BOSTON — If you happen to be in Las Vegas or Salt Lake City this July and are looking for some entertainment that can’t be found in a casino or on a mountainside, here’s a suggestion: Take in an NBA summer league game, and make sure the Boston Celtics are playing.
Despite boasting a already-crowded backcourt that includes their No. 1 draft pick last year in Marcus Smart and two of their marquee players in Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics chose Thursday night to use three of their four selections in the 2015 NBA Draft on guards.
Marcus Thornton, the 45th overall pick, faces a serious uphill climb if he hopes to snag a roster spot, but both of Boston’s first-rounders — No. 16 pick Terry Rozier and No. 28 R.J. Hunter — have legitimate shots at contending for minutes this season.
That competition will begin almost immediately.
“When they see how hard Marcus and James (Young) and (Chris) Babb go at summer league practice starting next week, it’s going to be real,” head coach Brad Stevens said Thursday night at Celtics draft headquarters. “That’s a positive thing. That’s a positive thing.”
The greater question mark of the Celtics’ first-round duo is Rozier, who not only came off the board far sooner than anyone predicted but also possesses a very similar skill set to Smart’s — a hard-working, defensively sound player who leaves much to be desired in the shooting department.
Celtics fans immediately hated the pick for both reasons, but Stevens seemed confident in his team’s decision to pass on the likes of Bobby Portis, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Sam Dekker and Justin Anderson to select the Louisville point guard.
“It’ll be fun to watch next week,” Stevens said. “It’ll be fun to watch him and Marcus playing together — that’s for sure. We may be playing, like, super-small ball in summer league, but it’ll be fun to see those guys. But we really think highly of Terry, and we think he’s got a bright future.”
Summer league is where the position battles will start, but Boston’s rookie class (which also includes LSU forward Jordan Mickey, taken 33rd overall) soon will have to prove itself against the team’s more veteran members — and vice versa.
Stevens believes that kind of competition will benefit players up and down the Celtics’ roster.
“You’re in the NBA,” he said. “This is a competitive industry. Those guys are established in what they can do. Those guys are working hard to get better. Marcus has been around some, a couple of our staff members were with Avery this week. Those guys are putting in a lot of time and a lot of extra effort. But they expect there to be 15 roster guys. Five are playing, and the rest are waiting their turn. I think that’s just the way it goes, and I think the best people don’t compare, they compete. And I think that that’s what we have to do.”
Thumbnail photo via Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports Images