On Friday, the Celtics made their first decision regarding the final roster when they released rookie forward Ben Bentil, a second round pick out of Providence. The Celtics selected Bentil mid-way through the second round and based on his versatility, he seemed like an interesting contender for the Celtics final roster spot. Had he not made the team, I thought for sure that he’d spend the season with the Celtics D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, but upon waiving him, Celtics GM Danny Ainge hinted that Bentil might look for a team with a clearer path to the final roster.
Bentil played college basketball at Providence, so it would have been a nice story for him to one day play for the Celtics, however he is a talented player and deserves a shot at cracking a final roster sooner, rather than later. With the Celtics abundance of players, future picks, and cap space, it was evident that that may not happen any time soon. Bentil was signed by the Pacers earlier today and was assigned to their D-League affiliate, where there are less formidable players standing between him and Indiana’s 15-man roster.
While waiving Bentil, Ainge inferred that former Celtic Gerald Green was here to stay meaning there was only one more roster-spot and the competition had been narrowed down to James Young and R.J. Hunter. Both players were first round draft picks, both are young and both have similar skill sets and bodies, so it was clear that one had to go. After shopping both players over the weekend for second-round draft picks, Danny Ainge and the Celtics elected to waive Hunter in favor of the absolute project that is, James Young.
Now let me get one thing straight, was Hunter any less of a project than Young? No, but Young was drafted two years ago and up until very recently this summer, hadn’t shown any sign of improvement. Hunter on the other hand was a rookie last year, and when Avery Bradley got injured in the playoffs, Hunter was trusted with valuable playoff minutes and didn’t disappoint. Did he win the Celtics a game or do anything spectacular? No, but the mere fact that a rookie could step into a playoff game and look all right after barely playing all season was a comforting sight. Compare that to Young who barely excelled in the D-League even though he’s played there for the better parts of two seasons and it seems cut and dry which player should have been cut.
But the Celtics chose to keep Young, so who am I to say they were wrong. I haven’t always been a James Young hater, he turned me into one. When the Celtics drafted Young at the ripe age of 19, I knew it would be a project, but I was okay with that because I liked what I saw out of him at Kentucky. He was supposedly a shooter (which we still have no NBA-evidence of yet) but he was also athletic and could get to the hoop and score when he wanted to. Then after getting drafted, he couldn’t even play in the Summer League thanks to lingering injuries from a car accident in June of 2014. That’s where it started. The following summer, he looked awful during the Summer League and it became abundantly clear that he was still not ready to play in the NBA, BUT he was still only 20-years-old so there was hope. Now, just barely 21, he’s finally cracked the 15-man roster but it almost seems as though it happened by default. Did Young really look that much better than Hunter this summer to grant him the spot over R.J.? Or did R.J. just not do enough to beat out the hype that still surrounds the 21-year old Young?
Young has officially cracked the roster, so now I’m forced to root for him. On the bright side, he appears to have bulked up this off-season and his body looks more NBA-ready than it has before. In addition, he actually didn’t look terrible during the preseason. Young looked somewhat comfortable out there and less hesitant with the ball in his hands than he has in the past. His added body weight has made it easier for him to get to the hoop in the NBA, so there are some signs that maybe, just maybe, he’ll develop into the 17th-overall pick we thought he’d be. So this is your chance to prove me wrong James, and honestly you don’t even need to do a ton in order to do that. Just improve gradually, show myself and the rest of the Celtics fans that you’re progressing and learning and that we didn’t waste a draft pick on you for three years of you being the exact same player. I wasn’t a James Young hater when the Celtics drafted him, but waiting for him to turn into the first round pick he should be caused it, and quite frankly, I’m sick of waiting. So whatever opportunities you get this year Young, use them to your advantage. Show the fans that you’re worth the wait. As for Hunter, I wish him the best and still believe he can help an NBA team out there.