Sam Hauser headlines intrigue in Celtics summer leaguers

Forsberg: Sam Hauser is making headlines about intrigue in Celtic’s Summer Leagues, which originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens has been trading first-round picks at a feverish rate to build a championship-caliber roster. The only real downside: A lack of marquee names on the Celtics’ summer league roster.

But that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be interest in this year’s squad. Boston still has a few open rosters — and they need to be filled cheaply — so there’s an opportunity for everyone on this year’s summer team to put forward a case to stay on (whether as a frugal, end-of-the-benchman player, or on a 2-way deal).

Before the Summer C heads west, and after a very brief look at the conclusion of a practice session on Tuesday, here’s an impromptu power ranking of the Boston players we’re most excited about in Vegas:

1. Sam Hauser

His Twitter handle is Big_Smooth10 and although his jersey number has changed at the pro level, the descriptive part remains factual. For a team that sometimes makes 3-point shooting seem like a chore (apart from Jayson Tatum’s backsteps), Hauser has the silkiest form on his knight. The ball is not so much shot, but elegantly levitates on the string.

Hauser, who struck a new deal with the Celtics this summer, has the height (6-foot-8) and shooting punch to claim a case for NBA minutes. The big question is whether he can keep up defensively. Summer League is far from the best defensive doctrine given the pickup-like nature of these games, but we’ll take a look at just how much progress Hauser has made behind the scenes.

“Sam has put in a lot of work over the year,” said Ben Sullivan, Celtics Summer League coach. “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 many things that Sam brings to the table. He’s a good size. Sam can do many different things besides just shoot.

2.Juhann Begarin

Begarin, Boston’s 45th pick in the 2021 draft, spent last season abroad in France. He’s still only 19, but he has an NBA physique (6-foot-5, 215 pounds) and NBA-caliber athletics. He was insanely raw on his Summer League debut a year ago and we’re excited to see how much progress he’s made.

In the brief glimpse of practice that reporters observed on Tuesday, he excelled in his play, including a sequence in which he snagged a rebound and alternated a layup:

“I liked what he brought to the table. Good athlete, good size, can pass, can find his teammates, ride downhill, finish on the edge, can really defend, competitive,” Sullivan said. “So I’m really just getting to know him a little bit and seeing his progression from last year in Summer League to this year and seeing where he’s at. I’ve really liked what he’s done so far.”

3. Trevion Williams

We’re total suckers for slick-passing tall men (which might help explain our unhealthy Robert Williams obsession), so we were excited to see the undrafted Purdue product make it onto Boston’s summer list.

Let’s start with the negatives: The scouting report suggests Williams still has plenty of steps to go defensively to carve out an NBA role. But his demise. (drools) Oh my god, his death. Just look at THIS:

If the Celtics weren’t one of the worst cut teams in the league at times, we’d suggest Williams should be signed immediately. Luckily, Williams does a lot more when he’s not shooting darts over his head or sneaking bounce passes through traffic to make easy layups.

Like hitting hook shots, or burying defenders after dribbling handoffs, or defeating three defenders for a putback:

He’s playing under the rim and desperately needs to improve his pick-and-roll defense. But he has a great size and can fight with bigger players. And that’s over. (passed out) Also, the Celtics desperately need more Williams up front.

4.JD Davison

Does Boston’s 2022 second-round draft pick have a dog in him?

Davison is the youngest player on Boston’s summer roster (two months younger than Begarin) and is another athletic marvel who needs more time to fulfill his potential. You may be thrilled if you look at his highlight role, then see his turnover percentage and shooting splits (30.1 percent on college 3s at 3.9 attempts per game) from his only season in Alabama. Davison was adamant that the NBA-level gap could help unlock his game.

“My season in Alabama didn’t go as well as I wanted, but I think I’ve had pushes from what I’ve shown and what I can do at the NBA level,” Davison said. “My decision was because the NBA ground is so wide for a dynamic guard like me that I think it was best for me to go out and go to the draft.”

There will be increased interest in Davison because he’s a fresh face, but he’ll have to prove he deserves even a two-way spot.

5. Mfiondu Kabengele

Another intriguing addition to Boston’s summer roster, the 6-foot-9 Kabengele has 51-game NBA experience with the Clippers and Cavaliers. The nephew of Dikembe Mutombo, he is a former Brooklyn Nets first-round pick (27th in 2019) but has yet to find a home in the NBA.

The 6-foot-9 Florida State product has a solid outside shot (he scored 44 percent on 3-point attempts per game last season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers). He averaged 17.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1 block over 29 minutes per game last season in the G-Leaa.

6. Brodric Thomas/Matt Ryan

It feels wrong to have both Thomas and Ryan so low on the list, especially after both were part of Boston’s drive to the finals. Maybe we’re just obsessed with the unknown, which is why guys like Williams and Davison end up a little higher in the early intrigue rankings.

Thomas spent last season with Boston in a two-way deal, getting a couple of one-sided games in the second half. He excelled at times when the Celtics players were doing 3-on-3 work at the end of the bench towards the end of the season. We haven’t seen quite as much of the 6-foot-7 Ryan, but he shot 40 percent on 9.4 3-pointers in 30 G-League games overall and aided Boston’s bench cheer.

7. AJ Reeves

The 6-foot-6 keeper, a Boston native, assisted Providence’s run to the Sweet 16 in March. He shot 37.3 percent on 5.8 3-point attempts per game last year and thrived in the catch-and-shoot . The local connection will keep him in the limelight during his summer stay.

8. Bryton Hobbs/Jericole Hellems

Hobbs’ connection to Jayson Tatum likely contributed to his invitation…

Instagram/jaytatum0

…but at an event crowded with players who can’t legally buy their own beer, we can’t help but be intrigued by a 30-year-old whose only documented professional season appears to be a stint in Lithuania in 2018.

Hellems is the third-leading scorer in the history of the Chaminade Prep in St. Louis. The only two players before him: Tatum and Bradley Beal.

9. Jordan Bone

We remember Bone being intrigued in Tennessee, where he was a college teammate of Grant Williams. Unfortunately, he only played 24 NBA games between Detroit and Orlando after being the 57th pick in the 2019 draft.

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