in Purdue when he dropped 42 points against the eventually crowned champions, the University of Virginia.
Through his five games of play, he led the Vegas Celts, averaging 19.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists while shooting 34-for-71 (48%) from the field. His most impressive display came on July 9, against the Denver Nuggets. Edwards scored 23 points while shooting 5-for-7 from three-point territory.
Edwards Summer Celtics debut quickly unfolded in making him the most talked-about name out of the entire draft class, despite being selected with the 33rd selection in round two of the draft. The dark-horse man of the ’19 class, Edwards presented a stunning ability to shoot from the outside in transition, off the dribble, and in contested situations. The same Carsen Edwards that blew up the Twitter-sphere back in March, made an appearance for the Celtics through July. His ability to shoot the ball from deep in tough situations, being heavily guarded was what made him a prominent piece of last season’s Purdue team. Those same skills came into Summer League play, showing great potential in Edwards’ probable ability in playing a ground-breaking off-the-bench role in Brad Stevens’ system next season.
From what we saw back in July, Edwards seems to have valuable depth role potential, that of Fred VanVleet from the Toronto Raptors. An undersized guard out of Witchita, the six-foot-tall VanVleet played a major role in Toronto’s promising season which ended with Canada’s first NBA Title. Edwards stands at six-foot-one with a very similar approach offensively in using the three-ball to be his premier source of offensive production. Both entered the NBA with lower end expectations on draft night and the VanVleet role is one that certainly can play major for Boston.
With the highest selected prospect, Romeo Langford (Indiana 6’6″ guard) sitting out of the Summer League entirely due to a thumb injury, all eyes were directed at the remaining class members, Grant Williams, Tremont Waters, and even un-drafted pickup Tacko Fall.
Grant Williams, 20, is perhaps the fan-favorite of the ’19 class. He instantly stepped foot into his Celtics career with a fan favorable first-impression, stating “I grew up watching Boston, and I was a fan the year they won the championship .” Williams further went on to express his relief when Boston selected him, “I just kind of sighed in relief, because I know it’s a great location, it’s a great team, and it’s a lot of great people around. Danny Ainge is a fantastic basketball mind, same with Brad Stevens the head coach, he’s a guy who knows the ins and outs of basketball, the X’s and O’s, and I couldn’t be more excited to play for the Celtics.”
To make Williams an even more favorable fan-favorite prospect, the six-foot-seven power forward had some fairly impressive flashes during his July showing in Vegas. He averaged 13.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 24.2 minutes played per game in his five Summer League games. Williams also shot 47% from the field on 45 field goal attempts.
What came most impressively from the 20-year-old Tennessee prospect was his inside aggression. When watching Williams in July, he showed strong potential in a mixture to play big inside with confidence in using his size and body to score with promising potential to defer to using his shooting to score, whether that’d be from the mid-range or even outside. Off the bench, Williams can provide that sort of offensive game mixture that the Celtics had in Marcus Morris, who departed via free agency. While I don’t expect that level of offensive contribution in terms of points right off the bat, the size and approach to the game are certainly there in Williams.
The 5-foot-11-inch guard, Tremont Waters from LSU, was the last selection in Danny Ainge’s draft night, back in June. Being under six feet, I’m not gonna make the ignorant and infamous Isaiah Thomas comparison. Waters enters his rookie season in pro-ball with a two-way upside in his favor. During his time at LSU, Waters showed elite defensive abilities with strong IQ, reading opposing players dribble moves on an impressive constant basis. His pitbull mentality on defense played huge in college. Like Edwards, Waters relies heavily on the three-ball, scoring 99 points in his final collegiate season on catch-and-shoot chances. Waters averaged 11.2 points with 1.8 rebounds and 4.8 rebounds on 38% shooting from the field in the Summer League. With Edwards having more upside on his end it should be interesting to see what Boston elects to go with in regards to time on the floor the two when the season starts.
Alas, we’ve reached the runaway candidate for the “most interesting NBA 2019 Draft Class pickup” in 7-foot-6-inch big man from UCF, Tacko Fall. The most interesting man in the Celtics roster who’s responsible for ending the “Dancing-Panda” era of Guerschon Yabusele. To be fair, there wasn’t much that Yabusele brought to the table aside from a late-game three along with constant memes and a dab that’s way out of date for modern-day culture.
Fall, 23, entered his post un-draft night with Boston as the biggest question mark of all prospects. He was limited to 12.6 minutes per game through his five Summer League games for the Celtics, in which he averaged 7.2 points and 4.0 rebounds, going 17-for-22 (77% FG) from the field.
After infamously taking the internet by storm for a night through his lock-down defensive effort against Duke, particularly the inside issues he gave number one pick, Zion Williamson. His 8’2″ wingspan and 10’2″ standing reach both plays to his advantage and disadvantage. That incredible size that makes it difficult to score inside also limits to Fall’s time on the floor. His block rate stood at 11.5 percent during his senior season, making him one of the most elite defenders at the collegiate level.
However, even at 7-foot-6, rebounding at a consistent rate remains a major challenge for Fall. An aspect of his game that also played into his draft night downfall.
Brad Stevens and the Celtics have perhaps the most interesting core of young talent entering a season. A hungry group of rookies in rotation alongside hungry veterans such as Enes Kanter and Kemba Walker. Let’s see what that mix equals out to…