The case for Ben Bentil

There is one thing, and one thing only, keeping Ben Bentil from having already locked up his spot on the Boston Celtics 2016-17 roster: We have too many players! Currently, the Celtics have 20 bodies going into training camp. These players can be split into three categories: guaranteed spots, on the bubble, and no chance.

Guaranteed Spots: Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, and Tyler Zeller.

Each of these 11 players we know for a fact will be on the roster. This appears to be the core of the rotation, at least to start the regular season. Anyone on the bubble will have to earn playing time throughout the year (unless injuries occur). There is no need to discuss those on this list, as they do not affect Bentil's case from making the team. Excluding these 11, there are four roster spots still up for grabs.

On the Bubble: Gerald Green, Jordan Mickey, James Young, RJ Hunter, Demetrius Jackson, and Ben Bentil.

Gerald Green: There was nothing at all wrong with Danny Ainge signing Gerald Green. At worst, he is a veteran who will push the young wings (Hunter and Young) in training camp. At best, Green can be a microwave scorer off the bench, which Boston could definitely use. That being said, his contract is only for the minimum. If one or more of the youngsters outplay him, Green could be cut with little financial set back.

Jordan Mickey: First off, I do not believe Mickey should or will be cut; I love his potential! However, he is only in his second year and has a small contract that makes him easy to part with financially. The reason for his inclusion on this list is that Mickey is the player Bentil will be in the most direct competition with. However, although they play the same initial position (power forward), they have completely different skill sets. While Mickey's strength is in his defense and rebounding, Bentil is a more complete scorer and offensive player. If Mickey does not show improvement in camp, he could find himself being outplayed by Bentil for a roster spot.

James Young: James Young is one of the more likely players to be cut/traded, simply because he has been here the longest and has yet to perform up to expectations. Young is only 21 years old, meaning he still might have untapped potential.

Are the Celtics ready to give up and move on from Young? If so, Bentil could be in line to take his spot.
RJ Hunter: Sadly, Hunter finds himself on the bubble due to depth. I love Hunter’s potential and think he might be able to play rotation minutes this year, given the opportunity. He arguably has the best chance of becoming our next great three-point threat, and he plays with a high basketball IQ that is perfect for Brad Stevens' offense.

Unless Hunter shows improvement in camp, mainly on defense, he could find himself on a different team. 
Demetrius Jackson: Jackson received a fully-guaranteed contract, which says a lot. However, that does not necessarily mean he will be a part of the final roster. Brad Stevens would love to have another ball handler, but Jackson still has a lot to prove. He played well in summer league, yet he will have to show the ability to facilitate a offense at this level in order to stick. As with everyone else on this list, he must prove himself in camp. Otherwise he may be playing this upcoming season in another jersey.

No Chance: Michael Georges-Hunt, Jalen Jones, and Damion Lee.

While it is unfair to say these players have no chance at being on the roster, the odds are stacked against them. They are mainly in camp as practice bodies, and are auditioning to be members of the Maine Red Claws. It is unlikely that their presence affects Bentil's chances at making the roster.

For Bentil to be a part of the Celtics this year, he will have to beat out two of the other bubble players: Green, Mickey, Young, Hunter, and Jackson. 

The strongest argument for Bentil is his potential. Before the draft, he was regarded by many experts as a late first-round pick, some having him as high as 18. During Bentil’s freshman season at Providence, he averaged 6.4 points and 4.9 rebounds in 21.5 minutes. In his sophomore campaign, those statistics skyrocketed to 21.1 points and 7.7 rebounds in 34.2 minutes. A few different things stand out about these numbers:

First, his shooting percentages all increased: 43% to 46% from the field, 47% to 52% from two-point range, and 30% to 33% from the three-point line. While these increases are not drastic, doing so with an expanded volume is. Bentil's field-goal attempts tripled, and his three-point attempts jumped from less than one per game to almost five! He outscored Kris Dunn by five points per game and quickly became the focal point of the Friars' offense (just watch the below video). Bentil seemed to be automatic from midrange, and he became increasingly more confident from behind the three-point line.

The one critique that many scouts make about Bentil's offense is that he rarely passes the ball. First off, he was the first scoring option for his college team (as many future NBA players are) and was not asked to distribute--that job was left for the best floor general in college basketball. Bentil’s job was to put up points, which he did extremely well.

Secondly, Bentil showed a great willingness to pass in Summer League. While he started off strong in Orlando scoring the ball, his numbers dropped in Vegas. There may be no precise explanation for this, but the eye test shows that he began passing up open shots in order to allow players like Rozier and Jackson to do the creating. This not only shows Bentil's willingness to pass, but also his ability to fit seamlessly into whatever role his team needs. The ability to pass is not Bentil's weakness, just an untapped skill.

While most scouts agree that the offensive upside for Bentil is definitely there, his defense has been heavily criticized. Statistically, his steals and blocks both tripled from his freshman to sophomore year. Also, for a large majority of the college basketball season, Bentil was Providence’s starting center. Along with becoming the focal point of the Friars' offense, he also took on the role of anchoring the defense.

At 6'8", Bentil is not your typical center. However, willingness to adapt to what his team needs show many positive attributes. Position versatility is a trait Brad Stevens highly values. Bentil's ability to play either forward position, and maybe even some small-ball center, could go a long way in earning a roster spot.

Overall, Bentil has the most offensive potential of any big on our roster. That is an asset that Danny Ainge will not be quick to give up. While Bentil is somewhat inexperienced, having started his basketball career late after coming over from Ghana, he has developed very quickly in a relatively short amount of time.

Each fan will have to decide for themselves which four out of Green, Mickey, Young, Hunter, Jackson and Bentil the Celtics should keep. Personally, I have Bentil on that list, to go along with Green, Mickey, and Hunter.

As stated above, the rotation is most likely set for the beginning of the year, although minutes still need to be distributed. Green probably fills in as your 12th man. Mickey, Hunter, and Bentil will spend plenty of time in Maine, unless someone gets hurt, but these three offer the most potential of the bubble players. Again, anything can happen with this much depth. However, Danny Ainge's job is to put the most competitive team together, for the present as well as the future. Bentil might not get a lot of playing time this year, but he has the chance to play a major role in later seasons.

Photograph by John Tlumacki via Boston Globe
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