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Celtics Summer Forecast: Battle for final roster spots

The Celtics selected R.J. Hunter with the 28th pick of the first round in the 2015 draft. Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics currently have 18 players on their roster, including 16 fully guaranteed contracts. Something has to give before the start of the regular season and the mandatory trim to 15 bodies. It might ultimately mean the Celtics eat a bit of salary at the expense of promoting competition among some of their youngest players at training camp.

The Celtics have drafted 12 players in the past three drafts. Even with two first-rounders from the 2016 draft set to be stashed overseas (Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic), there's still no shortage of draftees vying for the final spots on this year's roster.

For Day 3 of our Celtics Summer Forecast, we gave our panel five names -- Ben Bentil, John Holland, R.J. Hunter, Demetrius Jackson, and James Young -- and asked, which two players will earn the final spots on Boston's 2016-17 roster?

A quick bit of background on each player:

  • The Celtics selected Bentil with the 51st pick in June's draft after he slid to late in the second round. The 21-year-old Providence College product has a $250,000 guarantee.

  • Holland is a soon-to-be 28-year-old swingman who the Celtics signed out of the D-League at the end of last season. He faces the longest odds with the only nonguaranteed deal.

  • The Celtics selected Hunter with the 28th pick in the 2015 draft. The soon-to-be 23-year-old ping-ponged between Boston and the team's D-League affiliate in Portland, Maine, last season. He appeared in 36 games for the Celtics, but must prove he can be a consistent perimeter threat at the NBA level.

  • The Celtics selected Jackson with the 45th pick in June's draft and inked him to a four-year, $5.5 million deal that includes a fully guaranteed $1.45 million this season.

  • The Celtics selected Young with the 17th pick in the 2014 draft. Despite entering his third NBA season, Young will turn just 21 this month. An underwhelming summer league performance and Boston's depth on the wings, including the addition of veteran Gerald Green, leaves many wondering if Young's days in Boston are numbered.

Our panel of 21 local bloggers pegged Hunter and Jackson as heavy favorites to secure roster spots. Hunter landed on 95.2 percent of the ballots cast, while Jackson spotted on 85.7 percent. Bentil (9.5 percent) got two votes, while Young and 2016 second-round pick Abdel Nader each spotted on one ballot.

This writer's thoughts? Holland is the easy trim because of his nonguaranteed status and Bentil would really have to wow in camp to force the Celtics to consider eating multiple fully-guaranteed deals. Ultimately, it seems likely the Celtics will make a minor preseason swap that sends Young and Holland to a team with a better opportunity to stick on an NBA roster, while Bentil can stomach a D-League deal considering the healthy paycheck he'll get from the partial guarantee. Jackson sticks because of his potential and ballhandling abilities, while Hunter gets another season to develop before entering the James Young Danger Zone.

Our panel's thoughts:

Jay King, MassLive (Jackson, Hunter): Holland's the obvious cut, Bentil has one billion big men in front of him and Young hasn't shown much during the first two years of his career. Theoretically, any of those guys could make the opening-night roster, but would need an impressive training camp and maybe roster consolidation elsewhere. Jackson will likely enter training camp as the fourth-string point guard, but fully-guaranteed money during his rookie season suggests the Celtics want him on the team. If there's a competition between Young and Hunter, the latter player should make the squad because A) He has one more year on his rookie contract, and B) He owns similar upside as a shooter with better basketball awareness.

Jeff Clark, CelticsBlog (Jackson, Hunter): Young will be traded for a top-55 protected second-round pick. Holland and Bentil will be cut and steered to the Maine Red Claws. Jackson will become a new fan favorite in garbage time. Hunter gets at least another year to round out his game.

Ryan Bernardoni, CelticsHub (Jackson, Hunter): Jackson is a lock. I'm taking Hunter over Young just because his contract is longer. Young theoretically plays a more valuable position and factually is younger, but the team seems to have tired of his lack of progress.

Dan Greenberg, Barstool Sports (Young, Hunter): I just can't quit Young. After a mixed summer, this may not be the popular opinion, but for some reason I don't think the Celtics are done kicking his tires. Jackson's deal makes him a candidate, but, from what we've seen over Brad Stevens' tenure, he isn't totally sold on late-drafted rookies. With Evan Turner gone, guys like Young and Hunter will have a better opportunity to prove they belong.

Sean Penney, CelticsBlog (Jackson, Hunter): Shooting remains the primary need for this Celtics team, which is Hunter's best asset. He had an inconsistent rookie season, but shot 50 percent from beyond the arc after the All-Star break. Jackson's athleticism is enticing enough to give him some consideration. He's a pretty good shooter and can thrive in the pick-and-roll game. The Celtics could do worse than him as the last man on their bench. Meaning they could stick with Young.

Alex Kungu, CelticsBlog (Jackson, Hunter): There's always a lot of talk about this team having too many guards, but it's important to remember that last season it relied on both Terry Rozier and Hunter during key moments of its season. Hunter's shooting, passing and defensive potential will get him on the team. Unlike Young, he seems to get it and that will show during camp. Jackson is also a strong shooter and a proven pick-and-roll creator at the college level. His skill set could be important if any of Boston's guards go down for a prolonged period of time.

Wes Howard, CelticsBlog (Jackson, Hunter): Jackson is a ball handler, but that's not why he stays. One of his biggest strengths at Notre Dame was his ability to get to the rack, creating his own shot. That's still a weakness for the Celtics, especially with the departure of Evan Turner. As for Hunter, I just don't see Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens willing to give up on a kid with a shot that pretty and a basketball IQ that high.

Jon Duke, Celtics Stuff Live on CLNS Radio (Jackson, Hunter): Though their opportunities have been limited, Jackson and Hunter have done the most to earn a roster spot at this point. On the basis of profile, the stretch 3/4 position that Holland and Bentil could provide is tantalizing, but both players will have to show a great deal more during camp and in the preseason to stick. As for Young, his inability to take advantage of a fairly thin depth chart on the wing, coupled with lackluster results in summer league has him square in the bull's eye. Jackson has the profile to be another guard who excels in Boston and Hunter's improved shooting will be enough to remain a Celtic.

Justin Poulin, Celtics Stuff Live on CLNS Radio (Jackson, Hunter): The Celtics hang on to the guards because the James Young experiment is over. Holland and Bentil can be signed to the Red Claws and it maintains trade flexibility. Jackson/Hunter provide depth in the backcourt where the Celtics have their most tradable assets that aren't draft picks.

Mike Dynon, Red's Army (Jackson, Hunter): Young shot better in his third summer league than he did in past years but he's still not showing any signs that he grasps what it takes to make it in the NBA. Hunter has surpassed Young in the pecking order and deserves to make the team because he still has potential. Jackson also gets the nod, even though Boston is well stocked in the backcourt, simply because he's more likely to contribute in the future than Holland or Bentil.

Sam Packard, WEEI.com (Hunter, Nader): Hunter has shown flashes of knowing how to operate in Stevens' offense and the Celtics still need shooting. Nader? Well, once I interviewed him and he seemed like a pretty cool guy.

Bill Sy, CelticsBlog (Jackson, Bentil): One word: versatility. Neither Jackson nor Bentil put up numbers in Vegas, but their college careers show their potential as all-around contributors on both ends. Cutting Hunter and Young makes sense because neither has become the knockdown shooter that the team had hoped for and, more importantly, neither has developed beyond that limited skill set.

Jared Weiss, CLNS Radio (Jackson, Hunter): After Jackson got a guaranteed deal and Young fell off the face of the earth in Vegas, it’s hard to see anyone other than Hunter and Jackson making the roster. Hunter’s duel in summer league against the already skyrocketing Devin Booker was a nice reassurance of his potential to be a go-to scorer in a second unit. He’ll fight Green for the chance to be the occasional second-quarter wing.

John Karalis, Red's Army (Jackson, Hunter): I have a hard time believing the Celtics are getting rid of a first-round pick from last year. I think the noise surrounding Hunter is more to prod him after a lackluster summer than anything, so I think he's safe. Jackson getting the guarantee makes me feel like he's going to stick around, too, mostly because I do expect a midseason trade and our guards are in high demand so Jackson will serve as insurance should a couple of those guys get moved.

Ben Mark, Red's Army (Jackson, Hunter): Jackson should spend the season making trips up and down I-95 from Portland to Boston. The Celtics were thrilled he dropped to the middle of the second round and his long-term contract is an indication that the team sees him as either a part of the future or as trade bait. Hunter got some burn in the playoffs last season and could carve out minutes if he can continue to develop on both ends.

Mark Van Deusen, CelticsLife (Jackson, Hunter): My heart wants to go with Nader, but with 18 contracts already on the books, I don't see it happening. In his final pre-draft big board, Insider's Chad Ford had Jackson ranked 26th with a chance to go in the lottery to Chicago at No. 14. Along with his freshly guaranteed deal, Jackson is on the team. I liked the fire Hunter showed in his summer-league matchup with Booker, although I don't actually think he's done much to prove he's better than Young. We're all just one year less soured on Hunter; Unfortunately, that counts for something.

Rich Jensen, Red's Army (Jackson, Hunter): I still remember that game against the Pelicans last season when Stevens gave Young important second-half minutes and he didn't embarrass himself. Those were the days. I think the two most polished young players in this group earn spots.

Sam Sheehan, Celtics Reddit and CLNS Radio (Jackson, Hunter): Danny Ainge is staging his own "Money in the Bank" style training camp with a free-for-all bloodbath for roster spots. However, there are some pretty boring financial indicators that point to Bentil, Holland and Young being the players currently at the bottom of the ladder. Most disappointing for fans would be the cut of Young, recipient of the Jeff Green Memorial Award for "Most Tantalizing Celtic" last season. The Celtics have a 2017 $2.8 million team option for Young that they must make a decision on by Halloween. The problem is, with the way the cap projections line up right now, it would behoove the Celtics to clear that space to better ensure they would have room to offer 7-9 year player maximum in 2017 offseason. While Young probably has enough NBA potential left to prevent him getting waived, it’s more likely we will see him traded to a team that can better afford to bring him along slowly for a heavily protected second-round pick (reads: nothing).