December is coming to shut, and with it ends a busy yr of Boston Celtics basketball. From a shocking midseason turnaround to NBA Finals heartbreak to a red-hot begin of a revenge tour, 2022 introduced somewhat little bit of the whole lot to the Celtics and their followers. The top of the yr all the time brings a while for self-reflection, and as the remainder of us common Joes plan to eat higher or hit the fitness center, let’s see if we are able to set some targets for every member of the crew as we flip the web page into 2023.
JD Davison: Develop an NBA-caliber jumper
Davison is, just about by default, one of the best prospect on the Celtics’ roster at present second. A 6-foot-3 hyper athlete on the level guard place with a penchant for audacious dunks and a few high quality playmaking chops, he’s a simple type of participant to dream into an future NBA contributor.
There’s work to be completed earlier than Davison is able to assist an NBA roster, although. Specifically, he must develop his leap shot. As we’ve seen time and time once more, it’s troublesome for guards to search out success with out a fairly dependable jumper, and capturing stays the largest gap in Davison’s sport. After connecting on simply 30% of his three-pointers throughout his lone collegiate season, he’s at present capturing roughly the identical mark from NBA distance within the G-League.
Davison is a methods away from contributing to the Celtics or some other group. Fortunately, he has a precious alternative to develop his abilities with common reps in Maine. Fleshing out a workable jumper needs to be on the high of the record.
Mfiondu Kabengele, Justin Jackson: Keep prepared
It will not be essentially the most thrilling of duties, however for gamers like Kabengele and Jackson, essentially the most precious attribute to carry to this Celtics roster is readiness. At current, Kabengele occupies one of many crew’s Two-Manner contracts, and has appeared in only one NBA sport whereas spending most of his season beginning for the G League Celtics. Jackson, in the meantime, sits on the finish of the large league crew’s bench, having been restricted to 14 transient rubbish time appearances so far. When absolutely — and even simply principally — wholesome, the Celtics don’t have room to play both.
One factor each have of their favor: they’re somewhat extra seasoned than your common end-of-bench NBA participant. Of their offseason acquisitions, Brad Stevens and the entrance workplace prioritized journeyman gamers of their athletic prime with some expertise on the NBA stage. At 27 years previous, with 269 NBA appearances (61 begins) underneath his belt, Jackson matches that invoice. Two years youthful, Kabengele hasn’t performed fairly as a lot (52 complete appearances, zero begins), however he’s spent 4 years round NBA methods and has had vital enjoying time within the G League throughout the previous two years. In different phrases, they’re each barely extra recognized portions, which generally is a profit by way of depth.
If both finally ends up pressed right into a extra sizeable position, the Celtics will very probably have greater issues to fret about. However each are affordable bets as end-of-bench contingency plans, and one of the best factor both can do proper now’s be ready in case their second arises.
Noah Vonleh: Deliver one other ability to the desk
After a little bit of offseason buzz as one in all Stevens’ reclamation mission acquisitions, Vonleh has shortly discovered himself out of the combination within the Boston rotation. He’s largely been resigned to the again of the bench for the reason that begin of the common season, with Blake Griffin and Luke Kornet taking up most of the reserve frontcourt minutes after the core items (particularly previous to Robert Williams III’s return).
The distinction between Vonleh and people bigs? Versatility. Although neither are what you’d name optimum, 30-minutes-per-night type of gamers, they’ve carved out helpful niches which have earned them minutes on the courtroom. Griffin is a artful veteran who supplies a cosy match on offense, flattening some threes, transferring the basketball and offering a little bit of dimension and toughness. Kornet, in the meantime, is a huge, with some rim safety worth and his signature unorthodox shot contests that assist him contribute on the defensive finish of the courtroom.
Vonleh wants to search out his area of interest. He’s a giant physique and a tricky rebounder, however such gamers are a dime a dozen, and he hasn’t distinguished himself sufficient past that to justify a lot enjoying time. Including one other ability to the toolbox might go a great distance in direction of getting him again on the courtroom. One chance: piecing collectively a serviceable three-point shot, which he’s flashed at occasions (on admittedly low quantity) since his one-and-done season at Indiana.
Payton Pritchard: Amp up the scoring
This can be simpler stated than completed for the Celtics’ third-year guard. You possibly can solely count on a lot progress from a participant with such an inconsistent position on his crew. With the trio of Marcus Good, Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White wholesome, there simply isn’t room for Pritchard to see the courtroom with any regularity. Discovering a rhythm in such a circumstance is understandably difficult.
That stated, whether or not attributable to lack of alternative or in any other case, it’s honest to say we haven’t seen Pritchard at his greatest fairly often this season. He’s capturing career-lows from throughout the ground, together with a 33% mark from behind the arc that lags far behind 40%+ charges in every of his first two years. Other than a four-game stretch in mid-November during which he averaged 10 factors per sport on 57% capturing from the sector, he hasn’t actually moved the needle as an offensive presence this yr — which he must do, as an undersized guard with an inherent cap on his defensive impression.
Pritchard has had an atypical expertise relative to most first-round picks within the NBA. He excelled out of the gate as a rookie, however has seen his enjoying time dwindle increasingly over his younger NBA profession because the crew’s burgeoning depth and more and more pressing championship hopes have squeezed him out of a rotation spot. It’s potential — if unlikely — that one of the best basketball of his profession received’t include the Celtics. For the current second, although, all he can do is make one of the best of his current circumstances, and getting again to his accustomed ranges as an offensive presence will give him probabilities to contribute because the common season wears on.
Sam Hauser: Conquer the hunch
The ascension to the standing of full-time rotation participant has inevitably introduced Sam Hauser to one of many realities of enjoying frequently within the NBA: going by means of — and breaking out of — a hunch.
December was a tricky month for the 25-year-old. Throughout 14 appearances, he shot simply 33% from the sector, together with a 28% mark from the behind the three-point arc — his main base of operations on this roster. Hauser has typically acquitted himself properly on the defensive finish, even within the face of heightened consideration from opposing offenses who’ve sought to focus on him because the de facto weak spot within the Boston protection.
However these threes are vital. Three-point capturing is his pre-eminent NBA ability, and whereas he’s not ineffective in different features of the sport, it’s his capacity to interrupt defenses from lengthy vary that places him on the courtroom. The Celtics want him flattening these threes to maximise his usefulness on the courtroom; this 28% capturing model of him is kind of a bit tougher to justify.
Hauser has a protracted observe report of success as a sharpshooter. He’s succeeded as a three-point shooter at each stage, together with a four-year profession as a starter in school that noticed him join on 44% of his threes on vital quantity. It’s a testomony to his ability that, even after a full month of poor outcomes as a shooter, he’s nonetheless connecting on 40% of his threes for the yr.
There’s no motive to assume his poor December was something greater than a chilly spell. It’s as much as Hauser to search out the reset button and begin off 2023 on a greater be aware than he completed its predecessor.
Blake Griffin: Hold these previous bones recent
One of the vital nice surprises of the primary half of the season has been the play of Griffin, who signed late within the offseason to assist fill the void left by Robert Williams III’s restoration from knee surgical procedure. A real disciple of Brad Stevens, interim coach Joe Mazzulla has deployed Griffin on a part-time foundation in cases the place he’d wish to protect the crew’s rotations. Al Horford wants an evening off on the second evening of a back-to-back? Merely plug in Griffin, who has began eight video games this season, with the Celtics profitable six of them.
Griffin’s project for 2023 could also be so simple as “maintain doing what you’re doing.” He’s carved out an excellent area of interest for himself as a part-time rotation participant, stepping up and filling holes within the lineup with out overexerting himself within the course of. He’s capturing 50% from the sector, together with 63% on the rim (with three dunks!). Age and a prolonged damage historical past have insured that Griffin’s days as an NBA star are lengthy over, however this new, reinvented model has proven he can contribute to profitable basketball.
Luke Kornet: Can the three-point shot be rediscovered?
Like Griffin, Kornet has completed a pleasant little job filling in as a reserve massive for this crew. Mazzulla and the Celtics have coaxed one of the best season of his profession from contained in the arc, as he’s capturing almost 70% on his two-point makes an attempt this yr (on miniscule pattern dimension, in fact), and he’s had a decent sufficient impression as a defender.
I’ve all the time been (maybe unduly) intrigued by Kornet’s potential as a shooter, although. It’s been years since we’ve seen it deployed with any regularity or effectiveness, however he spent his first two NBA seasons as a roughly common three-point shooter on strong quantity for a few ill-fated New York Knicks groups. Maybe the jumper has been gone for somewhat too lengthy to be a sensible hope, nevertheless it seems like a Daniel Theis stage of “in a position to knock it down when left open” could possibly be attainable for the jumbo-sized massive.
That may do it for Half One in every of our Celtics New 12 months’s resolutions; we’ll be again in 2023 to speak concerning the core rotation of the crew. Within the meantime, what do you assume the Celtics’ reserves needs to be engaged on within the second half of the season? Tell us your ideas within the feedback under.