The Boston Celtics open training camp on October 1 and we're counting down the days by examining some of the top storylines for the 2019-20 season.
Today's topic: Does Tacko Fall make Boston's roster out of camp?
In one of the NBA's wildest summers, one that saw the Celtics swap out an All-Star point guard (Kyrie Irving) for another (Kemba Walker), no Boston player drew as much national attention as Fall, an undrafted camp invite.
Since the start of summer league in Las Vegas, Fall has been the most searched Celtics player on the internet. Try a Google query for "Celtics roster" and Fall is the first suggested player ahead of Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Gordon Hayward. It's been that way since July.
The 7-foot-7 Fall became a sensation not just because of his height but because of his raw abilities and the way he carried himself in the face of rising celebrity. Casual Celtics fans probably can't name a member of Boston's new-look frontcourt following the departures of veterans Al Horford and Aron Baynes, but chances are they now know Fall.
After going undrafted in June, Fall signed what's called an Exhibit 10 contract with the Celtics. That pact is essentially an invitation to work out with the team over the summer and attend training camp. Players that are waived at the end of camp and accept an assignment to the team's G-League affiliate can earn up to $50,000 for being funneled to the parent team's minor league squad.
Fall is going to get a chance to state his case for an NBA job at training camp. The Celtics have an open roster spot after waiving Guerschon Yabusele during summer league and the team is bringing in summer league standouts like Fall and Javonte Green to compete for that spot. The Celtics do not have to sign another player but that spot is there for someone to win if they prove themselves valuable enough.
Outside of the 15-man roster, the Celtics also have a pair of two-way player slots that allow young players to develop in the G-League with an ability to be called up to the parent club for part of the season. Boston has already committed those slots to Tremont Waters (a late-second round pick) and Max Strus, an undrafted rookie. But either of those players could be converted to the 15th roster spot - or waived - to open a potential two-way spot for Fall.
The most ideal path for the Celtics would be to funnel Fall to the G-League as an affiliated player if he's waived after camp but doing such would require the team to expose him to waivers where a rival could snag him on a minimum-salary deal, particularly any team with an open two-way spot.
Outside interest might hinge on what Fall shows during camp, as it will be our first real glimpse of where he stands against NBA talent. He showed well in summer league but there is a great difference in defending other rookies versus trying to joust with NBA veterans like Enes Kanter (though Kanter offered praise of Fall after playing some 2-on-2 with him this summer).
So, does Fall make the final roster out of camp? This writer's belief has been that he can force the team's hand with his play in camp. If he shows he's already made strides this summer and that there's a potential to develop into a serviceable big man, then the Celtics are going to have to think long and hard about finding a way to keep him around. It seems more likely that Boston would elevate, say, Waters to the 15th roster spot and ink Fall to a two-way deal, but is still gets him on the roster.
There is a business component to all this as well. Fall's development is going to be of high interest, particularly at the minor league level. This summer, the Celtics purchased their G-League affiliate, and one way to guarantee a sold-out arena is to have someone like Fall to generate interest. It's further incentive to keep him as a part of the program, but only if the team truly believes he has a potential NBA future ahead of him. Danny Ainge has said the team is invested in Fall's development.
Would the Celtics be brazen enough to expose Fall to waivers in hopes of simply pushing him through to the G-League as an affiliated player? It seems like a risky move, even if Fall has a rough camp. But if someone else kicks down the door to that 15th spot, and if Waters and Strus hold firm to those two-way spots, it might be a dice roll the team must take.
Abby Chin: Two-way player
We've seen situations change quickly in the past when different opportunities pop up for the guys at the end of the bench. I don't think the Celtics would mind getting a glimpse of Tacko at the NBA level. But he's clearly not ready to be an every-night contributor.
Sherrod Blakely: Two-way player
Prepare for Tacko Tuesdays to become a mainstay of the Maine Red Claws this season. At 7-foot-7 and still learning the NBA game, Tacko has too much size, potential, and drawing power to let go. He's not quite good enough to hold down the 15th roster spot but slotting him into one of the two-way contracts - that means Boston would likely waive Max Strus - makes a lot of sense.
Max Lederman: Two-way player
I think they'll end up keeping his rights with a two-way deal. He's too fun to get rid of but probably not worth a spot on the 15-man roster. That said, he's a massive body to throw out there versus teams who deploy traditional bigs.
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