Forsberg: Power ranking the back half of C’s training camp roster originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Celtics tip off training camp in less than two weeks. While much of the summer was spent obsessing about the top of the roster and the possibility of a Jaylen Brown-for-Kevin Durant swap, the focus has shifted the last few weeks to the back end of the roster.
With Danilo Gallinari likely out for the season with an ACL tear, the Celtics’ deep depth has come into focus. Gallinari would have been part of Boston’s 10-man core but his absence leaves some question marks entering camp, particularly in Boston’s thin frontcourt.
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Now, Boston’s success will almost certainly be dictated by those in the top 8 but, especially this time of year, everyone loves a good backup quarterback. So let’s rev up some end-of-the-roster hype trains in advance of camp.
The Celtics are set to bring a collection of familiar faces and former first-round picks to battle for spots at the back end of a roster that still has three open spots. It’s likely Boston will fill two of those spots but likely leave the 15th position open to maximize potential in-season maneuvering (and save costs while already $19 million into the luxury tax).
Since Boston is bringing back its top 8 from last season and added Malcolm Brogdon, we can zip through the top half of the roster power rankings with something like 1. Jayson Tatum, 2. Jaylen Brown, 3. Marcus Smart, 4. Robert Williams III, 5. Al Horford, 6. Brogdon, 7. Derrick White, 8. Grant Williams, and 9. Payton Pritchard. Quibble if you want, but it feels fair with priority to what we saw last season.
Those daydreaming about Carmelo Anthony or another veteran addition will likely have to be patient. The Celtics will give camp bodies every chance to assert themselves before pondering the need to add a more experienced player, particularly given that already bloated luxury tax bill.
10. Sam Hauser: Undrafted sharpshooter elevated to the parent roster midway through his rookie year and will get first crack at filling the Gallinari void. The 24-year-old has the size and shooting talents to mask some of what Gallinari could have offered but must show he can impact the offense in other ways, while also ensuring he’s not a targetable defender. Boston’s top-end depth should afford a lot of quality looks for Hauser.
11. Luke Kornet: The biggest body (7-foot-2, 250 pounds) on Boston’s roster, Kornet could be more important than most expect. He’s shown enough in parts of two seasons that Boston’s brass is comfy that he can be a third or fourth center with a heftier role than we’ve seen to this point. Kornet can stretch the floor and joust on the glass. Can he log big minutes against Joel Embiid? The Celtics are hopeful they won’t need to find out, but they might if 36-year-old Horford has his time managed or Robert Williams battles any injuries.
12. Mfiondu Kabengele: After shining at summer league, the former first-round pick (27th in 2019) signed a two-way deal with Boston and could add needed frontcourt depth. The nephew of Dikembe Mutombo is a rim runner who showcased sneaky alley-oop skills in Vegas. He needs to take his defense up a notch but he’s a solid rebounder for his size. The Celtics are hoping Kabengele can thrive in a role devoid of draft-day expectations.
13. JD Davison: Don’t misconstrue here: Davison will almost certainly spend the majority of the season in Maine getting much-needed reps after his lone season at Alabama. But he’s got a leg up over everyone else below him on this list because he’s already on a two-way deal. He’s emergency depth if injuries erode Boston’s surplus of ball-handling depth.
14. Jake Layman: This isn’t just some feel-good, local-boy-comes-home-for -camp story. The 6-foot-8 swingman has 243 games of NBA experience and was a serviceable reserve in Portland and Minnesota. The Celtics could benefit from some wing depth and the Wrentham native should state a case to stick around in camp.
15. Justin Jackson: One of the many former first-round picks (15th overall in 2017) that Boston has in camp to compete for depth spots, Jackson shined as a late addition to Boston’s summer roster. He also had a one-game cameo here last season when the team needed bodies. His size and 3-point shooting could likewise aid Boston’s wing depth.
16. Brodric Thomas: A two-way player for Boston last season, Thomas has familiarity in his favor but must show strides in his game in order for Boston to consider carrying another guard with one of those final spots.
17. Noah Vonleh: The ninth overall pick in 2014, Vonleh has plenty of NBA experience but spent all of the 2021-22 season playing overseas in China. His Massachusetts roots are another good camp storyline but he hasn’t played consistent NBA minutes since a 68-game stint with the Knicks in 2018-19.
18. Bruno Caboclo: After Caboclo got drafted with the 20th pick in 2014, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla declared him, “Two years away from being two years away.” That was eight years ago. Caboclo has only played double-digit minutes in an NBA game once since the bubble. The 6-foot-9 forward was an MVP in Brazil last season and is still a physical marvel with an insane wingspan.
19. Denzel Valentine: The 14th pick in the 2016 draft latched on with Boston’s G-League affiliate in Maine at the end of last season. He’s 28 now and faces long odds to make the final roster. But he does have 256 games of NBA experience and should at least get another chance to migrate to Maine with hopes of jumpstarting his NBA career.
* Gallinari: Rehab will almost certainly cost Gallinari his season. He might still be a quality veteran presence around the team. Alas, the tax-strapped Celtics could consider packaging him (and the player option year remaining on his deal) with a pick down the road in hopes of adding a different experienced depth piece. Otherwise, they’re paying big money and crossing their fingers that Gallinari can bounce back from injury to be a contributor at age 35 next season.