By the time the Celtics’ 2023 NBA Draft finally came to an end — after multiple trades in the second round — they came away with just one lone prospect. Boston president Brad Stevens was intrigued by Jordan Walsh’s ability to “swallow people up defensively” as the C’s picked him 38th overall.
It’s been only been five Summer League games in Walsh’s pro career, but the returns have been promising. He averaged 16.0 points, 4.2 assists and 1.6 assists over those five quick games. Notably, he hit 40.7% of his 3-pointers on 5.4 attempts as shooting has been a key area of improvement early. Walsh was one of the standout rookies in Summer League as he turned heads with his 25-point game against the Lakers.
How Walsh, still just 19, fares in his rookie season will be one of the subplots to watch as part of the Celtics’ season. He already signed his first pro contract, a four-year deal as the team used its second-round exception. That means Walsh will be around during the season, soaking in as much as possible as a member of the Celtics.
Realistically, he won’t see consistent rotation minutes as the C’s roster is virtually set as contenders. But it’s a long season, meaning Walsh can find his way into the rotation occasionally and provide some jolts of energy. The expectations should be relatively low considering where he was picked and his age, which doesn’t put as much pressure on him to contribute right away.
But with the new salary cap constraints of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Celtics will do themselves favors by being able to find cheap production like Walsh. He doesn’t need to turn into a star — that’s what Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown bring to the table. However, if Walsh can turn into a serviceable rotation player on a cheap rookie deal, that allows the C’s to use their resources elsewhere. In terms of team building, that’s valuable.
The areas Walsh needs to work on are relatively clear. Stevens pointed out Walsh’s defensive ability — armed with a 7-foot-2 wingspan — which should translate well into the NBA even from Day 1. There will be natural growing pains, but the Celtics hope he can develop behind the scenes. Walsh also already hinted to knowing how to get along just fine with Celtics fans.
“I heard that Boston likes people who dive on the floor more than people who dunk the ball,” Walsh said in his first comments as a Celtic. “That guy is going to be me. I’ll still do a little dunking, but that guy will be me. I’m just a guy who wants to do whatever it takes to win.”
The offensive side of the ball appears to be more of a work-in-progress for Walsh. His 3-point shooting is a question mark even though he had a solid showing from deep at Summer League. There were a few times where he shied away from shooting the open 3, but the Summer League coaches insisted he let the open shots fly up.
Walsh is slated to be the lone rookie on the roster this fall. That should be a fun spot for him as he can learn what it takes to win from one of the best teams in the league. There won’t be much pressure on Walsh to contribute, but if he can show flashes of being a solid pro, that should be the hope for Celtics fans throughout the season.