In the first edition of the Boston Celtics summer league recap, I profiled the continued disappointment of former first round pick James Young. Young has failed to make an impact in the pros no matter where he steps on the court, whether it be in games for the actual Celtics team, or in the summer league.
We won’t continue to harp on him.
Instead, we’ll flip to a player who looks to make an impact whenever and wherever he plays: Terry Rozier.
Rozier, the 16th overall pick in the 2015 draft, is a high energy player with boundless athleticism who (stop me if you’ve heard this before in regards to the Celtics), struggled shooting the ball in his rookie season.
The front office is very high on him, though, and after some offseason departures, he appears to be the man most likely to see a minutes increase. But, nothing is earned and if Rozier wanted a bigger role, he was going to show he deserved it with steady and stellar play throughout the summer.
Safe to say, he did not let the opportunity pass him by.
Rozier was especially impressive on the Las Vegas leg of games, averaging 21 points on 62.1% shooting. He worked hard to improve the jumper that maligned him for most of last year, and we saw some of the payoff.
On this attempt, we see Rozier perfectly executing the “hop,” jumping into his shot and knocking it down, hardly moving the net in the process.
Here, he knocks down two contested shots off the dribble that he would have had no chance of making in his rookie year. Shooting and shot creation are two areas the Celtics are currently lacking, so any contributions Rozier can make in those departments will be a welcome sight.
Another area he has spent hours working to get better in is the pick and roll game.
While he has the stature of a point guard (he stands at 6’1), Rozier has always been more of a score-first combo guard, and his court vision has been a noted weakness in the past. He may never become a great passer, but in Brad Stevens’ up-tempo, read and react system, the ability to make quick and correct decisions is a must, and after stating that he wants to be the man to fill the void left by Evan Turner, Rozier has shown flashes of being able to do so.
One of the most important passes a player can have in his arsenal is the kick-out to the corner shooter.
Defenses often send help from the corners, and they don’t have as far to go in order to recover. Rozier didn’t exactly invoke images of Lebron James in his ability to hit the man in the corner before the defense even saw it coming, but he was very proficient in penetrating the paint and finding open teammates, creating tons of good looks.
Perhaps the most encouraging play Rozier made throughout the summer league was a pass to second-year teammate R.J. Hunter:
All great passers try to stay one step ahead of the help defense, and here Rozier completely fools Bobby Portis, and hits Hunter in a spot where he can rise right into his shot.
Being able to play more under control and see the floor better is going to pay huge dividends for Rozier in regards to his scoring as well. He came into the league with a knack for putting the ball in the basket, but at times was too keen to try and showcase that talent, and it got him into trouble. He was trying to beat defenders off of speed alone, and that won’t fly in the NBA.
Now, he has added more nuance and craft to his game, mixing in spin moves and hesitations to keep the defense off balance.
Rozier has now worked on his game to the point where he should be able to be a solid contributor for Boston this season, but he still has a long way to go. For every good pass to an open teammate, there is another that results in a turnover, usually due to Rozier incorrectly reading the defense or trying to force a tough pass.
Despite the strides he has taken in the pick and roll game, he is still relatively inexperienced.
He has improved tenfold in letting the defense dictate where he goes with the ball, but there are still plays where he is too eager to get downhill and force the issue. One bad habit he has displayed is his constant splitting of the pick and roll, even when it’s not available. Rozier also doesn’t have the tightest of handles, and most of his summer league turnovers came when he attempted to split the defense.
Effort can mask a lot of weaknesses, and right now Rozier is the embodiment of that philosophy. Every second he is out on the court he is giving it his all and doing whatever it takes to win. Whether it be hustling for a loose ball, grabbing a rebound amongst the trees, or stepping up in the clutch, Rozier is prepared to do it. He has that “by any means necessary” type of personality that cannot be taught and is shared by a quite a few of his fellow Celtics.
Coach Stevens and Danny Ainge have seen how guys like Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder can impact winning with their never waning effort, and they see that same attribute in Rozier. Of course, effort eventually has to turn into production (as it has for Smart and Crowder), and after an overall positive summer league performance, Rozier is one step closer to making that happen.