Let’s take just one quick moment to stop debating Tacko Fall’s NBA future.
It seems like he is caught in this narrative cycle during the NBA Summer League where broadcasters introduce him in each game by commenting on his height, followed by his status as a fan favorite in Las Vegas. Then once Tacko does anything of note on the court, there is a pivot to discussing if he can fit in the NBA.
Most of this is blather, of course, because no one outside of the Celtics organization truly knows. So instead, let’s bask in the glow of something Fall did Thursday night versus the Memphis Grizzlies, something I know you have never seen him do before.
There are two blocks from Fall in this clip, but it’s the first one that may make your eyes bug out of your skull.
To recap: That is a 7-foot-7, 310-pound man running the floor and leaping — nay, GLIDING — to record a chase-down block. That sentence doesn’t make sense.
Obviously, we have seen Tacko record plenty of blocks in his time, and although the human memory can be a faulty mechanism, I can’t recall ever seeing him get a rejection with that kind of athleticism, with that kind of bounce. To then get back in position and stone-wall another player was just the cherry on top.
And yet, throughout the clip, what do you hear? The broadcasters talking about whether Fall is more of a G League player than belonging at the highest level.
Fall was hyper-efficient in Thursday’s win, which clinched the No. 1 seed for the undefeated Celtics in the Summer League playoffs. In just 17 minutes, he tallied 12 points on 6-for-8 from the floor, eight rebounds and four blocks.
Through four games, Fall has averaged 8.5 points on 16-for-21 shooting (76.2 percent), 4.5 rebounds and 1.75 blocks in 13.5 minutes per. His average +/- is 6.25.
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But those numbers don’t really tell you anything about Fall’s NBA prospects. We know he can block shots. We know he dunks a lot and records a high shooting percentage; that’s what should happen when almost none of your attempts come from outside the restricted area.
What everyone has wanted to see from Fall can’t be found on a stat sheet. It boils down to this: Is he able to keep up in a league that has become smaller, quicker and more versatile? Can he move well enough to guard more fluid players? Can he get down the floor on a fast break?
Those remain prudent questions. There was a point in Thursday’s game when the Grizzlies switched a perimeter-shooting big man onto Fall, and he sunk a couple of open 3s right away because Fall still doesn’t really guard far beyond the free-throw line. That’s something else that Tacko is going to have to work on if he wants to have a big role in the Association.
But his athleticism, his agility, his movement skills — that’s what everybody who knows basketball is eyeing in Vegas. And when Tacko does something such as that highlight block above, or running the floor to finish an alley-oop as he does in the second clip below, he displays just how far he has come in those areas in a short amount of time. In the process, scouts, coaches and GMs around the league must becoming more of a believer in “Tacko Fall: NBA player” than they were prior to last month’s draft.
Neither I nor you know whether Fall will be on the Celtics’ roster come October — unless your name is Danny Ainge or Brad Stevens, etc.
He has played organized basketball for only seven years, so perhaps expecting such an outcome is a tad fanciful. There is no doubt that Fall has flaws and could benefit from spending more time honing his game on a stage that is a couple of rungs down from being the world’s best.
However, it’s probably time for broadcasters and pundits to ask a different question about Tacko Fall. Not is he an NBA player, but rather how long will it take before he is one. When Fall packages his inherent skills — getting easy baskets, redirecting shots — with the athleticism he showcased last night, he changes the narrative and provides at least one clear answer:
Will Tacko Fall play in the NBA? No question.