The first leg of the 2017 NBA summer league has concluded; there were a lot of expectations and excitement surrounding three Celtic first rounders. Of course I’m referring to last year’s number three pick Jaylen Brown, last year’s number 23 pick Ante Zizic and this year’s third pick Jason Tatum. For the most part, all three did not disappoint — two players excelled and the other looked average.
Jaylen Brown truly looks like a man amongst boys. You could tell he has made significant strides since last year and that shot that everybody was worried about now looks like a thing of the past. His ball handling skills look like they have improved — although he was stripped a few times driving to the lane but for the most part he was able to blow by his defender and finish strong at the rim. We must remember that he is going up against lesser talent but it’s important that he showed he’s taken the next step. After setting the world on fire in game 1 against the 76ers scoring 29 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, he had a sub par game 2 against the Spurs with 6 points and 8 rebounds. He was held out game three which was a back to back.
Jayson Tatum has Celtics fans the most excited. For the most part, Danny Ainge was scrutinized when the Celtics selected Jayson over Josh Jackson. Now it appears that was the right decision. Tatum out played Markelle Fultz in game 1 putting up 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists. Even more impressive than that stat line is the fact that with 11 seconds to go in the game, down 1 they put the ball in his hands. With 5.9 seconds left, he drained a step back jumper for the game winner. His mid range game looks fantastic — mostly getting the ball in isolation but he settled for too many off balance fadeaway jumpers. Personally, I’d like to see him attack the rim more. Offensively it looks like he can step in for the Celtics and help but in Brad Stevens system where you have to earn your minutes, his defensive inconsistency might hold him back at first.
Ante Zizic, the 6’11” Croatian who split time playing in Croatia and Israel, did not look all that impressive. For a player who can’t shoot the three and doesn’t have a consistent 15 foot shot ,you would like to see him fly around the court blocking shots and grabbing rebounds. On a few occasions, he did take the ball from the 3 point line and drive to the rim. Although he could get to the rim — his shot looked ugly. He did average 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks a game. Although those numbers seem decent watching him play, he didn’t necessarily look impressive. I worry that he won’t have the quickness you need to play in the NBA, but maybe after a few years he can turn into a Marcin Gortat type of player.
The Celtics future looks bright. They’ve signed Gordon Haywood and traded for Marcus Morris — two players that will help the team win now. However, for sustained success we will need these three players to continue to improve if we want to be good for years to come.