Sunday, June 26, 2022

Celtics catch up with 25-year-old ‘defensive force’ for closer look

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As the Boston Celtics prepare for the offseason, it seems like there won’t be many changes. Most of their squad is still under contract and all nine of their primary rotation players will be back for next year (barring a swap).

One thing that should be on their to-do list, however, is adding some depth. After their core benchers Derrick White, Payton Pritchard, Grant Williams and Daniel Theis, they had no one to lean on permanently last season.

In return, they will apparently bring a 25-year-old defensive monster to training very soon. Chinanu Onuaku, a former second-round pick who spent last season abroad in the Israeli league with Bnei Herzliya, last played in the NBA in 2018. Longtime NBA insider Marc Stein reported the news on June 13.

“The Celtics also plan to bring Onuaku to Boston for a look after the NBA Finals, according to EuroHoops.net,” Stein reported.

Other teams showing interest include the Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks and Cleveland Cavaliers. The 6’10 tall man averaged 15.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.5 blocks with Bnei Herzliya last season.

Additionally, an international scout speaking to Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney praised Onuaku. He said that he was a completely “different player”.

According to the scout, Onuaku wasn’t in a great position to succeed when he was called up because the Houston Rockets were playing small ball and Clint Capela had prevailed as the starting center.

“I think a lot of people had higher hopes for him as an NBA player, but he was a second-round player in a bad position, playing for Houston when Clint Capela kind of got his way and you (coach Mike) D » Antoni there, and they often grew small. So there was no place for him,” the scout explained.

Since then, however, he’s improved his game and is still a beast on the defensive side of the ball.

“But he’s very tall and strong, he’s built muscle and he’s a good athlete. He’s always been a really solid defensive man, he can block shots and hit rebounds. He’s come a long way offensively, he has a semblance of post moves that he really didn’t have after college. He can also step out and shoot, which he never could. He’s a different player,” said the scout.

He has his weaknesses, however, as Onuaku struggled with his free throw shooting, hands and turnovers (a common problem for the Celtics last season).

“The two things that still give him problems are his free throw shooting and his hands. Very prone to turnover. It’s not as bad as it used to be, but that could be an issue when it comes to getting him on an NBA team,” the scout said.

However, despite his defensive prowess and growing interest in the league, Onuaku is best known for his free throws.

Stein pointed to Onuaku’s wacky free-throw mechanic in his report, stating that he’s the only professional basketball player he knows who still shoots like this.

“Onuaku is the only active professional player I know (besides Rick’s son Canyon Barry) who shoots his free throws as sneakily as Barry,” Stein wrote. “An update: Don’t be surprised to see those sneaky free throws back in the NBA in the future given how much noise Onuaku has been making in Israel this season.”

The big man’s sneaky free throws are fun to watch and if he can be an effective defensive presence, Celtics fans might get a chance to see them in person next season.

The big man’s sneaky free throws are fun to watch and if he can be an effective defensive presence, Celtics fans might get a chance to see them in person next season.

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