Forsberg: Ranking who helped their stock most at Celtics summer league originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Celtics wrap up 2022 summer league play on Saturday night in Las Vegas. For roster hopefuls, it’s a final chance to make an impression even as much of the NBA world has fled the desert.
Before summer league tipped, we power ranked Celtics players based on intrigue. Now it’s time to circle back and see who helped their stock most out west.
1. JD Davison (Previous: 4)
Given some of the woeful stats during his lone season at Alabama, our expectations were admittedly low for Boston’s second-round pick. But Davison displayed an obvious feel for the game and now we’re super intrigued by his development moving forward.
Entering Saturday night, Davison was second in Vegas averaging 7.8 assists per game (only OKC’s Josh Giddey ahead of him) against three turnovers per game. He added 12 points, 1.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks over 29.7 minutes per game. With a 3-point barrage in Game 4, Davison was shooting 46.2 percent beyond the arc. His 85.7 percent free throw percentage bodes well for his ability to make shots moving forward.
After noting it repeatedly in his introductory press conference, Davison showed he does indeed have a little dog in him. We’re eager to see what he can learn from being around Marcus Smart and the rest of Boston’s beefed up point guard depth chart for parts of the NBA season.
Inked to a 2-way deal, the 19-year old should benefit from a whole bunch of reps with the Maine Celtics.
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2. Juhann Begarin (Previous: 2)
It was a big week for Boston’s 19-year olds. Begarin, the second-youngest player on the roster behind Davison, showed some nice progress from last summer. He’s still raw, but the team should be bullish on his ability to blossom into an NBA player.
We loved the way Begarin would grab and go on rebounds. Like Davison, he’s simply got to learn to harness all his athleticism and ability. Entering Saturday night, Begarin was averaging 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.5 steals over 30.2 minutes per game. Now, he shot only 39.7 percent from the floor and 26.7 percent beyond the 3-point arc. He also turned the ball over 4.5 times per game and was slightly too ambitious at times.
The Celtics can limit the luxury tax sting by carrying Begarin (or any unsigned draftee) on the roster this season but the question is whether the savings is worth starting the clock on a player who could also benefit from more reps overseas. It’s a balance because Begarin’s development could also be expedited stateside by being around players like Smart and Jaylen Brown for an entire NBA season.
3. Sam Hauser (Previous: 1)
Hauser endured a clunker in the summer league opener, then bounced back with a solid Game 2. That was seemingly all Boston brass needed to see. With his roster spot already secured, the Celtics put Hauser on ice in the aftermath.
We’d still like to see Hauser find other ways to impact the game beyond shooting. In 17 minutes, 39 seconds against Milwaukee, he didn’t register a rebound, block, or steal (and just one assist). Alas, hitting open shots and simply being a serviceable defender are his early pathway to NBA minutes.
4. Matt Ryan (Previous: T-6)
Ryan produced the most memorable moment of Celtics summer league by hitting a game-winning, last-second 3-pointer while rolling his ankle against Milwaukee.
He got emotional in the aftermath while reflecting on his journey from Door Dash and cemetery landscaper to latching on with the Celtics for their Finals run last season.
Ryan can really shoot the ball. The question is how can he otherwise impact the game? Especially with a skill set that’s somewhat redundant with Hauser. Given his story, it’s easy to root for him to find a way to stick inside the Celtics organization.
5. Justin Jackson (Previous: NR)
We’re kind of surprised more guys looking for a summer spotlight didn’t grab a Celtics jersey and deem themselves available. After Hauser got downshifted and Ryan sprained his ankle, Jackson, who spent time with the Celtics on a 10-day contract in December 2021, jumped on midstream and wasn’t bashful.
In his first two games, Jackson got up 14.5 shots per contest, including 10 triples per game. He shot 35 percent beyond the arc and 51.7 percent overall while averaging 20 points per game.
Jackson, the 15th overall pick in the 2017 draft, has 255 games of NBA experience. He’s 27 years old and has yet to shoot it consistently at the NBA level (32.1 percent overall beyond the 3-point arc).
6. Brodric Thomas (Previous: T-6)
There’s nothing super sexy about Thomas’ game, but he was one of Boston’s most complete players at summer league. He shot the ball well (13.3 points per game while making 52.2 percent of his 3-point shots). He rebounded well for his size, handled the ball in spurts, and was an active defender. Thomas certainly deserves consideration for Boston’s open roster spots but there’s going to be a lot of competition and the team might prioritize size in filling out the roster.
7. Mfiondu Kabengele (Previous: 5)
Kabengele had some really strong moments at summer league, including outplaying Golden State’s first-round filled frontcourt to the tune of 20 points and 13 rebounds. He was super active around the basket and, when he wasn’t flying around finishing lobs, he averaged 9.3 rebounds over 25.2 minutes per game. A former first-round pick of the Nets (27th, 2019) and the nephew of Dikembe Mutombo, Kabengele has obvious talents but just hasn’t been able to be as impactful in 51 career NBA games.
8. Trevion Williams (Previous: 3)
The Purdue product’s passing lived up to every bit of the hype and our antennas went up each time he touched the floor. Williams’ play was a little bit up and down, and he’s got a lot of strides to make on the defensive end, but we remain super intrigued by his ability to blossom at the pro level. If a team is willing to invest in him, Williams’ skill will eventually shine through. Whether it’s the final 2-way slot or simply funneled to Maine after receiving a training camp invite, we’re hopeful Saturday isn’t the last of Williams we seen in green.