Noah Funleigh looks ready.
For the majority of the season, there’s a compelling story about Boston Celtics (Out of Ime Udoka’s case) The search for additional help was in the front court. and quickly Danilo Galinari And the Robert Williams InnThe need has increased tenfold.
There was no one in the market who could substitute what Williams would bring to the table. Sam Hauser looks ready to step into a bigger role similar to Gallinari’s, but the Celtics still need help with the five. Luke Kornet was supposed to intervene, but Ankle sprain in training camp Forced him to miss all pre-season so far. Blake Griffin is in town now too, and that’s another option.
Then there is Funleigh.
It’s ready to be Series 3 (or Series 4) in a championship-caliber team, and it really isn’t asking for much. The 27-year-old isn’t perfect, but he’s hungry for another chance in the NBA. And so far in training camp, he did exactly what the Celtics needed.
Through three pre-season games, Vonleh averaged 7.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in 15.6 minutes of movement per game (on 83.3% shots from the field). This efficiency is clearly not sustainable, but his gameplay has proven that he is fully prepared to play minutes in this year’s Boston tournament when needed (even if the minutes are few).
The first thing that jumps off the page is its bounce. In his first start for Boston this pre-season, he scored 13 rebounds, and outside of Griffin (who played in only one game), he’s led the team in rebounds so far.
It may seem like a boring skill. Big men are supposed to wear basketball. But for the Celtics, who struggled for collegiate boards at key moments last year, having her on the roster is a precious commodity. And outside of Kornet, he’s actually the tallest player on the list at 6’10.
His height is far from the only reason why he excels as a new player. No matter where he is on the field, as soon as the shot goes up, Funley sniffs the bouncing ball, fighting in front of anyone who gets in his way. His wingspan of 7’4 helps with this too, as he can snag on smaller teams like Toronto Raptors. Vonleh never lived up to expectations in the league, but he was always an excellent rebel; Over his seven seasons, he currently has more rebounds than in the NBA.
Offensively, Vonleh doesn’t offer much out of the ordinary. Based on his pre-season performance, he’s somewhat one-dimensional. He can run pick-and-roll, he can throw blisters, and he’s a very strong player. But he’s not a breakout on the ground, he’s not quite as athletic as Robert Williams and Pam Adebayus in the world, and he doesn’t have a variety of after-moves. but no problem.
When Vonleh gets his playing time, he’ll be playing with a group of dynamic scorers and above-average playmakers. With Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Malcolm Brogdon, Derek White, and Peyton Pritchard on the list, he’ll never have to commit a crime of his own.
His 83.3% field goal percentage may not be sustainable, but given the shots he will be required to take, there is no reason why he can’t shoot above 70% of the field. The only time he’ll take shots is when he’s wide open under the rim.
This is where 90% of your Vonleh points will come from. He wouldn’t take any offense to himself, but if someone (shouting to Hauser for the sweet find) was on the field to feed him from the wound or queued up, he’d be fine. Once he hits a low level, he becomes a powerful scorer. He just needs someone to put the ball in the right place.
On the defensive side, there are certainly some questions. Boston’s defense was so successful last year because everyone could have protected everyone. This is not exactly the case with Vonleh. He’s not quite versatile enough to stay with the rangers constantly on the ocean, and because of that, he ends up falling back a bit more than guys like Al Horford and Grant Williams do.
This is a perfect model. When a talented guard like LaMelo Ball gets a screen with Vonleh manning the screening worker, he knows he’ll have the space to work. Vonleh retreats, and Ball sinks a gentle float into the corridor.
Boston has enough talented defenders to cover Vonleh, but that shortage is definitely one to note because the Celtics will have to work around it.
Here Boston is trying to cover for Fonlet. Williams moves out of the ocean to guard Terry Rosier rather than get Vonnellet out of the paint on the key. He leaves the ball wide open on the three-point line for an easy bucket while Vonleh gets caught in no-man’s-land. Mason Plumley could have rolled, so Funley covered that, but in the Celtics defense, the big man and goalkeeper would usually roll, putting Hauser up against Plumley.
All told, he can defend the position well. It won’t stop Joel Embiid, but it can go down. Vonleh has a solid body and is a very positional defender, and to have a great back-up, that’s fine, okay.
There is also the issue of his illegal monitors. He was caught multiple times in Boston’s second match against Charlotte HornetsBy moving his feet instead of planting himself. Two calls could have gone either way, but regardless, it’s a skill he has to work on.
He could also stand to work on Daniel Theis’ seal, as he became known in Boston. Vonleh almost hits the spot here but ends up beeping due to an error.
Despite all his skills and flaws, the most important aspect of his game to note is the energy with which he plays. Vonleh does not take plays. When you’re trying to get back into the NBA, you can’t play. He struggles, plays hard and makes sure to bring energy whenever he’s on the court.
But at the same time he is not the brightest player. Fans of Mfiondu Kabengele were drawn to the blocks, lumps, and intensity, but Vonleh was quietly the most effective big man.
Kapengel is already on a two-way contract, so his place in the team is assured. Vonleh is still in the Exhibit 9 contract, which means he’s fighting for a spot on the roster every day. And looking at their bodies in action so far ahead of the season, Kabengele may have the highlights, but Vonleh has the results. It won’t make a SportsCenter, but it will do all the little things on the court that Boston needs from a big man sitting on the bench.
Certainly, there are some limitations to note. Against the Raptors, he didn’t get much playing time, likely due to his diverse lineup. He’s unable to keep up with men like Pascal Siakam and Scotty Barnes, whom Nick Norris sometimes poses in the five. But against the Hornets, who play traditional adults like Plumley and Nick Richards, Funley does well.
Mazola seems to trust him, too. He was a big part of the rotation in both games against the Hornets. Boston were missing their start in one of those games, but even in the game they played, Funley still scored 15 minutes of excitement.
Of all the bootcamp players on the Celtics roster, Vonleh is the most NBA-ready, and he’s not particularly close. As things stand, it should be a top spot on Boston’s 14th (and likely last) list.