Celtics Lead

What Separates Tacko Fall from an NBA Roster?

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The NBA is six days into Summer League, and one player in particular has garnered applause, TV time and Twitter fame. It’s not Zion Williamson, or R.J. Barrett, or even any draft pick. Instead it’s Tacko Fall who has commanded the attention on the Boston Celtics’ Summer League roster. The 7’6″, 310-pound undrafted rookie was already an intriguing player before July 5, but now his massive frame is on display against prospective NBA talents.

Fall has played well, too — despite coming off the bench, he’s made an impact on the glass and on defense while making 10 of his first 13 shots. He’s also a sporting a net +/- of +22 in just three games on a 3-0 Celtics team. Every time Tacko Fall enters the game, the Las Vegas crowd erupts into cheers, and every time he dunks the ball, the audience goes wild.

Though he’s a fantastic marketing tool and an incredibly unique player, Fall wasn’t drafted for a reason. And while he’s looked good in limited minutes so far for Boston, Fall is still only on an Exhibit 10 contract. This is essentially a training camp deal with an added bonus if Fall spends the upcoming year with the G-League’s Maine Red Claws.

Fall needs to flash potential in more areas to justify a roster spot as an undrafted rookie. Boston’s active roster also currently has just one open space. Moves must be made to get Tacko to an NBA team this season. However, there’s still plenty of summer left, and if Fall can show development, his upside is worth a look.

Can Tacko Fall Shoot?

Tacko Fall, as noted earlier, has made 10 of his 13 field goal attempts so far — an astonishing 77% clip. But those attempts have largely been easy layups and putback dunks that Fall can make with his unreal length. What the Celtics need to see from Fall is any semblance of shooting touch or a refined post game.

Fall is just 2-for-6 from the charity stripe after three Summer League games. This only matches a trend of horrible shooting from the line for the big man. At the University of Central Florida, Fall shot just 43.2 percent on free throws over four years… and his yearly percentages decreased every season. Fall also attempted one three-pointer in four years at UCF, so he’s a long way from forming a perimeter stroke.

Though he put in work during the pre-draft process, Fall is nowhere near a smooth form. The Celtics have shown an impressive knack for developing shooters like Marcus Smart, Al Horford and even Aron Baynes. But Tacko Fall would be an otherworldly project.

As for his post game, Fall has made one nice look so far, nailing a hook shot in the above clip. That hook could be a useful tool given his height and length, but he needs to demonstrate this touch consistently. Analyzing a single Summer League shot is not exactly a good indicator of a skill translating to the NBA. Still, Fall has good footwork and awareness, and this clip is at least a promising flash.

Speed on Both Ends

The other major knock on Tacko Fall is that he’s simply too slow for the highest level of basketball. A 310-pound frame naturally won’t equate to much open-court speed. Fall will be a liability in transition. However, half-court sets should be easier, as the center will generally be posting up and roaming the paint.

In a limited Summer League sample, Tacko Fall has shown surprising quickness with his feet. In the above play he’s able to halt a Cleveland drive with his frame and keep the ball handler in front. Fall also demonstrates awareness of both players and stays in front with good footwork for his size. Admittedly, he’ll have a much tougher time against lighting-quick scorers like Giannis Antetokounmpo than Cavaliers Summer League forwards. But Fall is holding his own here, which is a start.

Opening a Roster Spot

The Celtics have already collected a 14-man roster, so space is tight for Tacko. Guerschon Yabusele’s release, per Chris Haynes, opens up room. The third-year stretch forward was once a first-round pick, but he struggled to break into the rotation. Yabusele disappointed in his third year of Summer League and now is out with a finger injury. His contract was fully guaranteed, but Yabusele just didn’t show enough to justify gambling on potential.

The larger issue, though, is that Tacko Fall would be a fifth pure center on the Celtics. Enes Kanter and Vincent Poirier are new additions, Daniel Theis was just re-signed, and Robert Williams has promise as a prospect, so there is no realistic path for change. Five centers is unnecessary in today’s league.

The two-way contract option is also out the window. Tremont Waters, Boston’s 51st-overall selection, recently agreed to a deal, taking the second slot next to Max Strus. So Fall’s NBA chances next season will either come with the Celtics via their final roster spot, or with another NBA team.

However, there should be no rush to get Tacko Fall up to the NBA. He has plenty of developing to do, and the NBA G-League is becoming increasingly legitimate as a pathway to the Association. Fall will get plenty of time in Portland with the Red Claws as the Celtics look to grow their minor league program.

While he’s an old-school center, Fall has used Summer League to show his size can be an asset in finishing in the paint and anchoring a defense. He needs to work on modernizing his skill set, especially as it relates to shooting. But Fall has the basketball I.Q. and unique talent to crack an NBA roster. The rest of Summer League will indicate if Fall is ready this season with the Celtics.

College statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference. Follow us on Twitter @CelticsLead for the latest Celtics offseason news and insight.

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About Ethan Fuller

Hailing from Portsmouth, NH, Ethan is a journalism student at Boston University and writes about the Celtics for TLSM. His chief basketball teams are the Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves. Ethan is also a still-growing ultimate frisbee player.

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