By drafting Ghanaian-born Power Forward Ben Bentil on June 23, 2016, the Boston Celtics added a new script to their vaunted basketball leaflets by becoming home to Ghana’s first NBA player. In the process of making history, Boston got itself in a tight end corner. Drafting Bentil means the team has eight frontcourt players on its roster; throw in the ability of Small Forwards Jae Crowder and John Holland to play Power Forward in a small ball lineup, and the number shoots up to 10.
Having two thirds of a playing body covering one side of the court is a death trap for a growing team that desperately wants to get to the next level. Essentially, a log jam in Bentil’s position can easily spell doom for his chances of taking to NBA arenas nightly. However, the massive cluster at Boston’s front can vanish as quickly as it was pulled together. Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko’s respective future is at the mercy of management since they will decide to or not to activate their contracts at a combined sum of $17 million for next season. 2012 draftees Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger are restricted free agents meaning management still wields the power to hammer a deal from another team into pieces or keep them in Boston depending on how teams view both big men.
Should these moves go through, Boston will be left with Kelly Olynyk and Jordan Mickey as the only frontcourt players with pro experience. Olynk figures to be the first choice big man in Brad Stevens starting lineup based on his ability to pass and shoot three pointers. Mickey has been uninspiring for the team ploughing his way down low in the Development League for Maine Red Claw and is likely to be added to any package should a good trade come along. To restock, Celtics President Danny Ainge drafted Forwards Guershon Yabusele, Ante Zizic and Center Abdel Nader plus Bentil. Knowing Bentil is in the good books of Coach Stevens-scoring 58 total points against his Stevens former team, Butler University- is a good start.
It gets better as Yabusele and Zizic are likely to be stashed in Europe at least a year for further development and experience before moving to the NBA. Nader’s non versatile play and age points him in the Development League’s direction paving the path for Bentil, Demetrius Jackson and number three overall pick Jaylen Brown as first year players on the team’s official roster heading into the offseason. Ask any young player in a hypercompetitive environment like the NBA what he craves, and the answer heard often is the opportunity to play. Playing through the bad and good forms part of the development process in any player’s career.
For the record, a second year player missed the entire rim on three consecutive occasions in a playoff series but emerged the best game finisher not named Jordan or Robert Horry in a 20 year career for Los Angeles Lakers. Zig zagging through the aforementioned conundrum, Bentil is likely to carve out a role for himself on the team mainly due to his ability to score. Boston is noted around the league as a scrappy side that thrives on defense but lacks a scoring punch aside Isaiah Thomas that seals how high it can go. In Crowder, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Amir Johnson, the Celtics have excellent defenders who have bumped the team’s defensive ratings up every year since Stevens took over three seasons ago. Bentil can play backup to Olynyk, who possesses similar skill set like the Ghanaian.
The Canadian’s ability to hit shots far from the rim was solely missed in the playoffs due to a shoulder injury as Boston crashed out in the first round. In Bentil, Stevens has a guy who can replicate Olynyk’s production on the offensive end due to his varied scoring touch which looks slightly better than Olynyk’s due to Ben’s agile frame and athleticism. A need to rebound more and check his timing on closeouts and one on one situations need to improve. Being picked deep in the second round has its perks-partially guaranteed contracts that pay less than a million dollars a year and limited opportunities to play- but luckily for him he finds himself in a perfect situation to thrive in the world’s best basketball league.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah