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Phil Pressey’s Offensive Game Key For Roster Spot

The floater by design is an incredibly difficult shot to block.

The point of the floater is to quickly get the ball above the point where a longer, more athletic defender can knock it away. It’s a sneak attack, a way to compensate for a lack of size or (in my case, playing at the local YMCA) a lack of athleticism.

For Phil Pressey, athleticism is far from the problem. He’s listed a little generously at 5’11, but he can dunk with relative ease, and he’s blindingly quick — a trait which allows him to get just about wherever he wants to go on the floor (asked about the competition at Summer League, Pressey said “I’m getting to my spots a lot easier and quicker. I was like ‘Wow.’”). It also gives him a competitive advantage defensively. It’s difficult to dribble when a shorter player is pressuring you, beating you to every spot you want to reach.

Offensively, Pressey is a talented ball-handler (as evidenced by his nasty, nasty crossover against Shabazz Napier on Saturday that had the ex-UConn star spinning entirely around) and an equally talented passer (as evidenced by his impressive assist-to-turnover ratio).

As a scorer, however, Pressey struggled badly last season. He shot 30 percent from the floor and 26 percent from 3-point range. At his size, he needs to be all-around excellent on the offensive end to have a long career in the NBA.

This is where the floater — a shot he didn’t have last year — comes in.

“I’ve been working on that every single day,” Pressey said on Monday. “I can get it 80 to 90 percent of the time. If I can master that, it’s going to open up my passing.”

His work is showing. In the fourth quarter of Monday’s game against Indiana, Pressey weaved through a screen, ducked passed a defender and tossed a high-arcing floater over Willie Reed — Indiana’s big man who had been wrecking havoc on the Celtics since the second quarter. Green was helpless trying to block the shot, and it kissed off the glass and in.

It was a jarringly confident play in a game that saw the Celtics looking tentative to attack Reed, who finished with four blocked shots and many, many more uncounted altered shots. At one point, Chris Johnson — not unused to NBA length — found himself under the basket with a clean look. But the threat of Willie Reed forced him to pump fake, then pump fake again, then miss a layup off the front rim.

Pressey’s offense, along with the rest of the Celtics’ offense, stalled in the second and third quarters, but he looked notably better in the fourth.

“You have to be confident (as a shooter),” Pressey said. “If you don’t have confidence in yourself, who is going to have confidence in you? Stay confident in yourself, continue to believe in yourself, and you’ll be alright.”

Pressey needs the most confidence as a jumpshooter. He hasn’t been particularly efficient overall, 5-for-12 against the Pacers yesterday, but he has been stepping into jumpers with rhythm. A mid-range jumper would be a big addition to his floater, given the pick-and-roll opportunities his quickness affords him.

“You want five threats on the floor at all times,” Summer League head coach Jay Larranaga said. “I have a lot of confidence Phil will continue to grow as an offensive player looking for his own shot, but he’s a very unselfish player. It’s hard for guys who have been passers their whole life to get in the lane and think ‘shot.’”

Pressey doesn’t have a guaranteed roster spot, and this summer looks especially uncertain for the Celtics. Rondo’s future remains cloudy. Smart has shown flashes off the ball, but he remains most effective as a point guard in the pick-and-roll. Boston has been linked to Isaiah Thomas and Lance Stephenson (another ball handler). Having another point guard might be redundant.

But the Celtics’ organization loves Pressey, and it’s easy to see why. The point guard works extremely hard (by all accounts, he’s in the gym every single day working on his jumper and his floater), he doesn’t make a stink about playing time or the team’s success, and he’s already trying to work with Boston’s rookies to improve them.

“I tell (Marcus Smart) to keep shooting,” Pressey said after yesterday’s game in which Smart went 3-for-15, 1-for-5 from 3-point range. “Guys miss shots all the time in Summer League and go into the regular season and catch fire. That’s what Summer League is for. It’s for you to work on your game and try some things out. I’d rather he goes 2-for-20 than 0-for-2 or 0-for-3 right now.”

As for himself, Pressey doesn’t seem concerned about his roster spot. That might be justified: The Celtics owe him a minuscule amount of cap space next season, and bringing a third point guard off the bench who makes plays happen for his teammates and doesn’t turn the ball over is an attractive option, especially when that point guard is great in the locker room.

Even better: If the jumper and the floater come around, the Celtics will look like geniuses.

“When I was young, I was the best player on the court,” Pressey said. “I never really took a backseat to anybody. Now, I’m just trying to go out there and prove myself. You just have to keep working. If you feel confident, you’ll bring it to the game.”

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

  • hax

    1) I’m just glad Napier isn’t dead after that crossover. I mean, wow, that was devastating.

    2) We have 15 on the roster currently. Odds are still good that Pressey can make the roster, but his minutes might be non-existent with Rondo and Smart.

  • Joe

    Ok I need some opinions, but I’ll state mine first

    First and foremost. Rajon Rondo is the man. He has (for the most part) shown he can shoot the ball much better then previous seasons and better then his is given credit for.
    I also like Marcus smart. I think he will develop and be a beast. I love his mindset and competitive edge. I like Avery Bradley, but hate that he dribbles worse then Perkins. I think pressey has shown great work ethic, skill, and ability when given a chance.

    That being said, if somehow Danny can trick Lance into coming to Boston and the numbers work, who do we give up. I lean towards AB because he is undersized and does have some difficulty with strong physical taller 2guards. He can not play the point and takes a lot of mid range pull ups. That being said, he is a pretty solid shooter and he locks up 94 ft.

    Just curious for opinions. Disagree or agree. I don’t care. Just curious.

    And on a final note. Let’s bring perk back so we can show the nba how to realy utilize the big man.

    • dasein

      I think what the Pacers would want might have something to do with it. :)

      Would you rather have AB for 8M or Lance for 9M? On talent, Lance all day but giving a crazy man a 4 year deal that big is not without risk. Are we confident that choir boy Brad could handle his leash without The Legend around to back him up? Not sure I am.

      On the other hand, if Love goes to GS or wherever, and we’re looking at goodbye to Rondo anyway, then there might not be a better return out there than a S&T’d Born Ready.

      In other news, the fact that Phil Pressey gets his own post here shows just how far this team is from being relevant.

  • hax

    Hornets offer 4 year max to Hayward…$15.75 million/year. Jazz expected to match.

    Another piece of our dynasty down the drain.