Phil Pressey: A Steal for the Boston Celtics?

By Sean McKenney
Phil Pressey
Dak Dillon – USA TODAY Sports

Contrary to popular belief, there is not a “hidden gem” on every NBA team. The phrase is thrown around so often we, as fans, tend to slap it on any given rookie who can muster four points per game and maybe hit a big shot or two. Every team likes to think they landed the “steal of the draft” or have some future star in the making. While all players we now see as stars had to start somewhere, so did every bench warming scrub.

All I’m suggesting is that it is ridiculous when fans rave when rookies play decently. This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, seeing as they are playing in the NBA to begin with.

So imagine my surprise when I see a player who really could be a diamond in the rough for the Boston Celtics, but no one seems to notice.

Like any other athlete, the college career of Phil Pressey stands as the best indicator of his potential and abilities. Unfortunately, Pressey’s collegiate career shows a player with major potential but with major pitfalls, too. Yet despite his battles with turnovers and late-game decision making, Pressey has a rare skill that leaves me wondering how he went undrafted. Ball-handling ability is one of the most basic and crucial skills in the game. Allen Iverson made his career and compensated for his size with excellent ball-handling skills. Ask Tim Duncan how mastering the basic fundamentals of basketball can lead to success in the NBA.

In his last season as a member of the Missouri Tigers, Pressey averaged 11 points and nine assists per game and in the process, set the school record for steals. He has also gained the accolades of making the 2012-13 SEC first team, and in the 2011-12 season, he made the All Big 12 first team. The icing on the cake lies in the fact Pressey is YouTube famous, known for dunking on unsuspecting victims who are as much as a foot taller than him. His previously-mentioned crazy handles have made a bit of a splash, too.

While nasty crossovers and thunderous dunks are fun, don’t expect them every game from Pressey. The NBA is obviously a much bigger place, and Pressey in no longer a big fish in a small pond. However, his upside and potential excellence can be brought out the best through the Celtics.

First of all, Pressey gets to play under the guide and influence of Rajon Rondo, one of the best point guards in the game. Rondo, a master of ball handling, seems to have seriously curbed his turnover problem from the past and could prove to be a fine teacher to Pressey. Seeing how both Pressey and Rondo have both received awards for leading their respective competition in assists, the potential for major as well as speedy improvement is certainly there. It is the similarities between the two that could make for such an excellent back court pairing someday.

Secondly, while the odds of Pressey getting a lot of minutes are slim to none, he is a member of a somewhat depleted team, especially at the point. So, for an undrafted player added based on summer league performance, he will get decent playing time from new head coach Brad Stevens. All the better if he is sent to the Celtics’ NBA D-League affiliate Maine Red Claws — a team on which he could develop as well as shine

While Pressey’s game is reminiscent of Nate Robinson’s in many ways, his ceiling as a player is entirely up to him. That said, his “floor” is dependent on his own ability as well.

Boston hasn’t unearthed the biggest diamond in the rough or discovered the next big thing. However, watch for Pressey in the coming season. He is a player with a major upside who, with the right guidance, could have a highly positive impact on the Celtics.

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