There's a growing list of NBA newbies and blasts from the NBA not-so-distant past who were signed recently by clubs to 10-day contracts, a stop-gap measure for teams to field just enough players to officially have a team as players continue to file into the league’s health and safety protocol in waves.
You can add Boston All-Star Jayson Tatum to the list of Celtics players, and it's a lengthy, out for tonight’s game against Minnesota due to health and safety protocol.
As much as the coronavirus and its variants are challenging a team’s ability to field enough bodies to play a game, that’s not the only test they’re facing.
So many players in health and safety protocol has shined a much brighter spotlight on how well or woeful teams have been about developing players.
Because the whole point of drafting players, molding them over time, and eventually getting to them on the floor, is for times like this when the opportunity to play is great.
This is why this is such an interesting time for Celtics Nation, a fan base that has been equally loving and loathing of the organization’s ability to develop, retain and reward talented players.
For every Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum whose rapid ascension is undeniable, fans also point out the slower-than-expected growth from the team’s younger players such as Aron Nesmith, Romeo Langford, and Payton Pritchard.
Their growth has been an issue all season, which is why the Celtics have gone in a completely different direction when it became clear that they would need to add players via the 10-day contract route.
Rather than double down on adding more young and unproven talent to the mix, the Celtics have taken a back-to-the-future approach by bringing in proven, battle-tested NBA players from the past.
As much as it is a nod to veterans like Joe Johnson and C.J. Miles for still having a little left in the tank to give to an NBA team, it’s also a clear indictment that the team’s younger players are simply not getting it done with the consistency needed.
Pritchard has been better of late, but his overall body of work hasn’t built off the success he had at the end of last season and this summer. The same for Nesmith who still hasn’t shown the ability to shoot well despite shot-making being the main reason he was a lottery pick (top-14) of Boston a couple years ago. Langford has shown potential as defender who can knock down corner 3's, but he too has been limited in large part by one nagging injury after another.
And when it comes to player development, not only is there concern for those players in the fold but also for those players who could have been with the team but are not for a number of reasons.
Max Strus signed a two-way contract with Boston in 2019, but was waived before ever playing a game for the Green Team. He would later sign with Chicago and is now a steady contributor for the Miami Heat.
The 6-foot-5 shooting guard is averaging 11.0 points per game this season, and has scored in double figures each of Miami’s last five games - the longest stretch of his career.
Seeing the success he has had with the Miami Heat, for Celtics fans, is a reminder of what could have been for a Celtics team that could benefit greatly from having another shot-maker on the roster.
A similar situation is playing out with Houston’s Garrison Mathews. He was signed to a two-way contract by Boston, but was waived at the end of training camp in part to make sure a roster spot existed by Jabari Parker.
There’s little doubt that Mathews has had a much better season than Parker. But what isn’t clear is how much, if at all, would Strus or Matthews play in Ime Udoka’s system?
The argument heard most often about the aforementioned Celtics who have limited roles, is that opportunity more than anything else, is what keeps them from being able to contribute on a more grand scale.
Well, that opportunity can not be any greater than it is now.
Are they ready or more to the point, have they been developed enough by the Celtics to make the most of the opportunity to play a more pivotal role.