Top Celtics Performers from the 2022 Summer League
Over the past week-plus, basketball fans were given a glimpse of the NBA's potential up-and-coming talent in the 2022 NBA Summer League showcase. In particular, there were some promising individual efforts that came out of Boston’s summer squad, which went 3-2 during its time in Las Vegas.
Below, we’ve highlighted some of the standout performers, some of whom will have a chance to make their mark with the main roster this coming season.
The most improved Celtics player from the 2021 Summer League to the 2022 session was Juhann Begarin, a 6-foot-5 guard who nearly tripled his scoring average from 6.2 points per game to 18.2 PPG. Also the most impressive athlete on the floor, Begarin showed off his skills as a dunking machine, speeding coast-to-coast for driving jams and skying toward the roof for alley-oop slams.
Begarin's 91 total points were 17 more than any other player on the team and the prideful defender also led the C's in steals per game (1.8) and minutes per game (31.1).
Begarin’s best showing came in Boston’s final matchup against Brooklyn Saturday night when he erupted for 25 points, shooting 9-of-17 from the field, 3-of-6 from long range, and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line, while also collecting seven boards, dishing out three assists, and snagging three steals.
At just 19 years old, the 2021 second-round draft pick is just getting started.
While Begarin was the most improved from last summer to this summer, JD Davison took the crown as the most improved player over the course of the five-game showcase.
Boston’s 2022 second-round pick started off a little slow as he transitioned into the flow of the professional game, but by the end of the week, he had established himself as the best playmaker in the entire Summer League.
The 19-year-old guard averaged 8.2 assists per game, making him the second straight Celtics player to lead the Summer League in that category after Payton Pritchard paced the league with 8.5 last July. Only Lonzo Ball has averaged more assists per game than those two with 9.2 for the Lakers in 2017. Davison finished with 41 total assists, which set a Celtics Summer League record.
Davison also dropped in 13.0 points per game, corralled 4.8 rebounds per game, blocked 1.2 shots per game, and snagged 1.2 steals per game, while averaging 30.3 minutes in five appearances.
In his last two games, Davison stuffed the stat sheet with 45 points, 20 assists, and 11 rebounds, while shooting 58.6 percent from the field, 62.5 percent from 3-point range, and 100 percent from the free-throw line. That included a 28-point, 10-assist, five-rebound, three-steal effort in a 108-91 win over the Memphis Grizzlies Thursday night.
During Saturday night’s broadcast on ESPN, the announcers agreed that Davison could be the steal of the 2022 draft after being selected No. 53 overall. The University of Alabama product will have a chance to show what he's made of in just a few months after earning a two-way contract with the C’s for this coming season.
Although his Summer League was cut short less than two full games in, Sam Hauser still gave a brief glimpse of his sharpshooting prowess.
The 6-foot-8 forward was off to a hot start in Boston’s second game against the Milwaukee Bucks, as he poured in 12 points on 3-of-6 shooting from deep in the first half to help the C’s get off to a 52-44 lead before the break. However, he suffered a shoulder injury just a couple of minutes into the third quarter of that game, and we never saw him again.
Fortunately, in Hauser's case, he had less riding on this Summer League than the other players on the team, given that he was the only player that had already been guaranteed a full-time NBA contract heading into next season. He already showed his value during his rookie season, which was split between Boston and Maine, where he averaged 18.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game with the Celtics' G League affiliate.
Justin Jackson wasn’t on Boston’s initial Summer League roster, but his late addition proved to be critical toward the team’s success.
The 15th overall pick from the 2017 draft was added following Boston’s summer-opening loss to the Miami Heat, and he immediately brought a scoring punch which helped to kick-start a three-game win streak for the C’s.
Jackson scored in double figures in all four of his appearances, finishing third on the team in scoring average at 15.0 points per game. His best effort came right in the middle of the five-game session when he scored a team-high 24 points while knocking down five 3-pointers in a 103-92 win over the Golden State Warriors.
The 27-year-old journeyman and 2021 NBA champion gave Boston veteran leadership throughout the past four games, while also showing why he still deserves consideration for an NBA roster spot.
Perhaps Boston's biggest surprise of the summer was Mfiondu Kabengele, a 6-foot-10, 250-pound center, who made such a good impression that it earned him a contract with the team by the end of the showcase.
Kabengele was statistically the best all-around player on the roster, finishing among the top five in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. He provided an imposing presence around the rim, averaging team-high marks of 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. He also finished fourth in both points (14.8) and assists per game (2.4) and was fifth on the steals list (0.8).
The Celtics didn’t want a player of his caliber to slip from their grasp, so they signed him to a two-way contract immediately following their final game of the summer. The former 2019 first-round pick by the Nets will have an opportunity, along with Davison, to split his time between Boston and Portland, Maine this coming season.
Matt Ryan, like Hauser, had his summer cut short just two games into the action. But boy, did he make his mark in the limited time that he spent on the court.
The 6-foot-7 forward led Boston in scoring in both games that he appeared in, dropping 15 points in the opener against Miami and then 23 against Milwaukee. The latter effort against the Bucks was highlighted by a 6-of-11 performance from 3-point range, which included the game-winning triple with 0.8 seconds remaining.
Unfortunately, Ryan got injured on that same game-winner, as he landed awkwardly on his left ankle and remained writhing on the court in pain for several moments, unable to celebrate his heroic shot.
Despite the injury, the 2021-22 Celtics two-way player proved that he can still play at the NBA level. He was a walking bucket in his two appearances, shooting 55.0 percent from the field, 52.6 percent from deep, and 100 percent from the free-throw line, and finished with the most 3-point makes per game (5.0) across the league.
Brodric Thomas’ sharpshooting prowess was right up there with Matt Ryan’s, finishing as the team’s leading 3-point shooter from a volume standpoint. The 6-foot-5 guard connected on the sixth-most long-range shots in the league with a 12-of-23 (52.2 percent) clip from deep in four appearances.
Thomas also excelled in several other areas, joining Kabengele as one of only two Celtics players to finish among the top five in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. He was third on the team in assists (2.5), steals (1.3), and blocks per game (0.8), while also finishing fourth in rebounds (5.3) and points per game (13.3).
This was nothing new for Thomas who, last season with the Maine Celtics, averaged 14.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Over the past eight days, he continued to show his ability to impact the game across the board, while also proving that he can be a reliable, high-volume sniper from long range.