Former Top-10 Pick Expected to Make Celtics Opening Night Roster

Noah Vonleh

Getty Noah Vonleh #24 of the Boston Celtics attempts a shot.

In an offseason where bigger-name veteran centers like Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Hassan Whiteside had been available from start to finish, the Boston Celtics decided to bring in a younger one who wasn’t nearly as proven as those three when they signed Noah Vonleh.

Vonleh, who was drafted ninth overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 2014 NBA Draft, hadn’t played in the NBA since he briefly played for the Brooklyn Nets during the 2020-21 season. According to Alberto De Roa of HoopsHype, the Celtics signed him to a non-guaranteed contract, which meant that it was not a foregone conclusion that he would make the roster.

However, The Athletic’s Jared Weiss believes that Vonleh’s play against the Hornets on October 7 helped make him make a strong case to make the team’s final roster.

“(Vonleh) finally showed how his face-up game can be used in an offense that isn’t going to give him clear-outs in the high post. Vonleh had a few athletic finishes off the bounce and showed he can be aggressive to get to spots where he has leverage without turning the ball over.

“That gives him a distinct advantage over Mfiondu Kabengele in earning minutes at the five, especially given how Vonleh’s defensive intensity and positioning looked much better Friday. With Kabengele already on a two-way deal, Vonleh appears to have the inside track on the 14th roster spot.”

The Celtics still have 20 players on their preseason roster, with 13 of them who have fully or partially guaranteed contracts. The NBA requires teams to have 14 players on a roster (sans those on a two-way contract) at minimum.

Weiss Praised Blake Griffin’s Play in His Preseason Debut

After Blake Griffin made his preseason debut for the Celtics, Weiss praised Griffin for his skillset and how he could fit on the team.

“Boston needs another big who can screen, roll and make good reads. That was Griffin on Friday night, which was important for a team looking for someone committed to rolling through the paint.”

“As he and Derrick White started to sync up, Griffin timed his releases on the roll to get the pocket pass from White early and make a read from the free-throw line. The first time he got the ball on the short roll, he immediately threw the high-low pass to a cutter under the rim.

“That above 3-pointer ended up being the only shot he hit, but he got to the line a few times and looked comfortable with knowing when and where to roll.”

Weiss also brought up the one issue he had with Griffin’s performance during his debut, though he believes that it can be remedied.

“The only concern — besides the 1-for-4 night from deep — was that he looked like he could barely make it up the floor in transition at times. But he still has a lot of rust to shake off.”

Griffin Praised Celtics’ Intensity and Maturity

When Abby Chin of NBC Sports Boston caught up with Griffin after his debut, Griffin detailed how amazed he was by how committed everyone on the team was as a unit.

“The intensity and maturity level of this group is off the charts,” Griffin told Abby Chin of NBC Sports Boston. “Every day when we get to work, it’s intense. It’s not that we’re going forever, but these guys are locked in, and no one has to tell us to be locked in, and that’s refreshing.”

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