Semi Ojeleye might be carving himself not just a roster spot, but a role next season
The Boston Celtics first selection in the 2nd-round of the 2017 NBA Draft, Semi Ojeleye, might not only be securing himself a spot on the roster next season with his summer league play, but he might just find himself with a significant role. Ojeleye was heralded as a great pick by the Celtics in round 2 (37th overall) as he was rated as high as the 20th best prospect in this draft class on some NBA experts draft boards. He's a prototypical three-and-D guy with upside because of his athleticism and he's a solid block of muscle at 240 lbs that he uses to bully smaller build players in the post on both ends of the floor.
Brad Stevens has been around the team for a good portion of their summer league games in both Utah and now Las Vegas, and he's been very impressed with what he's seen from Ojeleye. We know coach Brad is a sucker for versatility, and in his switch-heavy defense it's a huge plus for guys to be able to match up against players at different positions. He talked about some of his rookies after a 3-0 Celtics start in Las Vegas, and he marveled at Ojeleye's ability to guard players much bigger than him. Via Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:
“I think what he’s doing translates,” Stevens said. “That’s the thing with Semi. I didn’t know coming in that he could be matched up on 5s for possessions because of his leverage and his strength, but I thought the biggest key to winning the Lakers game was him guarding (7-foot-1 center Ivica) Zubac and stretching Zubac out. So his flexibility defensively is going to be enormous.
“I mean, I think that he will compete to be one of our better defenders right out of the gate.”
High praise from a guy who generally eases his rookies onto the floor, but if Ojeleye is in fact as versatile on the defensive end as Stevens seems to think he'll be earning himself minutes in no time at all.
While playing hard, and being in the right place, on the defensive end of the floor is the best way to get in coach Stevens' good graces, hitting open shots ranks pretty high too. With the Celtics adding Gordon Hayward this offseason opposing defenses are going to have their hands full covering both him and the NBA's 3rd leading-scorer in '16-17 in Isaiah Thomas. Surrounding them with shooters is going to be of utmost importance to keep the floor nice and spaced. Ojeleye is proving plenty capable of hitting shots, particularly from three.
In three games in Las Vegas Semi is averaging 12 ppg while shooting 9 for 21 from three, and while Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been drawing some attention and getting him some good looks he'll be an afterthought in the Celtics regular season offense. And he'll get plenty of open looks like this: