The Celtics’ summer league campaign is over, and several new and returning players made the case for why they should at least attend training camp this fall. Let’s evaluate the Vegas performance of the five players currently on the Celtics roster.
With Yam Madar headed to Euroleague powerhouse Fenerbahce, Davison is the only early development prospect at the point guard position right now. Madar still hasn’t come over after being drafted three years ago, so at this point, Davison is their best hope to find a long-term backup for Derrick White or whoever is running in two years.
But Davison had a disastrous opening to summer league. It couldn’t have gone much worse, with 10 turnovers against Washington while shooting 2-for-7 from the field. His defense was solid, he pushed the tempo, but his pace of play was too fast for his own good.
Eventually he began to find some rhythm. A big problem that first weekend was defenses dropping off him in the pick-and-roll and daring him to pull up even from the float area. He hit a couple of them as summer league continued, but he clearly doesn’t look ready to take those shots. Sometimes he hits a pull-up in rhythm, even from deep, but such a shot is not reliable at this point.
When there is open space, Davison can fly through it at a high-end NBA level and shows some comfort finishing in the air. He still struggles to score when he goes left and will eventually figure out how to play with more patience to get back to his right hand. Davison showed last year that his vision at high speed is a special trait, but he needs to slow down more for his burst of energy to be a real asset. You’d hope for some clear signs of progress over the past few months, but it just didn’t come together in Vegas for Davison.
While Davison is still finding his footing, Banton looks comfortable. He’s a huge ball-handler who knows how to make a pick-and-roll and kick out of it. For Boston’s summer league team, his main role was to snake through ball screens where he would cross back to the middle of the floor and then either kick it to a nearby shooter or try to lob it to the roller.
Of course, the catch with Banton is that he doesn’t hit shots from outside the rim or spot-up 3s. Against the Lakers, he had a pull-up 3 in transition and hit a nice floater off a pick-and-roll, so he at least showed some signs of growth in the area that will define whether he can be an NBA rotation player for long . -term.
But even if it doesn’t come in Banton’s third year in the league, he showed he can get to the rim with his eyes open, and that’s something Boston needs. The Celtics have lacked finishers who can go right to the rim but still have some passing vision. White just has his floater, Malcolm Brogdon goes for a hook shot, and now at least Kristaps Porziņģis can throw it down. If Joe Mazzulla can keep Banton on the floor with a dangerous roll, that will give the guard enough room to get deep into the paint and actually score in this offense. Plus, Banton’s size and poise on defense make him a viable switcher across the perimeter. He’s a solid fit for someone at the minimum, and he showed why last week.
Things really came together for this year’s 38th overall pick during his debut run with the Celtics. He was aggressive from the jump, but he kept running into dead ends and stumbling. As time went on, he got used to the size and physicality he faced in the paint and looked more composed and daring as a finisher.
That shot didn’t go in, but it was the clearest sign all month that Walsh won’t be afraid to expand his game. You can tell he doesn’t know how to load into the layup yet, and those kinds of biomechanical finesse are going to make the difference between him being a hustler and a scorer. He missed that shot because when he collected his dribble, he didn’t do a hop step to fully charge his power and get closer to the rim like most good scorers do. But he showed in Vegas that he has the pace of the game and the skills to get into those spots and eventually learn to take advantage of them.
Then, when you add in how much better his deep touch looks, his offensive upside is clearly higher coming out of summer league. Defensively, he showed so much of the shifty assist activity and suffocating length on the ball that made him an appealing choice. The one red flag was how often he was caught flat-footed in isolation as he was completely left in the dust multiple times in a game. Walsh also had trouble slipping past ball screens, but he at least showed the tenacity to catch up and defend from behind, or make the read useful elsewhere when there was a shift. He definitely has the tools and the engine, he just needs a lot of work to hone all his talent.
No one on the Celtics benefited more from summer league than Scrubb, who came in hoping to set himself up for success in training camp and instead earned a two-way deal before the summer was even over. He has speed, is shifty and can consistently work his way to the rim. He has a nice lefty floater that he can get to in the pick-and-roll, and he flies in transition.
One of his best plays of the summer came early against Orlando, when he did a nice job of outrunning the ballhandler on a pick-and-roll, blocked the shot from behind and then pushed the 1-on-3 break to draw a foul.
He controls the pace well on the break and has a few step and hesitation moves to navigate traffic, although he seems dependent on getting to the left hand side. Either way, he has shown that he can score as a ball handler in the half court, a cutter from the corners or in the open floor. Then, on defense, he does a good job of staying in the game as he navigates screens and can get back in front of the point guard to contest the shot without making a mistake.
There’s a lot to like about Scrubb’s play as a deep reserve, even if he’s a bit stuck between the guard positions offensively. But the Celtics don’t need a clean sheet to get spot minutes. They need someone like Scrubb who has plenty of energy, can do something with the ball and doesn’t have a significant weakness that makes him a liability when defenses find him.
The first $50,000 of Champagnie’s $1.93 million deal guarantees on Aug. 1, then the next $350,000 is locked in if he makes the opening night roster. That’s low enough that it makes sense for the Celtics to hold him up until the full January 10th guarantee date, just like they did with Noah Vonleh last year. But they can get someone else to sign a similar deal out of camp, so will Champagnie be able to beat whoever else comes in?
Well, the one thing he has going for him is that he can operate out of the corners adequately, able to read the half second of whether to shoot or attack, whether on the break or just taking distance on a slow possession. He had a few plays where he buried a catch-and-shot 3 on the break with a defender in his face and occasionally blew by his man to throw it down over a big. His motion shooting looked good against New York as Boston ran a few plays to have him cut off a screen from the corner to catch it and fire away.
But he didn’t do much more than that. He had a wide open pick up from Walsh against the Lakers and fumbled the catch. With the Celtics down three later that game, he grabbed a loose ball and threw a full-court pass out of bounds. Champagnie was decent as a floor-spacer who crashes the glass and cuts when there are openings, but he had trouble stepping out of the limited 3-and-D role. Justin Jackson was a similar player to last year’s team, but he showed a little more creativity on the ball and was a bit bigger. Champagnie can still make the list but may be in an uphill battle.
(Top photo of JD Davison: Brian Fluharty/USA Today)