When Rajon Rondo went down with a season-ending knee injury in 2013, the Boston Celtics lost their only real PG on the roster. That team managed to get by for the rest of the season with a PG-by-committee type strategy, but the lack of a legitimate, natural PG proved to be problematic at times for the Celtics.
The team’s point guard situation for start of this season doesn’t look much different. The only change to that is the addition of an undrafted, rookie free agent named Phil Pressey.
Pressey is the only natural PG on the Celtics’ roster. The 5-foot-11 guard from Missouri went undrafted, and after proving himself with impressive play during Summer League, Pressey earned a contract with the Celtics. Now, he faces a perfect opportunity. Pressey has a legitimate chance to contribute to a team that really could use his help.
Though Pressey is small in stature, he is quick, athletic and has a natural PG mentality. In addition, he has dribbling and shooting skills, plays tenacious defense and has court vision reminiscent of Rondo. The former Missouri Tiger was statistically one of the best NCAA passers throughout college. The necessary ingredients are all there to make Pressey an NBA-caliber PG.
If Pressey maximizes potential, he could become a cross between Nate Robinson and Jameer Nelson. All Pressey needs is help and time to bring it all together. With the Celtics’ current situation, Pressey’s opportunity to do that couldn’t be better.
There’s also plenty of reason to be weary of Pressey’s game. After all, he did go undrafted in what many experts believe to be a super-weak draft. Pressey’s questionable decision-making and inconsistency are why his draft stock plummeted.
Pressey, also known as “Flip,” led one of the top offenses in the country during his sophomore year at Mizzou. When his team lost most of that talent the following season, he tried to become “the guy”, which proved to be a frustrating experience for Pressey and Tiger fans alike.
ESPN’s draft expert Chad Ford told the Kansas City Star, “Phil Pressey is one of the most frustrating players to scout for NBA scouts … You saw at Missouri, over and over again, as games would get tight, he would start to try to play hero ball, try to do too much … and almost single-handedly lose games for Missouri after playing so well for the first 35 minutes”.
So the question becomes, is Phil Pressey the guy in the first 35 minutes, or is he the guy in that last five minutes? Throughout Pressey’s career, he’s shown flashes of special plays that very few athletes have the ability to make. Because of those flashes, the Celtics decided to give Pressey a shot.
Pressey knew there was a very real chance he wouldn’t be picked when he elected to forgo his senior season to enter the draft, but given his connection to the Celtics’ franchise (his father, Paul, served on Doc Rivers‘ staff from 2004-2007) and a strong pre-draft workout, he remained confident he’d have at least one opportunity to earn an NBA job.
So far, he has made the most of that opportunity. Pressey was neither erratic nor inconsistent during summer league. In fact, up to this point, Pressey has outperformed most of the guards that were drafted in the first round.
Perhaps Pressey’s struggles at Mizzou weren’t because of his decision-making or inconsistency. Maybe instead, you could attribute Pressey’s struggles to the fact that he was forced to play a role not suited to his strengths. The best part about his current situation with the Celtics is that he won’t ever have to be the hero, and can play the role he once thrived under.
Pressey can and will earn some minutes in Rondo’s absence. What he does with those minutes is up for debate, but the team will struggle without a true PG like it did last year. It’s uncertain how exactly that Pressey will fit into the puzzle without Rondo, but if he plays as well as he did in Summer League play, he might even be able to secure a backup PG role even with Rondo back.