SALT LAKE CITY – Paul Pierce was always known as one of the top rebounding small forwards in the game. Now, four summers after he departed the team, Boston’s two young wing prospects are trying to work toward a similar reputation.
Jaylen Brown grabbed 13 rebounds Monday night during Boston’s opening-game victory over the Philadelphia 76ers at the Utah Jazz Summer League. After a day off for the Fourth of July, Jayson Tatum followed Brown’s effort up by grabbing 10 boards of his own Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs.
Boston is not a team that possesses a lot of size up front, and it does not have any players who are considered to be elite rebounders in the NBA. That’s why Brad Stevens asked the team last season to rebound as a group rather than to rely on single players to dominate the glass.
As a result, shooting guard Avery Bradley (6.1 rebounds per game) and small forward Jae Crowder (5.8 RPG) finished second and third on the team in rebounding average behind Al Horford (6.8 RPG).
The Celtics need their guards and wings to rebound at a high level in order to succeed, and that’s the message the Summer League coaching staff is relaying to Brown and Tatum, who are known as 7-11 (Nos. 7 and 11, respectively), out West.
“What we’re trying to do is not deviate from the standard, just in terms of whether this is the Summer League or whether this is the start of the ’17-18 season,” said acting head coach Jerome Allen. “What our standards are as the Boston Celtics is pretty much the message that we’re trying to deliver.
“I think Brad, whether he was coaching Summer League or whether he’s coaching in the fall, there’s certain things he’s just not going to waver from, so we’re just trying to emulate that.”
One of those things is having his perimeter players attack the glass. Allen is confident that the NBA’s last to No. 3 overall picks, Brown and Tatum, are more than capable of fulfilling that request.
“I think all of our wings have the athleticism to kind of compete on the glass,” Allen said. “We’re switching a number of different spots and different actions. Just their activity, their aggressiveness, is something that we need. So it’s good to see that the last two games those guys were rebounding the ball well.”
Following his 23-point, 10-rebound double-double Wednesday night, Tatum spoke of his interest in attacking the glass. He equated it to doing the dirty work for Celtics.
“Just trying to be well-rounded,” he said of his 10 boards. “Those are effort things: diving on the floor, rebounding; it doesn’t take skill to do those things. I’m just giving the extra effort to help the team.”
Under the leadership of Stevens, the Celtics have become known around the league as a team that gives maximum effort every night they take the floor. Tatum appears to be falling in line with that mentality, and we all know that Brown, who averaged 5.9 rebounds per 36 minutes as a rookie, is in that line as well.
Both of these young and talented players are unlikely to put up major statistical numbers in the rebounding department once the season gets underway, if only because they are unlikely to be logging 35 minutes a night. This summer and next season, however, are in the heart of their development years.
These are the years during which Brown and Tatum can develop their knack and hunger for grabbing rebounds. If they do so, the league could be looking at them as two of the top rebounding wings in the game within next handful of years.