In a league where there are only 450 players on NBA rosters at a time, players need to have a unique skill set and provide value to their respective teams. There are a lot of great basketball players in the world, but only the elite are privileged enough to be apart of the Association.
Tacko Fall is a lightning rod due to his 7'6" frame. His standing reach is 10'2" and he can practically dunk a ball without leaving his feet. He received a lot of notoriety in this past NCAA tournament for keeping #1 pick Zion Williamson in check as his team pushed Duke to the buzzer before Zion made an impressive tip-in for the win.
Since then, Tacko went through the NBA combine and individual team workouts in preparation for the draft. Even with his unique god-given gift of being tall, he was not drafted by an NBA team in the 2019 NBA Draft. He quickly signed an Exhibit-10 contract and played for the Celtics in the Las Vegas Summer League, where he continued to make waves for his impressive stature and surprising play.
What stood out to me in the Summer League was that, although he is extremely big, he moves well for a guy that size. He runs the floor adequately and is not a stiff like you'd imagine. He looks like an athlete. Some of these big guys look like Bambi on ice, but you don't see that with Tacko.
Again, every NBA team passed on him on draft night (including the Celtics) so there is a simple case to be made that he is not to be viewed as an NBA player. But as Ben Rohrbach tweeted out recently, at least on Celtics staffer feels that he has a shot to stick around.
Asked a Celtics staffer if Tacko Fall is an NBA player. The response: “I think he’s worth an investment for sure. If he improves this season anywhere close to his improvement the last few months then I think it’s hard to argue against him.” He’s been in Boston working all week.
There is no guarantee that he is on an NBA roster this year, but there are two-way contract opportunities, as well as the ability to stash him in the G-League. I'm also sure that he will get offers for bigger money than a G-League contract to play overseas, so it begs the question: Is Tacko Fall an NBA player right now?
I'd love to see him stick around with the Celtics, but as the NBA rules go, a G-League player can be "stolen" by another NBA team if he is put on their 15-man NBA roster.
With the Celtics having 14 guaranteed contracts, a partially guaranteed contract for Javonte Green, and Max Strus and Tremont Waters eating up the two 2-way deals, where does Tacko Fall fit in? Will he accept a G-League offer or will he try to end up on an NBA roster elsewhere? If I'm a bottom-dwelling team, I'd be inclined to take the flier to develop him and maybe sell a few more tickets.
The risk for the Celtics to lose the player is very real if they don't sign him to the 15th roster spot. I wouldn't mind for the Celtics to go into the season with 14 players, as they have in the past, but we're likely going to see Javonte Green and Tacko Fall battle it out for that final roster spot.
My view is that he does deserve to be on an NBA roster. Although I don't see any All-Star games in his future, you don't want to let him be the one that got away. The only way to ensure that is to give him an NBA contract. There's no rush, though. See what it looks like in camp when he's playing with other NBA veterans, but there is definitely value in keeping him in the pipeline as a developmental player.
The Celtics have the luxury of easing him into action. Even with an NBA contract, he'd be getting a lot of valuable minutes for the Maine Red Claws, one would imagine. Start simple with him. His value is going to be rim protection, screen-setting, and rim running.
You'd also expect him to be a solid rebounder at that height. In his career at Central Florida, where he was a raw player learning the game, his career offensive rebounding percentage was 13.9%. Last year in the NBA, that would have ranked him sixth in the league around the likes of Clint Capela, Jusuf Nurkic and Rudy Gobert. Although his defensive rebounding percentage of 22.6% would not have had him the elite NBA category, he would have slid in around other NBA rotational players - Al-Farouq Aminu, Mason Plumlee, Javale McGee, John Collins and Myles Turner. The competition is about to become a lot stiffer for Tacko Fall, but this isn't a bad barometer.
If there is an immediate role for him on this year's team, I can see it being as a "special teams" player in low clock defensive situations - guarding inbounders and protecting the rim with a second-or-so left. He could also be an option or decoy on offensive late clock situations. You know Brad Stevens will have a play drawn up to throw it up to him above the rim for a last second tip-in. Those plays can help you win a game or two, but all the while his main contribution will be stapling himself to the bench learning to become an NBA player. Early reports are that he has decent basketball IQ, which will go a long way in a speedier development as well.
I want to see him stick around because he will be a fan favorite and fun to follow. Although that's cute, its not all ice cream and rainbows in the cutthroat business of professional sport. But it feels like he has a starter pack of tools that he was born with that can justify the basketball decision as well.
I'm itching for the nights where the crowd is chanting "Tacko! Tacko!" for "Tacko Time" in Celtics blowouts. Here's to hoping there's many of those.
I think I just talked myself into rocking the Tacko Time t-shirt at this weekend's cookout. Get yours here and send me a pic on Twitter @Mike_Auc for a follow and retweet!