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What We Learned: Celtics 93, Pistons 63

The following post was written by guest CelticsHub contributor Tom Westerholm

The Celtics needed one quarter to take a commanding lead against the Detroit Pistons’ Summer League team, Rasheed Wallace needed one half to yell “Ball don’t lie!” as an assistant coach, Colton Iverson had a rebound bounce of his head, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Courtney Fells both missed dunks that would have been VERY impressive if they had gone in, and Fab Melo took three and a half quarters to figure out that Summer League defenders are tall enough to contest him at the rim. Today’s 93-63 win over the Pistons was entertaining, if nothing else.

All eyes were once again on Kelly Olynyk, and while his numbers weren’t quite as impressive as they were in yesterday’s loss to Orlando, he continued to show range on his jumper, finishing 5-9 from the field and 1-2 from 3-point range.

 But in a 30-point blowout, lots of players contributed, so let’s get to the bullet points to give them the credit they are due.

  • Frankly, Detroit just doesn’t have a good Summer League team, especially when this year’s lottery selection Kentavious Caldwell-Pope goes 3-10 and Kim English (who played in 41 games for the Pistons last year) finishes 0-8. This was the kind of game that must frustrate scouts and Summer League coaches on both sides. It was a blowout, so one team was feeling confident and free to do whatever they wanted while the other team desperately tried to get the score back to a respectable, competitive margin. This is not exactly a conducive environment for talent evaluation. As such, remember that today’s results were not exactly indicative of anything substantial.

  • Easily the most confusing part of today’s game was Tony Mitchell, or rather, the Tony Mitchells. Boston’s version was 4-8 in 17 minutes. Detroit’s version was 3-9 with 10 rebounds. Much like Perry Jones III, Detroit’s Tony Mitchell LOOKS like a basketball player, but also much like Perry Jones III, it remains to be seen whether or not he can contribute.

  • There was a lot to like about Kelly Olynyk today, most notably his Kevin McHale-esque pump fake/step through/left-handed finish. But Tony Mitchell (the Detroit version) revealed a few reasons to be concerned about Olynyk. Mitchell, a strong and athletic forward who stands about 6’9″, bothered Olynyk near the perimeter with aggressive defense, and while Mitchell’s aggressiveness resulted in fouls on some occasions, he also gave Olynyk a preview of the kind of athleticism and intensity he will face during the regular season.

  • It should be noted, however, that Olynyk continues to show a nice passing touch. Not all of his passes immediately turned into assists (he finished with three), but he had a couple of hockey assists and one very nice big-to-big pass to Iverson that resulted in a foul.

  • Fab Melo’s soft finishes, discussed at length in yesterday’s recap, were a problem again today. Viacheslav Kravstov (yes, I absolutely did have to Google that name) could probably be charged with assault after crushing a two-handed poster on Melo as well as sending Melo’s feeble attempt at an answer back in his face. But to his credit (kind of), Fab did draw three charges.

  • Melo’s dunk attempt that got rejected robbed Phil Pressey of a very nice no-look assist. Pressey shot 5-9 and dished out four assists, outplaying ex-Louisville point guard Peyton Siva for much of the game.

  • Darius Johnson-Odom scored 22 points on 8-14 shooting which sounds pretty great until you realize that eight of those points came in the last 5:04, when the Celtics were already up by 30+. Still, it was a fairly efficient afternoon for Johnson-Odom, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a start tomorrow as some of the more known quantities begin to lose minutes.

  • Colton Iverson was 0-0 from the field and just 50% from the free throw line and I still liked his game. Iverson is willing to bang around underneath the hoop on both the offensive and defensive end, and he has the frame to become a very strong rebounder. If you (like me) complained at length about Boston’s rebounding last season, then you (like me) should be interested in Iverson’s future in Boston.

  • You may recall Tim Abromaitis, previously a forward at Notre Dame, was denied a sixth year of eligibility in 2011 by the NCAA in a controversial ruling after he tore his ACL. Abromaitis, coming off the Celtics bench for the second consecutive game, finished 3-5 from the field and 1-3 from 3-point range, but more importantly, he elevated in transition and threw down a two-handed dunk. Whether or not Abromaitis makes a training camp roster (and it’s probably likely that he won’t), it’s definitely good to see that he’s able get that high again.

The Celtics take the court against the Pacers tomorrow at 11 a.m. on the third day of Orlando Summer League, which is to say that if you thought today’s game was uneven and a little sloppy, you haven’t seen anything yet. I expect to see more missed dunks than I know what to do with.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA

  • hax

    Watched this game. Right now I'm liking Olynyk, Pressey, Odom to make our team(which means room has to be made on our roster). Melo & Iverson seem so slow and clunky. 7 footer getting blocked on an open dunk(melo), having a ball bounce off his head(iverson). You don't see these things in the NBA that often with starting centers.

  • Thanks Tom. Missed the game while at work and appreciate the recap. Very excited for both Olynyk & Pressey. I'd really love to see the latter make the squad as a 3rd stringer. Love his aggression and just seems to have "it" when it comes to the court vision needed to play PG in the NBA.

  • Phil

    In defense of the Pistons Summer League team, their best guy (Drummond,) didn't play. He was a man against boys in their first game, and I have to think him going against Melo is worth about a 45 point difference on the scoreboard.

    As far as what little the game tells us, I'm kind of encouraged that today mimicked yesterday. I'd like to see Pressey and Mitchell get camp invites, and I think Olynyk is showing everything you want to see from him in Summer League. Him sucking would be a lot bigger of a red flag than him playing well is a green flag, but it's encouraging seeing him stand out against fringe NBAers.

    Aside from those things, the Cs Summer League team is pretty fun to watch. They have guys capable of passing (Summer League standards,) and knocking down 3s, and there's a lot of athleticism there. If Oladipo didn't go off from 3 yesterday, they'd be at the top of the standings. C'mon guys, rally for the Summer League championship! …We have to get all of our rooting for wins out in the next couple of days I guess…

    • BeanMan

      A lot of good guys post here, but you're undeniably among the best. I look forward to more analysis from you, Phil! Glad I found this place…

      • Phil

        Heh, thanks. I really like the forum here too. Hopefully I don't get too annoying 😛

  • JStokes1313

    Like olynyk's efficiency. I'm absolutely terrified of what happens when he's guarded/guarding actual nba athletes, but for now his absolute worst case scenario seems like a more versatile Steve Novak, and that's just right now.
    Interested to see if Pressey makes the team, has some good talent, wouldn't mind having him around to see if he can develop.
    Fab just confuses me, he always seems to have a good idea, but it always takes him a full second or two to fully realize it. I just don't know if that's ever going to change.

  • check12check

    first of all, does anyone have a youtube clip of the botched dunk/ball off the head rebound? that sounds CLASSIC. I really need to see that gem.

    Second of all, @ detroit, Sheed? really? What, because Rodman is busy chillin' with his boy kim jong un?

    Third, I'm glad to hear that our bigs were more legitimately challenged today. I'm even more glad to hear that Olynyk responded well to that increase in intensity. Since he is emerging as a summer-league star (which is kind of like saying I drive my carolla really fast so I'm ready for nascar), he is going to be targeted by defense and he is showing that he can deal with that. Can we just admit that Melo is not such a fab basketball player? If summer league bigs are giving him trouble, he has no chance of surviving in the NBA

    I just had a frightening revelation: how far back on our depth chart is KO? I like what i see from him, but is going to be like our third option on offense(after rondo(assuming he returns in green) and Green)? this seems a lot to ask from a mid first round pick.

    • Phil

      The Cs don't have a center right now, so it's entirely possible that they start the year with the Sully/Olynyk front court. It may make some sense to sign a vet minimum big like Jason Collins to save some wear and tear, but I'm not sure if they want to use a roster spot like that. It probably couldn't hurt to have at least one older voice to help with development. I don't really trust Gerald Wallace for that.

      I think it's pretty obvious that the Cs are gonna let the young guys sink or swim this year though, with either outcome being just fine. That includes Olynyk as a top offensive option. I think he's gonna get a lot of practice fast with getting his shot off against big and athletic guys.

      • hax

        Sully has to get through Bass, Humphries, and Randolph for playing time!

        • Phil

          The only obstacle to Sully's playing time is his back. Not only does he have the brightest future among all of those guys, he's probably the best right now.

          His back could be an issue though, I really hope it's not because he was a lot of fun to watch last year, but he fell to the Cs for a reason.

          • hax

            I like the idea of Olynyk & Bass stretching the floor. Rondo just has to blow by his defender and lay it in. They give help, he kicks it out for an open jumper. Simple, but hey, the Heat have 3 straight finals appearances with that offense.

      • check12check

        I think sully/olynyk would really struggle with athletic/tall frontlines. Sully is a marvel when it comes to using his body, but he's just a bit undersized. Olynyk, though not a slouch, doesn't seem to have quite the nose for the ball that sully does. I think a brute down low could make things hard for him. plus, neither of these guys can jump over the ace of spades. Don't get me wrong, I really like both of these players, but I think in tandem they would create problems. Another thing that just came to mind actually: neither of them is a very good defender. We can't just throw the KG bandaid on anymore either, so someone out of our group of bigs needs to round into a viable defender

        • Phil

          I highly doubt the defensive answer in the front court is on the team right now. Olynyk needs to add strength to even hope of guarding the 5/anyone inside, but I don't think that's a reason for concern two days into his pro career. He'll get bigger. I doubt he's ever a plus, but it's not bad as long as he's not terrible.

          Sully's a very good rebounder, and Olynyk's no Bargnani, so I wouldn't worry about that aspect. They need a lot of help on the defensive end, but if you paired them with Bradley and a couple defensive wings, maybe not terrible. For the record, I don't like anyone else on the roster as defensive wings either, so we're probably in for a long season defensively.

          I think they would work very well on the other end of the ball. Olynyk is gonna drag one big away from the basket, and Sully should get a lot of offensive rebounds because of it. The spacing should be excellent too if Sully can keep hitting from 18 feet. That's a lot of room for the guards to work.

          They're both 4s in my mind, so it would ideally be a bench pairing that gives your team an offensive boost… but there's very little ideal about next season. There's no way the Cs go into the year with Olynyk as the starting center though, right?

          • check12check

            that's the thing though, with our team – at least as currently constructed – do you see an option at the starting 5 other than KO?

            I'm actually ok with him playing some 5 though. he will move the oppositions biggest defender WAY away from the hoop which is a plus. of course, this is predicated on the idea that he is able to defend a center meaningfully in single coverage which has yet to be tested.

            completely agree about our wings. we are going to realize how much we miss pierce REALLY quickly next season. He and KG did just about everything for this team last year. It's strange to think about a celtics team that will have defense as it's primary liability. I say primary because pretty much everything about this team is a liability. at least we can enjoy some jeff green highlight dunks and get ready for the ping-pong balls

          • JStokes1313

            The centers right now are Olynyk, Melo, and Iverson. Bass has played some smallball 5, and Sully I imagine could do so as well, but that's it, barring another move. Of those guys, I'd rather give Olynyk the most run (Sully's back makes me nervous, I'd rather limit him to about 20 mpg this year and not have him bang so much), so putting him as the starting 5 might be the best bet even if that's not a long term plan. There's a huge glut at the 4 right now, and putting him there would just complicate things. I'd also like him to learn how to defend in the post at least a little bit – he's gotta learn sometime in order to stay on the floor, might as well have him try and learn now. Doesn't have to become an anchor in the post, I just don't want him getting beat on every single P+R and spin move by D-leaguers.

  • jpbl1976

    Can the Celtics sign Stiemsma on the cheap now that he's been released? Isn't he a better player than Iverson at this stage?

    • Phil

      The minimum for Stiemsma is a little over a million dollars a year, Iverson makes something like 200k for the next three or four. The difference in what they give you on the court isn't worth 800k.

      • jpbl1976

        What is your take on Gerald Wallace, other than as an expiring to package down the line? Can he be rehabilitated? He isn't all that old (31?) and he didn't play much his first few seasons with the Kings.

        Of course, if you're on the pseudo-Tanking/rebuilding train, then you don't want Wallace or Rondo to play well enough that the Celtics wind up on the back-end of the lottery or sneak in as an 8th seed…

        • Phil

          It's… not good. I'm biased against wings who can't shoot since I think they cripple spacing to the point that you're playing from a deficit from the start, but he's also an energy and athleticism guy whose energy and athleticism fell off the cliff about 18 months ago. Those guys are notorious for just losing it immediately around 30. I'm not sure how he is off the court (which is the more important part if we're talking about team wide development,) but I know he's respected as one of the tougher guys in the league. Hopefully that rubs off on some guys like Sully and Olynyk while he's here, but I've never heard anything about him being a big clubhouse leader.

          Your second point is the key one though; his performance isn't overly critical to this team over the length of his contract, his cap number is. I assume moving him would be one of the team's priorities in any Rondo deal (he can't be traded until sometime in December I think,) and the team would probably like to move him at some point next year at the latest to try and get some cap flexibility in 2015-16. I think it's him, Green and Lee on the cap for that year right now, plus Rondo's next contract/cap hold/whatever.

          It's probably a bigger deal for Wyc and his guys to pay 30m for a player who probably won't help you, but it's a lot easier to improve and find players for the future if you can clear his salary/roster space.

        • JStokes1313

          I could buy into the theory that, since he thrives primarily on energy, having him give 10-15 mpg on short burst will make him more effective than having him start for 30+. But he's entering a different phase of his physical career, and he's just not able to go off of energy alone anymore. Without a 3 point shot or more bulk to help muscle around quicker guys, I just don't see him being an effective player anymore.

  • BeanMan

    Marginal analysis is EXACTLY what fans need more of these days, Phil! Hopefully Ainge and Stevens are thinking along the same lines…