The man of way too many nicknames lands at 10
I have to say, I’m semi-surprised that Semi Ojeleye landed at tenth in our latest ranking the roster exercise. It’s not to say he deserves to be higher, I actually don’t think he should, but given he’s being brought in as effectively the “PJ Tucker replacement,” I wondered if the voters would give him a tad bit of a bump up the old importance meter. Instead, I think he was properly placed at 10 with a healthy bit of skepticism given how little he played in Boston near the end of his tenure. Still, it’s nice to have one “Giannis stopper” on our side for a change.
I’m dubious Semi Ojeleye can fill the PJ Tucker void all that capably, but I’m not going to rule it out after Mike Budenholzer has been able to revitalize the careers of a couple veterans come his way like Bobby Portis and George Hill. Both have more innate talent than Ojeleye, but there are clear defensive tools that could fit the bill for the Bucks. The former 37th pick out of SMU (and college teammate of fellow brick s!&%house Sterling Brown) spent his first four years in Boston, and is known primarily as a defensive bull. He’s strong as all get-out, as evidenced by his bevy of brutish BR nicknames (Muscles Jesus, The Ox, Thor, The Ojeleye Factory, The Man Made of Granite). Can he also play playoff-caliber basketball?
He logged nearly or just over 1,000 minutes for the Celts in three out of his four years, sporting a career 34.9% 3-point percentage on an average of 4.8 attempts per game. He gobbled up rebounds at a really low rate (11.4% last year, 27th percentile for forwards) given he primarily plays as a four, but that could be mitigated by the fact he would share the floor in smallball units with solid rebounders like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Pat Connaughton and Donte DiVincenzo.
And that’ll be the main role the team is asking him to fill, a smallball four who can effectively replace PJ Tucker. That’s a tall ask, especially given Tucker’s defensive tenacity and reputation as a talker too. Tucker could also guard up and down positions, and I’m not sure Ojeleye has the chops to guard someone like a Booker or Paul as Tucker was able to. Still, squinting enough gives you the rough outlines of a Tucker-type with his strength and respectable shooting ability from deep. His shot profile certainly fits the type, with 69% of his coming from deep last year and few, if any attempts from midrange or the rim. One primary difference between him and Tucker is that he takes nearly the same amount of shots from the corner as above the break (34% each) — Tucker’s location is hilariously skewed (67% corners, 4% non-corners). So, there’s at least a bit more diversity that means opponents can’t simply camp out in the corner.
But, it’s all gonna be about defense with Semi. Limboing under PJ Tucker’s offensive bar is about as easy as bending back your neck, but whether he can unlock the same sort of defensive versatility Milwaukee found last year with Giannis-at-center lineups will be a key question mark. Maybe he had just worn out his welcome with Brad Stevens last year, but he got only 12 minutes in the Brooklyn Nets series, a minute total easily supplanted by Jabari Parker. If he’s going to succeed with the Bucks, let’s hope a very defined role can help him carve out a better niche for himself.
Let’s keep the voting rolling forward with number nine.
This poll will close at 7 am Central on Friday, September 17.