The Boston Celtics have reportedly moved to fill another one of their empty roster spots.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Celtics are signing Malik Fitts until the end of the 2022-23 season, with next year being partially guaranteed. The sophomore forward has been with the team for the last 20 days after initially joining on a 10-day contract and then re-signing for a further 10 days on March 5.
Kelan Martin was also with the team on two 10-day contracts but rejoins the NBA free agency pool after his second short-term deal expired on March 15. It would seem the Celtics were doing their due diligence on which player fit their current system best, and Fitts was the one who impressed the most.
Fitts does have some NBA experience, however, it’s extremely limited, with the second-year forward only participating in 12 games since initially signing with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2020.
Fitts is A Capable Shooter
While the 24-year-old may have limited exposure to the NBA game, he is a known commodity as a shooter. Having spent four years in college, there is a large enough sample size to believe that his shooting ability is translatable to the NBA.
Fitts spent one year in South Florida before transferring to Saint Mary’s and participated in a total of 95 collegiate games throughout his student-athlete career. The six-foot-eight forward ended his time in college averaging four three-point attempts per game and converted 39.2% of those attempts, per Sports-Reference.
Fitts also demonstrated a solid command of the glass during his time in college, averaged 6.5 rebounds per game, with a career-high of 7.6 per contest in 2018-19. If you’re looking for evidence that the combo forward’s shot is translatable to the NBA, then his free-throw percentage of 74.5% should be encouraging, considering that Jaylen Brown is a career 37% three-point shooter and hits his free-throws at a 71% clip.
The Celtics have struggled for shooting this season, and find themselves ranked 23rd in the NBA for three-point conversion rate, hitting just 34.3% of their outside looks. If Fitts can earn minutes in the rotation, his perimeter shooting coupled with his size could be a big asset to the team for the remainder of the season.
Fitts is A Reliable Defender
The Celtics’ latest addition is also known for his athleticism and defensive ability. At six-foot-eight, the St Mary’s product is often tasked with defending the low-block, but his quick foot speed and hip dexterity allow him to easily switch onto the perimeter – a must-have in Udoka’s switch everything system.
However, Fitts’ best attributes afford him to be a low defender, guarding opposing bigs and wings, as there have been times where he’s struggled to keep in front of smaller, shifter guards. Still, there is a lot of upside to the 24-year-old forward, and his versatility will have no doubt intrigued the Celtics coaching staff.
“His length allows him to strip the ball on drives and it resulted in 1.4 steals per game putting him top five in the conference in that category … Another strength of Fitts’ game is his leaping ability, which allowed him to grab seven rebounds per game in each of his two seasons for the Gaels,” NBA Draft.net noted for a pre-draft scouting report heading into the 2020 NBA Draft.
The hard work begins now for the combo-forward, as the Celtics roster is loaded with defensive talent, and other shooters have struggled to crack the rotation despite them having a skill that the team sorely needs. Let’s hope that we see Fitts barrelling down the lane in transition and hitting some clutch threes in the near future.