If there is a valid criticism of Celtics coach Ime Udoka that emerged from his first year with the team, even after a trip to the NBA Finals, it is that he did not spend much time during the 2021-22 run developing the team’s younger players, especially wing Aaron Nesmith.
But there’s another young guy that the front office apparently thinks could have a future with the team, if given adequate playing time: small forward Sam Hauser.
According to Spotrac’s Keith Smith, Hauser’s $1.6 million team option for 2022-23 was declined on Wednesday, leaving him a restricted free agent as the market is set to open on Thursday evening. But the plan is to keep Hauser on a longer-term deal than the one year the option would have afforded, giving the Celtics the opportunity to bring along Hauser in the coming years.
Hauser Shot 43.9% on 3s in College
Hauser began a stellar collegiate career at Marquette and closed it with Virginia, a four-year player who averaged 13.3 points and 6.1 rebounds. Of most interest to the Celtics, Hauser shot 43.9% from the 3-point line in the NCAA, never dipping below 40% in any one season. He took an average of 5.6 3-pointers per game in those four seasons.
The Celtics signed Hauser to a two-way contract last summer, then converted that contract into a standard deal after the trade deadline in February. He appeared in just 26 games for the Celtics and played a total of 158 minutes but did shoot 43.2% from the 3-point line in the time he did get, making 19 of his 44 attempts.
Hauser played 10 games for the Celtics’ G-League affiliate in Maine, and averaged 16.9 points and 5.0 rebounds, shooting 43.3% from the 3-point line in those appearances. It is likely the Celtics will give him a two-year deal, possibly with an option for a third season.
Udoka Must Find Hauser a Role
Hauser went undrafted in 2021 but had a good workout for Boston during the predraft process. He told reporters last year that he got immediate interest from the Celtics once the draft passed without his name being called.
“I didn’t get drafted, obviously,” Hauser said in August. “Then right as the draft ended Boston called and they said ‘We’re going to offer you a two-way,’ and I got 10 minutes to kind of decide. They said I had a really good workout. They said they weren’t sure if I was in their range or not in the draft. But I ended up here, so sort of a blessing in disguise, I guess. So, I’m happy with the fit. And I’m glad to be in Boston.”
The challenge now will be to get Hauser on the floor. One of the knocks on him coming out of Virginia was that he is not particularly quick and can struggle on defense. Despite his shot-making ability, it is unlikely that Udoka will play him unless he can be a passable defender.
Still, in certain circumstances, the Celtics will need a floor-spacer on the wing, and it is clear that Hauser offers that talent. It will be up to Udoka to find ways to best deploy that skillset.