(Image by Tomek Kordylewski)
By Jesse Cinquini
The Playgrounder pumped out Rookie Reviews for Grant Williams, Romeo Langford, and Carsen Edwards. There’s only one Celtics draft choice left for us to tackle — Tremont Waters. Selected with the 51st overall pick, Waters made a name for himself during his sophomore campaign at LSU. The season in question saw him come away with the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award. Tremont finished second in the nation in steals per game (3.03), trailing only Matisse Thybulle.
As for the offensive side of the floor, the 22-year-old turned heads with his playmaking. Waters dished out 5.8 dimes nightly as the Tigers starting point guard and demonstrated he could be a true facilitator at the professional level.
Tremont inked a two-way contract with the Celtics. As a result, he was unable to regularly suit up for Boston. Two-way talents are unable to spend more than 45 days with their NBA team. So, Waters logged only 89 minutes in the green and white prior to the Covid-related hiatus. Because of this, we’re going to delve into his G-League stint. In Maine, Tremont expeditiously established himself as one of the top players in the league.
Elite Perimeter Defender
Waters was a superb on-ball irritant as a collegiate athlete — there’s no denying that. But despite this, folks were unsure whether he’d be capable of locking down NBA or even G-League caliber players. There was one simple reason behind the widespread skepticism: his height. In a sport dominated by giants, Tremont stands at a mere 5’10” (the average adult American male is 5’9″). Yet, the naysayers failed to realize that Waters’ breakneck speed and tremendously high IQ compensates for his unspectacular measurables.
Tremont wreaked havoc as a relentless and uber-aggreesive perimeter defender in the G-League. He has to play this way. If he allowed opponents to overpower him, he wouldn’t see the court due to his size. Waters harasses ball-handlers like horse-flies do with beachgoers. He’s no stranger to picking up his man 94 feet, Patrick Beverley style.
This kid enjoys getting his hands dirty more than most and you can see it in the tape. You’d be hard-pressed to find a rook nowadays who truly embraces the defensive end quite like Waters. His non-stop effort and energy proved this sentiment.
In the clip above, Tremont’s flair for coming up with steals is showcased. This particular outing versus the Long Island Nets saw Waters collect five of them, and he averaged 1.8 pickpockets with Maine. His defensive positioning away from the ball is how he racked them up.
The youngster never loses sight of his assignment. Waters isn’t guarding air-tight when playing off-ball defense, though. He instead strategically sags off just enough to bait the opposition into believing they found someone open for a pass. Then once the pass comes, boom. In what seems like an instant, Tremont has the rock and is off to the races.
Waters is more than an NBA-ready defender. He’s a seamless fit alongside Boston’s menacing guard rotation. A Waters-Smart backcourt is bound to terrorize second units with their activity and intensity. Don’t be surprised if Brad Stevens roles with this duo regularly next season.
Consistent Scoring and Facilitating Threat
Last month, Tremont was named the G-League’s Rookie of the Year. And his defensive prowess certainly played a role in him receiving the award. But we all know this game is first and foremost about buckets. Waters would’ve never took home the hardware on his defense alone.
Waters was fantastic as the conductor of Maine’s offense. He’s one of a select few who can see plays before they happen. Tremont possesses an old-school floor general’s feel for the game. By far and away he averaged the most assists of anyone on the Red Claws (7.3). Waters is a break-starter and looks to push the tempo in order to generate easy baskets. He’s the type of passer that inspires his teammates to run the floor hard. Because if they do — odds are they’ll be rewarded with points.
Along with holding down the playmaking duties, Waters served as a top scoring option — and an efficient one, too. As the third leading scorer on Maine (18.1 points), Tremont churned out 42.9/35.4/78 shooting splits. He’s at his finest when heading to the rim. Waters utitlizes change of pace drives to blow by the defense. He converted at the rim at a solid rate (54.9 percent), but thanks to his stature, 19 out of his 184 total looks from the restricted area were blocked.
Waters’ outside shot fared well in the G-League. Above the break triples were his go-to. Tremont let it fly from there more than any other spot on the court. And for good reason — he buried 36.6 percent of his looks from said range. Waters is already capable of shooting the three-ball with average accuracy in the NBA. Not as the high-usage scorer he was with the Red Claws, but as a backup point guard. Realistically, he could be taking anywhere from 1-3 threes per game in Boston next season. There’s no reason to believe he can’t transfer his perimeter efficiency to the pros, albeit as a low volume shooter.
Offseason To-Do List
Weighing in at 175 pounds, Waters could benefit from adding some extra muscle to his frame. In the NBA, he’s going to be consistently facing off against guards with a major size and height advantage. Added muscle would have him better-suited to contain the world’s best 1’s and 2’s. Also, absorbing contact at the rim against interior behemoths will become easier with additional meat on his bones.
One last note: I want to shout out The Playgrounder podcast. Matt Esposito and Zach Wilson are an entertaining duo and they’ll continue to record episodes on a weekly basis. Last episode, the guys tackled Boston’s rookies, including Waters. I highly reccomend you give it a listen!
Editor’s Note – Jesse has recently been hired by SB Nation to write about the Memphis Grizzlies. Best of luck to a hardworking, enthusiastic and talented writer!