Celtics progress with Juhann Begarin, JD Davison and more: Summer league what to watch

A pass went into the corner, although nobody was standing there. A player left the pitch after starting to bleed. Grant Williams, usually a vocal critic of the umpires, chaired Tuesday afternoon’s scrimmage sessions.

Yes, the Summer League is back. The Summer Celtics opened training camp on Monday. They will start Sunday’s games in Las Vegas. Here are four reasons to keep an eye out for their league entry this summer.

Davison’s debut

As Brad Stevens hinted on draft night, the Celtics expect JD Davison to need a lot of development time. It’s not a finished product, but it does have some fascinating tools. Expect some tough summer league moments, but Davison should deliver some highlight games.

He also wants to offer some defense. During his first interview with the Boston media, Davison stressed that he wanted to show he could be “a dog.” He said he looks forward to learning from other guards like Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon.

“When I got that name from the Celtics, when my agent called me to say the Celtics have you, it was just like you were in an organization where they’re winning,” Davison said. “So it really got to where I knew I could come in here and get better every day and just come here and win. I was very pleased.”

Begarin’s progress

Juhann Begarin stood out during the brief part of Tuesday’s scrum that was open to the media. He drilled a 3 pointer. He grabbed a rebound, drove coast to coast, and gave up an assist. At 19, he already has an NBA build and an obvious view of the court.

“I liked what he brought to the table,” said Celtics assistant coach Ben Sullivan, who is spearheading Boston’s league entry this summer. “Good athlete, good size, can pass, can find his teammates, ride downhill, finish on the rim, can really defend, competitive. So I’m really just getting to know him a little bit and seeing his progression from last year in the Summer League to this year and where he’s at. I really liked what he has done so far.”

Begarin, the Celtics’ 2021 second-round draft pick, averaged 11.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game in France last season. Still, his game is raw. He shot just 30.9 percent from 3-point arc and racked up more turnovers than assists. Despite some of his weaknesses, it doesn’t take long to realize that he has considerable potential. He should have a chance in the Summer League to convince the Celtics to bring him in to start his NBA career.

Hauser’s chance to stand out

Sam Hauser was overshadowed on last season’s Summer League team, but he should be a starter and one of the main players this time. Although Hauser only played 158 minutes as a rookie, the team hopes he will one day become a regular at the NBA level – maybe even this season. The Celtics recently ripped up the final season of his contract to sign him on a three-year deal. Among the Summer Celtics, he probably has the best chance of earning game time next season.

The Celtics’ NBA roster is extensive. They won’t have many minutes if they stay healthy. Although they have a lot of useful guards, they could use another bigger wing behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Hauser, a 6-foot-8 marksman, could help fill that role if the Celtics are right about his potential.

“There are a lot of things we like about Sam,” Sullivan said. “He’s a good shot, he’s a good person, he works hard, he’s a pro, he shows up every day, he puts in the work, he puts in the time, he gets the game. There are a lot of things that Sam brings to the table. He’s a good size. Sam can do many other things besides shooting.”

Hauser has always been best known as a marksman. He shot 43.2 percent over extremely limited reps with the Celtics last season after topping 40 percent in each of his four collegiate seasons in Marquette and Virginia. There is no doubt that he is the master of throwing the ball through the basket from long distances.

Will every great man stay?

After agreeing to re-sign Luke Kornet, the Celtics could still seek additional front-court help behind Al Horford and Robert Williams. While it seems unlikely they’ll capitalize on their $17.1 million trade exemption before it expires later this month, they could potentially land a minimum trade veteran. They also have two prospects in their summer league team in Trevion Williams and Mfiondu Kabengele.

Williams, who was not called up this year, made the first-team All-Big Ten as a junior at Purdue and then won the conference’s sixth Man of the Year award as a senior. As you can see, the 6-foot-10, 255-pounder came off the bench during his senior collegiate season, but only because the team split time between him and fellow center standout Zach Edey. Williams continued to light up the collegiate basketball world during his senior season, averaging 24 points, 15 rebounds and six assists per 40 minutes while shooting 54.7 percent from the field. Williams tried a few 3-pointers, but he usually made his passes much closer to the basket. He’s not exactly built in the modern Big Man form, but scouts are thrilled with his ability to pass the basketball, which was exhibited during the brief scrimmage segment reporters were allowed to watch Tuesday afternoon.

Kabengele, 24, was the Clippers’ first-round pick in 2019. After playing 51 games in his first two NBA campaigns, he spent most of last season with the G League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers. The 6-foot-9, 250-pound man averaged 17.5 points and 9.4 rebounds (3.7 offense) while averaging an impressive 43.4 percent on three 3-point attempts per game. Not many players have this combination of size, touch and athleticism.

Daniel Theis, who was recently traded to the Pacers as part of the Brogdon deal, has been solid insurance if Horford or Robert Williams missed time. Kornet would likely fill that role as the roster stands, but the Celtics would like to add another player to enjoy a few minutes on the front court.

(Top Photo by Juhann Begarin: Stephen R. Sylvanie / USA Today)

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