Water Rising and Maximum Strus-Drive

One feather Danny Ainge certainly can put under his cap throughout all the turmoil of these last twelve or so months, he’s excelled at finding diamonds in the rough. All through Summer League I watched cast-offs soar above expectations and make me wonder how they flew so below everyone else’s radar?

You may think I’m speaking from hyperbole, but I am not. Tremont Waters is a real steal for where the C’s snagged him late in the 2nd round. I know Carsen Edwards collected the most style points in Summer League, but Waters feel for the game is unmatched between the two. Excelling at scoring off the dribble, Waters made a living leading LSU to a 28-7 mark. Breaking the record for total assists for a freshman at LSU (198) previously held by Ben Simmons. Waters is extremely crafty and doesn’t let his diminutive 5’9 stature stop him. In fact, there’s an argument to be made he can cut the mustard on the defensive side to go along with his mechanics on offense. Waters alertness is goes fairly unsung. His uncanny ability to invade the passing lanes shouldn’t be ignored. Waters concluded his 2019 Summer League run leading the team in minutes per game as well as averaging 11.2 points, a team high 4.8 assists, and 2.0 steals

The Celtics next two-way contract player is DePaul product Max Strus. Where Waters exceeds at getting to the basket, Strus doesn’t possess a quick first step and relies on his jump shot for production. At times Strus looks prolific. Moving extremely well off the ball he can get to his spots on the floor. Strus is a relatively solid defender and above-average rebounder, nearing 6 per game at DePaul. What Strus will need to work on during his frequent stints in the G-League is his sometimes spotty shot selection, and his history of foot injuries leaves doubt he’ll hold his own on defense for very long.

I still think Strus can carve himself a niche role on this Celtics team running off screens set by Grant Williams on the third unit. Given mediocre teams during his collegiate career Strus earned the reputation as being somewhat of a bad team player. However, this potentially is overblown and means very little.

Strus’ name wasn’t called on draft night and the Celtics picked him up soon after in time for SL. He averaged 9.8 points per game and shot 45 percent from three for the Celtics.

Fall vs Green vs Gates

Boston has an unspectacular battle brewing for the final roster spot. With the only two-way contracts already occupied by LSU’s Tremont Waters and DePaul’s Max Strus, the likes of 7-7 Tacko Fall, Summer League standout Javonte Green, and Kaiser Gates, formerly of the Windy City Bulls are dueling for the final spot on the roster.

To start, Fall is the most impressive player the Celtics have under their umbrella. At times Fall comes off as a diamond in the ruff. Guards attempted to take him head on one-on-one during Summer League and Fall held his own. His 8’6 wingspan is hell for opposing ball-handlers. On paper his measurements are not only impressive, but eye-popping. Unlike most lengthy players, Fall isn’t slender. At 300 pounds he is anything but overweight. Credit needs to be given to Fall for putting himself in the best shape. However, Fall relies far too much on his height to propel him. Rebounds come too easy and Fall needs to learn to pass out instead of pogo-sticking the ball back up in the air. His awareness could use quite a bit of polish. At times he is liable to draw blocking fouls.  

Fall concluded his 2019 Summer League run participating in all five games with the Celtics and averaging 7.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, and shooting a team-high 77 percent from the field. The biggest red flag for Fall is his career 43 percentage from the free throw line his four-years at UCF. Fall attempted just 6 free throws in his five games during Summer League making 2. But you can bet on NBA teams purposely fouling him to stifle any offensive momentum the Celtics might have.


Fall is a fan favorite here in Boston before even playing an actual game. The Celtics can use him in situational spots such as guarding the inbounds pass. Stevens could really use an ace up his sleeve with this roster. Perhaps that said ace is Fall.


Fellow Summer League standout Javonte Green is on the older side, turning 26 this past July. Unlike Fall, you know what you’re getting with Green. He’s a dependable downhill runner able to soar above the rim at a moments notice. Green’s defense is in doubt, but his speed helps him compensate. Leading EuroCup in 2018-19 in total steals with 38. Green shot a respectable 36 percent from three-point land on 2.4 attempts per game. However, we only seen Green play his role as a dunker during Summer League. It’s questionable how his skills from EuroCup translates to the pro game.

During his five game Summer League season Green averaged  10.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.8 steals. He is the most dependable, safe option for Boston for the final roster spot. He’d inspire the least amount of joy, nor would he draw vitriol from the fan base. But Green can play and with a ton of questions surrounding the Celtics backcourt outside of Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart, Green fills a need unlike Fall.

The final candidate is Xavier’s Kaiser Gates. Gates went undrafted in 2018 and spent last season with Chicago’s G League affiliate, the  Windy City Bulls. He averaged 12.7 points and 6.4 rebounds, making 37.5 percent of his 3-pointers on 7.3 attempts. Gates is a potential three-and-D guy off the bench. He is rather unspectacular. His lone season in the G-League didn’t inspire much confidence from me. Shooting a lowly 40 percent from the field. He did, however, notch a great 37 percentage from deep attempting over 7 a game. Rallying up 12 points and 6 rebounds, Gates potentially is a more defensive Gerald Green.

Celtics training camp starts October 1st.

Brad, Do Not Start Enes Kanter

Back in 2015 the Celtics got my hopes up by acquiring veteran center David Lee from the champion Warriors. Not too long ago Lee averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds and was an All-Star. Unfortunately, Lee’s best days were behind him. The landscape of the NBA was shaken by the success of small-ball thanks in large part to his usurper Draymond Green. Traditional back to the basket centers like Lee have fallen to the wayside as the game became more athletic and faster.

On opening night the plucky Celtics sent out Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Tyler Zeller and Lee to start. Lee would play 30 games, averaging over 15 minutes per game. Lee posted career lows as a Celtic in true shooting, p.e.r, and win shares per 48. A subplot of his time was how visibly the Celtics played better with Kelly Olynyk. Lee posts a negative net rating of an even 4. The much maligned Olynyk notched a respectable positive 6.8 net rating. Olynyk was far from a leaper. He’s a clumsy, 7 footer. But he could pass and shoot from three. Turns out, that’s all the Celtics needed to turn the season around after a sluggish start. Olynyk’s 40.5 3P% mark was 14th best in the entire league. If he started the entire year the 48-win Celtics possibly win more than 50. Of all the coulda woulda and shouldas that defined these last couple of years, starting Lee over Olynyk haunts me more than any other them.

Today, history seems to be once again on repeat with the acquisition of free agent Enes Kanter after Ainge decided Al Horford was to pricy to keep around for his advanced age. Its debatable if Ainge made the crucial harsh, but correct call not to pay Horford. While he’s the life force of the offense, Horford shown signs of slowing down last year and made it known throughout his career he doesn’t wish to play center. In Philadelphia Horford will get his wish. But the Sixers themselves are presented with a quandary. Is Horford worth having around if you can’t close games with him at the 5? While playing at power forward reserves his energy it drastically alters the spacing and their scoring.

While Horford’s departure signals the closing of the Celtics window of contention, there are avenues for them to return to such status. For now, talk should be how do they stifle the bleeding until then? The answer seems to be Daniel Theis. Solid, dependable, while not flashy or spectacular at any one thing he can defend well enough and shoot reasonably well from deep. An upside to starting Theis is potentially upping his shot attempts from downtown to something like 3.5 will warrant league average or slightly above results.

More than a year removed from an Achilles injury, Theis lost a significant step, but still is strong on his feet and isn’t easily pushed around. His stroke hasn’t suffered either. All and all, Theis was a solid plus-7.4 in net rating and the Celtics are at his mercy.

It would be a mistake to start Kanter opening night. He gave a valiant effort in the playoffs, but we have a large enough sample size to deem his contributions mostly empty calories. On some nights he’ll outright mimicking a turnstile and is bowled over at times despite his impressive stature. Kanter is a tough son of a gun and deserves all the credit for playing in the playoffs on a bad shoulder. His attitude is what I want in a player. His skill set… not so much.

Eventually Stevens will have to learn Kanter doesn’t solve their issues and there is no return to old fashioned basketball. Either take a flier on a leaper like Robert Williams, or start Theis. Whatever you do, don’t start Kanter. That all being said, Brad is starting Kanter.

Celtics Summer League Game 2 Notes

The Summer League Celtics continued to impress dominating the Cleveland Cavaliers, 89-72. From the opening tip the Celtics were the aggressors and never let their foot off the gas pedal. The tone setter was LSU guard Tremont Waters put on an absolute show to start dishing out a crazy between the legs pass to Chinanu Onuaku for a dunk and showing off his off the dribble step-back moves compensating for his 5 foot, 9 inch stature and acting as an absolute pest on defense.

Waters finished with 11 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals.


Tacko Fall continues to make his case he is deserving of a roster spot on the professional Celtics squad. The 7 foot, 7 inch  descendent from Dakar scored 12 points towering over his competition snagging only two rebounds but putting the ball back in the basket so effortlessly. I was taken aback by his right-block shimmy hook shot, surprisingly Falls has above-average touch around the rim. On defense Falls resembles the Berlin Wall. The Cavaliers tried posting him up and the guards tried to maneuver around him only to pass out.

I know it’s Summer League but Fall is incredibly fun to watch and more importantly resembles a real NBA player. Which is more than I can say for Guerschon Yabusele who made just one field goal in the contest. He deserves credit for playing through a dislocated pinky finger. You can’t say Yabusele does not want to make it. I am doubting he athletically can.


Carsen Edwards notched 14 points off of ten shots getting the most of his production from around the basket showcasing his supreme ability to finish around the basket. His dribbling is excellent and out of this draft class the Celtics have brought in Edwards looks the most ready for showtime.

Robert Williams played another solid game scoring 10 points and dribbling down the floor for a transition attempt. I honestly didn’t know he could dribble for this long. He ultimately failed to finish the possession, but yet another eye opener.



Lastly, Grant Williams began the night slow converting on just one of his four field goal. Williams has a real scorers mentality and is a plus-41 in his first two Summer League games. Williams effectively used his on a bigger player to force a shot clock violation.

Williams scores 5 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and a block.

Recapping Celtics Draft Night

Boston Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge sent all the signs to the public he is resigned to this era of competitive Celtics basketball coming to a premature, ugly close. For presumably a shellshocked organization in despair at their recent string of bad luck over the course of many months Ainge kicked off the rebuild in decent fashion.

Indiana University guard Romeo Langford fell in their laps at 14 and while I believed Kentucky’s Tyler Herro was all but assured a green and white jersey the Miami Heat beat Boston to the punch and snagged him. Langford was a five-star recruit leaving high school. Suffered a broken thumb and his shooting suffered. Shooting a miserable 28.9 percent from deep. But he is pretty lethal near the basket. Almost at James Harden levels. 60.4 percent on layup attempts. Langford has an act for getting to the free throw line. .491 free throw rate totally to 194 attempts, 7th in the Big 10 conference.

The Ringers’ Kevin O’Connor compares Langford to Larry Hughes. Now before you let your vague memory of Hughes being a sorry excuse for a running mate on LeBron’s ‘07 Cavaliers and the fact every team that ditched him (Philly, 2001; Cleveland, 2009; Chicago, 2009) all got better. Early 2000s Hughes served as Gilbert Arenas No. 2 and made an All-Defensive team in 2005. Langford turning into Hughes at 14 is so much better than Larry Hughes being Larry Hughes where he was taken (Over Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce).

Langford’s body is an impressive 6-6, 215 pound and 6’11 wingspan he possesses the knowhow to compete on defense and can rebound quite a bit. A lot’s been made about Langford’s shooting woes, keep in mind the Celtics have turned plenty of non-shooters into average offensive threat, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown come to mind.

Langford turns 20 days prior to the beginning of the 2019-20 season. This pick possibly symbolizes two things: the departure of noted saboteur Terry Rozier and the dashing of dreams anybody had of Ainge offering Brooklyn Nets starting guard D’Angelo Russell. Apparently the Celtics front office is prioritizing cap space they currently have $25 million but can see an extra $9 million if they simply let Rozier walk in restricted free agency to another teams qualifying offer.

What will Ainge do with that space? No clue. But it’ll take us all by surprise. *Hears Shams say Ainge is prioritizing Nikola Vucevic and Terry Rozier* Ah. Never mind.



WE HAVE A DEAL! That coward named Daniel finally grew the balls to make a deal.

Big Australian Dick Aron Baynes moves to Phoenix for the Milwaukee Bucks 2020 top-7 protected first they sent over for Eric Bledsoe nearly two-years ago. On the off chance Giannis is hit by a truck and the Bucks pick doesn’t convey it’s unprotected in 2021.

First off, I will miss Baynes. Great teammate. Wonderful complimentary player. Never afraid to get dunked on and be a viral meme. No matter how many times Joel Embiid “Son’d” Baynes in the 2018 playoffs he always got back up and played shutdown defense on the next Shaq. Baynes fit the mentality of Boston like a glove. We’ll miss him. On the bright side the Suns have bought out Baynes and he is free to sign with any contender he wants. See haters, Ainge does care about his players and doesn’t view them as cattle he’ll shuffle to the slaughter once they are no longer useful to him.


Next the Celtics selected at No. 24 Washington guard Matisse Thybulle, also known as Marcus Smart Jr… Oh – he’s been traded to Philly. Damn! All that time I spent pretending to know what I am talking about wasted!

Thybulle to the Sixers in desperate need of capital to re-sign Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler in less than two weeks, for pick 33 which became Purdue 6-1 guard Carsen Edwards. Edwards fails to meet six feet without shoes and managed to almost single-handedly knock off the eventual champion Virginia Cavaliers. Scoring 42, nailing 10 threes in a nail-bitter in the Elite 8.

All that is great but Edwards will need to work his game as a passer if he is survive in this league or else he risks becoming another college sensation, eventual professional flameout like Jimmer.

There is hope Edwards can develop as a defender despite his relatively puny stature. Sporting a 6’6 wingspan Edwards potentially can cut the mustard next to Marcus Smart.

One thing is for sure he’ll electrify Summer League and if that is a barometer for how he’ll do in the NBA he’ll be in China in about two-years.




Next is Big Daddy Grant Williams. Ah. I am quite fond of this man. I preferred him to his older teammate Admiral Schofield of Tennessee.

Fans of the “Thick, Jacked Frame” labels will love Williams. At 241 pounds Williams shows no hesitation inside and is willing to take the charge and draw contact. Averaging a block-and-a-half his three-years at Tennessee even if his 6’9.75 wingspan is underwhelming.

Williams averaged 6.4 free throw attempts during his three-seasons and shot 75.8 percent of his attempts. He’ll likely see the floor as a power forward as he is only 6-7 and too small to play small-ball five unless he is Draymond Green. Hmmmm…

Williams Age 20: 18.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.2 ast, 1.1 Spg, 1.5 bpg, 56.4 fg%
Draymond Age 20: 12.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 4.1 ast, 1.8 spg, 1.1 blk, 42.6 fg%


Hey. A guy can dream. Right?

Why Won’t Danny Pay Horford?

No matter what the talking heads say as the reason for the Celtics and Danny Ainge’s masterful rebuild falling apart in a short period of time the blame should be squarely be placed at the feet of the injury to Gordon Hayward. If Hayward merely sprains his ankle, misses a week, the Celtics won the 2018 championship and Ainge is given the treatment Raptors GM Masai Ujiri deservingly is receiving right now. Maybe Kyrie Irving leaves regardless because he’s a weirdo. But I can’t believe Al Horford would let an extra year get in the way of chasing a title in Boston.

I don’t care how disastrous this season has been. Even without Kyrie with Horford the Celtics are title contenders for 2019-20 depending on if Ainge can keep the five-time All-Star entering his age 33 season. If Horford allows Danny to sign him to a contract which gives the front office wiggle room to make tweaks here and there. Yet, Horford also wants a four-year deal and to play for a championship contender. Boston can give him one of those things; it isn’t the extra year.

If ever there’s a player whose leaving would make me borderline suicidal it’s Horford.

Maybe there’s a chance he ends up back at the bargaining table with Boston in a week or two if the free agent market isn’t as fruitful as Horford believes. Whatever Horford left on the table in Boston it certainly will be there on the Fourth of July if he’s still unsigned.

I struggle to understand Horford wanting to leave. The main culprit for last year’s disaster will either be a Net, Knick, Laker or taking a sabbatical to work on his cosmetic energies. They’ll be a happier work environment and the conference likely will be weaker if free agents Kawhi Leonard and Khris Middleton bolt from the conference. Horford owns Joel Embiid and the reason Sixer fans are contaminating social media with their rancid attempts at comedy as they gleefully celebrate the demolition of their enemy is deep down they know Embiid never could conquer Horford.

In the west Horford will have to fight against Jusurf Nurkic, DeAndre Ayton, Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, Clint Capela and Rudy Gobert. By the time the postseason rolls around his body will have been beaten to a pulp. If a team already had a godfather offer ready for June 30 then by all means, do what’s best for yourself. Players need to look out for themselves because certainly owners and general managers won’t. But if the gulf between Horford and Boston turns out to be just a couple million and an extra year, then both sides really need to take a breather and think about what it is they are really gaining by separating.

Boston potentially is looking at $33,572,861 in cap space to spend if Horford leaves and Ainge trades out of this draft; the Celtics have three firsts this year and the 51st pick. What-if Horford calls Ainge and asks for $82.5 for four-years. The year-by-year layout goes:

Year 1: $25,000,000
Year 2: $15,000,000
Year 3: $25,000,000
Year 4: $15,000,000

This allows Boston to preserve some flexibility for next summer when it comes time to sign Jaylen Brown when his rookie contract is up. We won’t have to worry about keeping Jayson Tatum the next year because Gordon Hayward will have become a free agent after 2021. There’s no way he won’t exercise his $34.1 million player-option – even if he does it’s a positive for Boston.

Anyways. So signing Big Al to $25 leaves Boston $9.4 to fill out four roster spots. If they keep pick 14 they’ll have $6.9 to fill in three-spots. If they sign all three to the maximum they can be paid the Celtics will have to work with their minimum to fill in one roster spot and will be $7,711,507 over the cap, but a non-taxpayer team.

Keep in mind there’s a chance Horford is eyeing a larger dollar figure. Quite frankly, I don’t know if it’s smart for Ainge to meet Horford there if it handcuffs him from building around The Jays in the future – let alone this crucial season, which the main goal should be shove up everyone’s ass.

 

If a team does offer Horford $110 million for four seasons then perhaps it’s best for Ainge to move away from the table and accept fate dealt him bad  hands ever since the Isaiah Thomas trade 22-months ago. It’s not all bad. The Celtics will still have the pick they are owed from Memphis; top-6 protected for 2020, unprotected in ‘21. The Grizzlies recently traded Mike Conley to the Jazz and are going full rebuild. Maybe that pick is your golden ticket back to competing for rings… or maybe the Grizzlies fuck you like the Sacrmento Kings did and inexplicably have a decent (by their standards) season and you’re picking outside of the top-10 like this year.

 

Letting go of Horford and closing the title window on this era of Celtics basketball does provide the shrewd GM with many avenues to rebuild. Maybe the best decisions we make are the hardest ones?

Nassir Little and the Celtics

Nassir Little – 18.2 minutes –  9.8 points – 4.6 rebounds – 0.7 assists – 47.8 FG% – 26.9 3PT% – 2.8 FTA – 77 FT% – 0.5 steals – 0.5 blocks

Born: February 11, 2000
Position: Forward
Class: Freshman
Height: 6′ 7″
Wingspan: 7′ 2″
Weight: 220 lbs



Prior to playing even a second for North Carolina 6’7 forward Nassir Little was projected as a no-brainer lottery pick. His strong body and long arms make him the prototypical 3-and-D wing for the modern NBA. Scouts knew beforehand how challenged Little is shooting the ball. His calling card on offense is his ability to translate his frame to become nearly unstoppable in transition. Ranking in the 71st percentile scoring 1.143 points per possession. Little and can use his body to compensate for his lack of shooting up until a certain point. Which is why he’s played below 20-minutes for Roy Williams.

Little needs work developing his BBIQ. Sometimes Williams would challenge Little to defend a decision he made and he couldn’t. You can make the case the college game was too advanced for Little. Except that doesn’t dissuade anxieties of him fitting into an even more complex professional league. Being physically gifted Little didn’t need to cram about opposing players or the coaches schemes. If he wanted the ball from you he’d just take it.

During the 2015 NBA Finals the shorthanded Cavaliers lead the favored Warriors 2 games to 1. ESPN contributed Amin Elhassen recalled when he saw a meme simply saying “Effort > Efficiency.” As if efficiency is lackadaisical and doesn’t command any labor to maintain it. Little’s efficiency in high school was his effort.

Little’s woes on offense are hard to paint as the fault of the talent around him. Point guard Coby White is projected to be taken inside the top-10 and by all accounts flourished as a scoring and facilitator.

Despite rumored disagreements between Little and Williams the five-star recruit never earned the label as “uncoachable.” He’s a hard worker and asks questions. As Williams put it “That’s going to be his saving grace,”

Little is a mixed bag. All of the physical tools for a long and fruitful NBA career. A master of none, adequate in only one facet of his game. He can do a pretty slick Jeff Green impression and disappear on any given night and on the next make you think he’s forcing the issue too much.

Maybe Little made a mistake picking North Carolina. Duke was also on his shortlist of possible collegiate destinations. Just look at how we’ve spent the last year fawning over Zion Williamson even though it’s still a question mark whether he can shoot the ball. Possibly, that could have been Little. We’ll never know now.

If the Celtics draft Little it’ll take a long term commitment to develop him into someone who better fits the role of a 3-and-D. They’ve taken taller tasks in terms of turning non-shooters into above-average ones before.

Little is eager to turn the page on his poor college career and is a hard worker. It’s hard for me to imagine him seeing the floor even in garbage time in his current state.

P.J Washington and the Celtics

P.J Washington – 15.2 points – 7.5 rebounds – 1.8 assists – 52.2 FG% – 42.3 3PT% – 5.1 FTA – 66.3 FT% – 1.2 blocks – 0.8 steals

Birthday: August 23, 1998
Height/Weight: 6-8 – 228 pounds
School: Kentucky
Position: Forward
Wingspan: 7’2.25
Standing Reach: 10.5


P.J Washington raised quite a few eyebrows when he returned to Lexington for his sophomore season in lieu of declaring for the draft. Perhaps it had more to do with the class ultimately being stacked with centers that carried higher upside than Washington. Or Washington believed there’s facets to his game he’s yet to have improved.

During the waning days of his high school career Washington only visited three schools prior to committing to Kentucky. The University of Nevada and the University of North Carolina. For someone like Washington, a seamless fit in how the modern NBA uses versatile stretch forward/big he certainly picked the coach who’d constrain him the most. Despite shooting 42 percent from three-point  his lowly 78 attempts leave me worried if it’s all smoke and mirrors. Kentucky coach John Calipari hasn’t been very fond of bigs shooting threes. The notorious case is how he used Karl Anthony-Towns.

However, coach Cal inspires trust amongst his players who aren’t the big names you’d see on ESPN. Names like Willie Cauley-Stein and Tyler Ulis enjoyed successful sophomore campaigns and arguably saw their draft stock rose as a result despite age being the biggest factor in the scouting process. Up until late March Washington was positioned on the fringes of the lottery before the rise of Sekou Doumbouya, Jaxson Hayes, Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke leapt over him, according to ESPN’s latest mock projections. Fortunately the prognosticators at ESPN believe Washington will still be on the board when the Celtics turn comes at 14.

Comparing Washington’s freshman campaign to his sophomore one the clearest thing that comes to my mind is the growth of his role in his second season. The departing forwards on the roster (Kevin Knox, Jared Vanderbilt). Overall shot attempts are up from 7 to 10.4. Usage rate jumps from 20.8 to 25.8. His individual offensive rating went from a below-average 110.1 to a well above-average 119.5. As far as refining his skills on the court Washington made the best choice for himself to return to college.


Washington shot nearly 55 percent on his 2-point attempts and flashed potential to be a serious pick-and-pop threat from deep. Watching him against Tennessee I was taken aback at the moves this man has in his arsenal. Scoring in the 95th percentile (1.391 points per possession) on catch-and-shoot threes. 1.323 PPP on guarded shots and 1.455 on unguarded shots. Though the sample size is small Washington’s stroke and mechanics leaves the promise of him growing into an All-Star down the road. Washington’s high release makes his shot nearly unblock-able. On the inside Washington’s jump hook scores a 1.294 PPP

Kentucky scores 1.694 PPP on 36 possessions in which Washington passes out of the post. That’s in the 99th percentile. His passing is an underrated nugget to his game the issue being his apparent selfishness and inability to overcome his tunnel vision.

Washington grades out as below-average on defense despite his 7-3 wingspan. He’ll need to move his hips more swiftly and work on closing out harder.

I relate him to a more fluid Kelly Olynyk. Though shorter than Olynyk Washington possesses a high BBIQ to compensate for his shortcomings on defense. Like Olynyk Washington can survive on the perimeter on both ends of the floor and holds a wide array of moves such as pump fakes, spin and counter moves to get to wherever he wants to on floor.

Tyler Herro and The Celtics

Tyler Herro – 14 points – 4.5 rebounds – 2.5 assists – 46.2 FG% – 35.5 3PT% – 1.1 steals – 93.5 FT% – 2.5 FTA

Born: January 20, 2000
Position: Shooting Guard
Class: Freshman
Height: 6-6
Weight: 195
Wingspan: 6-4.5


Tyler Herro in his lone year at Kentucky flourished in his role as someone who mostly played shooting guard, but moonlighted at at the point. Ranking 19th in the SEC in total assists (91) and 11th in points produced (479). Despite his diminutive wingspan – it is disputed whether it is 6-3 or 6-5 – Herro managed to average a pretty solid rebounding total on the defensive glass (151). He doesn’t earn his reputation for being a hard noised, grit and grind white guy like Grayson Allen. Herro proved he could shoot and drive in his lone campaign in Lexington. A very lethal threat off the dribble the 19-year-old scores in the 86th percentile on jump shots off the dribble, according to synergy and in the 63rd percentile in the same shot unguarded.

His release is quick and a pretty sight to behold. Though his 35.5 percentage from three-point leaves people to question how he was able to carve out a reputation as a “shooter” his 93.5 free throw percentage and and his form leaves me optimistic he’ll translate well into the pro game.

It’s the little things in Herro’s game which breeds optimism from NBA scouts and why some have Herro going sooner in the draft rather than later. Equipped with a nice pump-fake and an ability to sidestep defenders, Herro can get to the charity stripe often enough to inspire confidence. He’s fairly intelligent and rarely he doesn’t make the right play and you can count on him not to resort to “Hero Ball.”

As a defender Herro grades out as average in isolation. His energy is unmatched fully aware he’ll need to compromise for his wingspan paling in comparison of his competition. This is reminiscent of Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Except where NAW comes off as a bit of a gambler Herro doesn’t hunt and can maneuver himself around screens a bit better than the Virginia Tech guard. What’ll hamper Herro though is his lack of explosiveness which’ll no doubt lead to many of his attempts to finish at the rim blocked. People compare Herro to Joe Harris, but he could get downhill rather quick. Herro doesn’t strike me as someone who can.

Herro is rather fluid in all of his mechanics, rarely does he come across as clumsy. He can find his space and rise up for what appears to be a great look. Only they don’t fall very often. If his in-game speed can improve his ability to finish with either hand near the rim will no doubt come in handy. As a ball-handler we can potentially see Herro switch to point guard as he has shown at Kentucky he can take advantage of smaller defender and make nice passes.

People often point to J.J Redick as a favorable comparison. I see Herro’s ceiling as an Avery Bradley type. Herro can fall in love with the midrange, only taking 4.5 three-point attempts this season and will need serious straightening out regarding his shot selection. We’ve seen the Celtics nearly pull their hair out with Jayson Tatum having the same issue. Herro is taller than Bradley, though with a shorter wingspan. But Bradley was someone who moonlighted at Texas as a point guard, mostly played the two and was quite the tactical defender himself. Bradley’s shooting percentages did not wow scouts and he fell right into Ainge’s lap at 19.

Stevens transformed Bradley’s offensive game over the course of a summer in the middle of his career. If Herro can average 5 or 6 attempts from beyond the arc per game he’d make them at an above-average rate. It’s debatable whether the Celtics are in a place where they can afford to give him those opportunities.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker and the Celtics

Nickeil Alexander-Walker 16.2 points – 4.1 rebounds – 4.0 assists – 47.4 FG% – 37.4 3PT% – 4.2 FTA – 77.8 FT% – 1.9 steals – 2.9 TOV

Born: Toronto, Canada

Height/Weight: 6-5 – 205

School: Virginia Tech

Wingspan: 6-9

Birthday: September 2nd, 1998

 

When doing research for this upcoming draft one of the prospects who’ve intrigued me the most was Virginia Tech’s guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Age 20, will turn 21 in September, NAW spent two seasons in Virginia before declaring for the NBA Draft. The first game I’ve seen him play was against Boston College – matching up against another guard I’m fairly curious in junior Ky Bowman projected to be a late 2nd round selection.

NAW represents the same platitudes applied to someone like Jalen Brunson the year prior. They are leaving college at an older age so they must be the most “responsible” prospects and carry the “least risk” if you take them. Brunson and NAW both sported impressive BBIQs and a decent ability to read the floor. Where Alexander-Walker loses me is his  inability to create separation due to his lack of athleticism. NAW fit V.T’s defensive scheme perfectly. Buzz Williams scheme is mostly to play the zone on defense and some full court trapping. This is where NAW’s overall feel, awareness and BBIQ come into play. Able to garner steals despite his average frame.

Against Boston the Hokies could not have asked for a better game from Alexander-Walker. If you wanted to see a versatile, rangy, cagey prospect you’ll won’t be disappointed. Not only did NAW torch the Eagles for 25 he was able to do it by penetrating the lane and hitting his Js.

The speed of the collegiate game course pales in comparison to the pace of the professional ranks. NAW shown no indication he can keep up and belong in his current form. He’ll need to become quicker on his feet and showcase that he can shoot the three-pointer at an NBA level. NAW struggled mightily against a lengthy Duke squad anchored by R.J Barrett (6’10), Cam Reddish (7’1) and Zion Williamson (6’10). This matters because of the recent success of teams with crazy long wingspans, like Milwaukee and Toronto, the league is shifting away from one reliant on guards to versatile wings. Lacking that initial burst off the dribble NAW will need to develop some moves around the basket to even have a chance.

At the NBA level it is suspect Walker-Alexander’s defensive capabilities can translate. Despite averaging 1.9 steals a game, his per 40 totals out to a lowly 2.2.


I believe if Alexander-Walker carves a place for himself in the NBA it’ll be for his ability to knockdown jumpers and not for his defense. His average wingspan and body leave much to be desired and I think he’ll grade out to be a taller Terry Rozier than a shorter Danny Green.