Key Takeaways from Celtics Summer League

ORLANDO – Summer league isn’t all about wins and losses. Teams bring their players to Orlando and Las Vegas every offseason to gauge their skills and witness their development. If wins come along the way, that’s just icing on the cake.

Boston earned three wins this week in Orlando, but more importantly, it saw growth and potential out of its top prospects. Below are some key takeaways from the Celtics’ seven-day stay in Central Florida.

Olynyk’s a Cut Above the Rest

There’s no doubt that Kelly Olynyk was one of the top players in this entire 10-team league. He looked the part of a second-year player who is well on his way to a successful NBA career.

Olynyk finished the week with averages of 17.5 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game. He also grabbed two steals a game at the defensive end of the court.

Olynyk and the Celtics would have loved to have seen him shoot the ball more efficiently. He made only 40.0 percent of his field goals and 27.8 percent of his 3s on the week. That being said, the Celtics aren’t too concerned about his shot being errant during the regular season.

Olynyk came out this week and showed off many of the things the Celtics want to see out of him on the court. He created his own shot, he shot from long distance with confidence, he was a leader on the floor, and he provided solid rebounding and defense. He was expected to be one of the top players in this league, and he certainly lived up to those expectations.

Smart’s Impact is at Both Ends

Marcus Smart also came to Orlando with high expectations. After all, he was the sixth pick in the NBA Draft. He was supposed to make an impact on these games. Smart did make an impact, and he did so at both ends of the court.

From the moment Boston tipped off its first game on Saturday, Smart proved that he is a menace on defense. He grabbed five steals in that game and finished the week with 10.

Smart plays extremely hard at the defensive end of the court. He also possesses quick hands that can swipe the ball away at any given time. Most importantly, he has great defensive instincts. Many of Smart’s steals on the week came on help defense when he was in perfect position. He’s usually in the right spot and he fights through screens. He isn’t necessarily going to pressure the ball like Avery Bradley, but he’s going to make a difference on defense.

But let’s not forget that this guy is a legit scorer, too. Smart averaged 18.0 PPG last season at Oklahoma State and he eclipsed that number twice in five games this week. He scored 19 points on Thursday while leading the team to a win during the fourth quarter, then he dropped in 20 points on Friday. Smart showed confidence in his shot and also got to the free-throw line at an average of six times per game. If he can get his perimeter shot to fall through at a higher rate, teams are going to have a tough time slowing him down.

Pressey’s Only Missing a Consistent Shot

Phil Pressey is an NBA player. His speed, quickness, defense and passing skills are legit. The only thing he’s lacking, other than a couple inches of height, is a consistent jumper.

We have to give credit to Pressey for stepping into shots all week long. This was his opportunity to work on shooting in a live game environment, and he took advantage of that. The problem is that he wasn’t very successful in doing so.

Pressey shot only 32.2 percent from the field and 20.0 percent from 3-point range. He was, though, successful at the free-throw line, where he shot 73.3 percent.

We know that Pressey can pass (he dished out 13 assists on Friday) and we know he can defend (he led the team in steals this week with 11). The next step in the evolution of his game is to be able to consistently make perimeter jumpers.

Larranaga Got Team To Buy In

We’ve been analyzing players all week long, but what about the coaches? This is their opportunity to coach at a level in which they don’t during the regular season.

Boston tabbed Jay Larranaga as its summer league head coach for the second consecutive year. For the second consecutive year, he did a phenomenal job.

Oftentimes in summer league we see players trying to ‘get theirs.’ Fringe prospects who are competing for roster spots can be caught up playing for individual stats with the hope of impressing NBA executives. Larranaga coached his team away from that mindset.

Rather than playing for individual stats, Larranaga got his team to buy in to a team-first mentality. They played for each other at both ends of the court, sharing the ball on offense and helping each other out on defense. They played unselfish basketball, and that’s why eight different players attempted at least 20 shots on the week.

Larranaga’s job was to instill Brad Stevens’ culture and system into this summer league team. He deserves to be commended for a job well done.

What We Missed Out On

One player doesn’t win a title, but he can certainly help. The Celtics may have won this league’s championship if they had the services of James Young, who they chose with the 17th overall pick in this year’s Draft.

Young was involved in a car accident several weeks ago that left him with whiplash and concussion-like symptoms. The team decided early in the week that he would not participate in any practices or games.

We missed out on seeing Young play this week, but be patient. We’ll see him in a Celtics uniform soon enough.

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