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What we’ve seen: Phil Pressey

 

After three days of Summer League, I think we can pretty definitively say that Kelly Olynyk is going to make the roster. Whether or not he becomes Dirk 2.0 is absolutely assured remains to be seen, but Olynyk has been extremely impressive. Here are some clips to prove it.

Ah, sorry, those are the clips of Michael Jordan that League Pass and NBA TV helpfully inserted into the middle of its coverage of Boston/Indiana earlier yesterday afternoon when they apparently experienced some technical difficulties. Anywho, Olynyk was awesome, apparently.

Less certain to make the roster but still intriguing, point guard Phil Pressey from Missouri has shown a lot of good things in Orlando as well. Pressey (not unlike Olynyk) has physical limitations, but so far, he has shown a nice understanding of the NBA game and creative ways to counteract his limitations.

To be clear, unless a Summer League player was a first-round pick, nearly every participant on every roster is competing for a bench role. Sure, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Olynyk might be starting this year, but for everyone else, a 10-15 minute outing on most nights is as much as they can reasonably strive for.

Pressey finds himself in a good situation to make the training camp roster for a Celtics team that is 1) very much in flux and 2) very much in need of a back-up point guard. He has shown flashes in three games at Summer League, but to advance to the regular season, Pressey will need to show a few things.

1. Skill and knowledge running a pick-and-roll

Check, check and check. This is hands down the most encouraging part of Pressey’s game. He is an excellent ball-handler, he reads the defense like a big-letter novel, and he has a flair for the dramatic. In the first still-frame above, he does something most coaches frown upon: jumping on a pass. But in this case, what usually is a bad decision does two things for Pressey. First, as noted above, it draws Plumlee away from the basket and Fab Melo, which allows the lumbering center to roll to the hoop and score. Second, it allows Pressey a better angle to see the play unfold. Let’s face it: 5’11 is really short among NBA players. Sometimes it helps just to see a little bit better.

One of the concerns for Pressey coming out of college was whether or not he could score at the NBA level. In three games so far, Pressey has shot 12-23 from the floor and 3-7 from 3-point range. These are not awe-inspiring numbers by any means, but he clearly has some shooting touch and he has shown a variety of shots both from long-range, mid-range off pick-and-roll plays and floaters around the rim. If he can continue to improve his offensive game, Pressey’s passing and ball-handling should make him a serviceable point guard on offense.

2. The ability to hold his own defensively

Several scouting reports around the internet discussed how much Pressey would struggle defensively in the NBA, but most of them bemoaned how badly he would be abused by the likes of Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams. This is, of course, probably true, but the good news is that in 15 minutes off the bench, Pressey could easily avoid those defensive assignments (and, as always in these arguments, the question becomes “Who realistically DOESN’T get abused by those guys?”). If he can avoid match-ups against the bigger, more physical point guards as well as hyper-talented guards like Kyrie Irving, Pressey’s quickness and awareness could very well help him make up for his height and length deficiencies. His speed won’t help him contest shots any better, but it can help him get up in his opponent’s space and prevent them from taking a comfortable shot.

In the clips above, Pressey’s speed allows him to play harassing pressure defense against Jonny Flynn and Donald Sloan, but perhaps most impressive is when he picks up Orlando Johnson. Johnson recognizes the mismatch quickly and begins to back Pressey down. Immediately, Pressey drops his legs back and uses his entire weight to keep Johnson as far away from the basket as he can manage.

This gives Johnson a couple of advantages. First, it allows him an even greater height advantage. Second, as anyone who has given up a strength advantage in the post can tell you, it gives Johnson a distinct speed advantage, since Pressey would have to adjust quickly and move his feet to stay in defensive position. This is nearly impossible to do, no matter how quick your foot speed, so Pressey does the only thing really left to him.

He pokes the ball away.

Johnson forgot something.

Pressey might never earn an All-Defense nomination, but so far at Summer League, he has shown the ability to poke and prod defensively, and frankly, it would be damn annoying to play against him. As it should be.

3. Playing in transition

If a point guard hangs his hat on speed, ball-handling and passing ability, his transition game should be strong, and Pressey’s appears to be. This is perhaps the best venue for Pressey’s dramatic flare to shine through. Notice in the second clip how quickly Pressey finds his man streaking down the court — so quickly, in fact, that the shot clock doesn’t even have time to reset before the ball is in the air — and how cleanly the ball leads Mitchell into the break.

It’s also well worth noting that the delayed transition play before shoveling the ball to a 3-point shooter is something we have seen from Rondo quite a bit. In the clip above, Pressey’s probing serves multiple purposes. First, it allows Pressey to make sure he doesn’t have a path to the basket himself. Second, it gives Eli Holman a chance to roll to the hoop, an option Pressey explores but decides against. Third, it allows the defense to collapse onto Holman, giving Mitchell the 3-pointer.

Again, Pressey has plenty of weaknesses, and they are important to recognize. His floater has looked inconsistent at times, which is a problem for a guard of his stature. He has taken a few more fading jumpers out of the pick-and-roll than most coaches would probably like to see. His height would certainly be an issue against most starting point guards, and it’s possible he will frequently find himself in foul trouble.

But for a back-up point guard spot on a rebuilding team, Pressey might be a solid low-risk, high-reward option, saving some cap space and allowing him the opportunity to prove himself on a bigger stage.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

  • hax

    I don't see how Pressey doesn't become our back-up PG at this point.

  • Person of Interset

    What about Nolan Smith. I think he will get a camp invite after the injury.

  • Phil

    Good breakdown. I assume Pressey's guaranteed a camp invite at this place, and given that the team was linked to him pre-draft and their need for a back up PG gives him a good chance to make the roster. I'm not sure how the roster spot crunch breaks down, but they'll figure something out. Pressey is too talented to let walk.

    I'd add one more thing to look at: Shooting. It's nearly impossible to be an effective guard in this league if you can't shoot. Just look at all the hand-wringing over Rondo's lack of a shot, and that's while being elite at everything else (including size.) The list of undersized PGs who aren't knock down shooters is pretty short. A couple games of shooting isn't gonna prove anything obviously, but training camp should. He needs to knock down 3s off the catch and off the dribble on high screens if he's going to be truly valuable.

    • check12check

      without effective shooting it is nearly impossible to play ANY position in today's NBA. Centers and down-low style 4s can get by without a jumper (though down-low 4s are pretty much extinct in today's league), but basically it boils down to this: PGs and PFs need to be able to hit at least a 15-16 footer with some consistency and SGs and SFs should be able to hit 3s. the league is so predicated on spacing right now that you need to have EXCEPTIONAL skills outside of shooting if you have any hope of escaping this rule.

      • Phil

        Agreed. I think it's most critical for wings, but this is the golden age of spacing. Just look at how Wade killed the Heat in the finals. That's an All-NBA guy who made the Heat markedly worse by subbing in for a creaky Mike Miller who will rightly be amnestied soon. He wasn't hurt, his lack of shot hurt. If a guy like Wade is doing that, maybe people shouldn't be handing out 4 year/40m dollar deals to Gerald Wallace >_> Pertaining to the Celtics, one big encouraging thing last year was Green's shot from the corner, while Bradley's lack of progress from 3 was a big concern. Your offense gets exponentially worse for every guy who can't shoot.

        For Pressey though, I think it goes beyond having a good shot, that's a given. I think he needs to be a legitimate shooting threat to stick in the league. Guys can learn to shoot, so I wouldn't give up on him now, but to me, that's the real question for his future. He needs the other stuff to prove that he's worth waiting for on the shot question.

        • check12check

          pretty much agree all around. I'm excited to see what Green can do this season. his accession last year can really only be described as meteoric. I was one of the biggest nay-sayers early in the season. He just looked Griffin-esque to me. highlight dunks and nothing more. he started to put together a complete(ish) game, and the corner 3 was a big part of that. Bradley was a bit of a mystery. the previous season, his shot looked like it was about to become a major weapon. I guess you can attribute last seasons struggles to not having enough time to practice ranged shooting after he came back, but regardless he just did not have it. On a similar note, Lee couldn't throw the ball into the ocean last season, and he has shown to be a pretty darn good shooter in the past. I like what Lee can bring to this team, and just like the guy in general for some reason. I really hope he can round back into form this season.

          good seeing you back on the hub by the way. your insight was missed while you were gone.

          • Phil

            Thanks :) I'm still holding judgement on Green personally. I thought he showed some signs of improvement last year (3pt shooting being the biggest, but I'd still like to see it for more than a year, and preferably more than just as a spot up option from the corner.) His handle is his biggest physical weakness to me. It's hard to be an iso/post up threat if you can't dribble through traffic. The mental stuff is scarier though. You can't have a big money guy who checks out if he misses his first two shots.

            A big part of me is scared that he'll play just well enough to earn an Iguodala on Philly-esque contract that's just big enough that you can't fit any real pieces around him. I think his most likely successful fate is as a super sub on a championship team. He could come in and dominate the ball for a while each half, and if he has it going, it's a huge boon to your team. You can't pay him more than 9m to do that though, and that didn't work very well last year either. He's getting awfully up there in years/experience to be adding major elements to his game. And the mental stuff is a big if to ever change.

  • w2.

    Bring in Pressey!

  • w2.

    So:

    RR/Pressey
    AB/Lee
    Jeff/Crash
    KO/Bass
    Sully/Colt

    Could be worse.

    • dsf

      whose crash?

      • hax

        Gerald Wallace

    • hax

      RR-Brooks-Pressey
      AB-Brooks-Lee
      Green-Wallace-Bogans
      Olynyk-Bass-Humphries-Sullinger-Randolph
      Olynyk-Faverani-Randolph

      Don't think Iverson or Melo are making this roster.

      • Phil

        I'm as down on Melo as anyone, and I'll be shocked if he ever plays a meaningful role in the NBA, but he's not getting cut a year after being drafted as a massive project in favor of a 29 year old journeyman who's only going to add wins when the team doesn't want to win. Even just to save face, the front office wouldn't cut Melo now. Melo, Iverson and Crawford (someone else you left off,) are some of the cheapest options to fill out the roster. That matters a lot during a rebuild.

        I'd be shocked if the Cs didn't make a move at some point to open up a roster space or two though, whether it's buying out someone like Bogans (I don't know the details of his contract aside from the LOLfactor, but I assume the peripheral terms are favorable for the Cs,) or packaging a few players and getting back similar flotsam and clearing a spot. There are potentially bigger trades as well.

        • hax

          Yeah forgot Crawford too! I still believe with good coaching he can be a Jamal Crawford-esque 6th man. I figure D-League for Melo & Iverson & Joseph. :o Whose spot can they take on that list if Danny doesn't dump a trade?

      • Vincent

        Melo's making the team for a few reasons:
        1. They won't admit a mistake this early
        2. He's cheap
        3. He stinks and will help improve our draft position
        4. Most important, he really stinks and if he plays 25 mins a night, we're a lock for a top 3 pick

        • check12check

          I don't want to agree with you, but you're probably right. I have read a couple articles where the management of the Celtics were saying how they were really impressed with the improvement that Melo has shown in the summer league. Either they aren't sure which player is Fab Melo, or they just want to put that narrative out there so they can put him on next year's roster. there is a foolish, naive part of me that still wants to imagine he can put it all together, but I know better when it comes down to it.

          • Phil

            People's expectations for Fab are way too high. The average return on a 22nd pick isn't even a rotation player. Just because he's a first rounder doesn't mean he should be destined for greatness. I think he got compared to good players too much right after he got drafted or something (plus the unknown is sexier mentality,) but there's very little reason to expect him to amount to anything other than an eventual headline of 'Celtics decline qualifying offer for former first round pick.' And that's fine. No one hits every pick.

            If you have two picks in the 20s and you hit one, you call that a win. I feel pretty good about Sully. And hey, at least Melo is more entertaining than guys like JJJ.

  • bringinklove

    You're ignorant if you think Fab is going play more than 20 minutes this whole season. 25 mins a night? I guess you think the Rape Snake has a chance at a title this year, too. Ughh. dummies.

    • Phil

      So… why wouldn't a guy who stinks now and needs playing time to have a chance at developing not play for a team that wants to lose a lot of games? No one's saying he gives the Cs the best chance to win, it's quite the opposite.

    • JStokes1313

      Melo will his share of minutes simply by the fact that few people on the roster can play center, and the team will use any excuse to be marginal this year.

  • check12check

    sorta on topic, a report on ESPN's celtics blog says that we may be getting kris joseph back from brooklyn. any thoughts on this?

  • Lee Kania

    I believe they struck gold with Pressey. I've been watching him carefully over the last 4 Summer league games and believe he could be a positive addition as backup PG and even starter if Rondo not ready to go. He's very fast and sets a great pace, along with being a ball hawk. I can see him and AB putting tremendous pressure on the ball carriers. I don't think he will ever be a major scorer but he won't be the pits either. I don't like PG's that have a shoot first mentality. A Rondo, Pressey combo would be great. He will also be a cheap solution to the backup PG. That might be the best thing of all.

  • Brandon

    As a life long Mizzou and Celtics fan, I'm saying bringing in Pressey is a mistake….great practice player, really good in games that don't count, if you really need an ill advised shot, or a turnover/bad decision at the worst possible time, Pressey is your guy.

    • Bill

      I could not disagree with you more. In his first 2 seasons at Mizzou watching every game I failed to see him take anything ill advised. His junior year, he took way to much on himself and did have trouble trying to score at the end of games. His alterative was to try and feed someone else that had more trouble than he not only scoring but simply hanging onto the ball. I think I heard Danny Ainge say that Phil could have had another 100 plus assists and 2 fewer turnovers per game had his inside player been able to catch balls that bounced off their heads and made catches inside the paint and converted them to baskets. You want to see a blooper reel, watch all the balls either fumbled away or hitting people in the face from last years Missouri team

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