Semi Ojeleye gets first NBA start for one reason - Giannis Antetokounmpo
If Semi Ojeleye can ever improve his offensive game, he will become a real gem found in the second round of the 2017 NBA draft. Brad Stevens has already labeled him as an elite defender, even as a rookie. He was in the starting line-up in Boston's win over the Milwaukee Bucks for one main reason - to guard do-everything Bucks star, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Semi not only started the game. He played a total of 31 minutes, and they were valuable ones for Boston. It was a surprise not only for fans, but also for Ojeleye himself. He had no idea about the start until 25 minutes prior to game time. Brad Stevens said that he wanted "more ball pressure - overall" and "that was the decision to go smaller".
Semi only scored five points in the game, hitting on 1-of-3 shots on 3-pointers and 2-of-2 from the foul line. He was able to snare seven rebounds, and I took that as a good sign going forward. He has struggled with both his scoring and rebounding thus far this season. He was aggressive off the glass.
Stevens also added, "... tough task to guard Giannis the whole night". Brad is the Master of Understatement. This guy comes as close to being unguardable as anyone in the League. He is 6'11" and seems to be able to score at will. Add in the fact that he is unselfish and gets the ball to teammates at opportune moments, and you have a handful for any defender.
Semi Ojeleye told me he got word that he was starting tonight, about 25 minutes before the game. “Coach (Stevens) says stay ready, and I was ready.”
Milwaukee shot a poor 37% from the field last night, after hitting 52% and 57% in the previous two games in this series. It seemed that almost every Buck's attempt was contested and difficult. And Boston was physical. It all worked. Thus the win for Boston.
As to Semi's future with Boston, he seems to check most of the boxes. He is an elite defender. He has the size (6'7") and strength to switch on defense 1-through-5. He is on a bargain contract, earning 1.3 million this season and 1.4 million next year. He is signed for four years with the final two years non-guaranteed. The last box to be checked is Ojeleye's offense. I believe that will happen and that he is a keeper. That is, unless Danny Ainge sends him off in a trade advantageous to Boston.