Currently with the Maine Red Claws, Abdel Nader carved out a favorable reputation for himself over the course of the Celtics Summer League slate and has continued this sound play throughout the D-League season.
When the Boston Celtics reached for Iowa State small forward Abdel Nader with the 58th overall selection of last June’s draft, the expectation was that the 23-year-old would sign with the Maine Red Claws without much rebuttal. This submissive approach from Nader’s representatives was altered following the NBA Summer League, when Nader exploded onto the scene for averages of 10.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in just 16 minutes of playing time per game.
Nader impressed from deep, upping his three-point shooting average from the 37.1 percent that he shot while with the Cyclones in 2015-16 to an astounding 44 percent in Summer League. Witnessing Nader’s rising stock value, his camp attempted to pursue obtaining the opportunity to try out for the Celtics at the onset of training camp. With the possibility of losing Nader to another franchise if Boston granted Nader the chance to compete for a spot in the 15-man rotation only for him to lose out to another prospect, the Celtics pressured Nader’s camp to accept the demotion to Maine for the season with the promise of providing him with Celtics representatives to train and improve with.
Article continues below ...
With Nader opposed to leaving the United States to chase a job overseas, his camp settled on taking a one-year deal with the Red Claws at a compensation rate substantially lower than what he could have racked up across foreign waters. However, the decision might prove fruitful for Nader, as he has set himself up in the perfect position to vie for a roster position in Boston in 2017-18 in the process of becoming one of the D-League’s most consistent producers.
In 32.3 minutes per game in 18 starts this season, Nader has posted 21.9 points per outing, the ninth-highest mark in the D-League. He broke out for a 33-point showing on 4-8 shooting from deep in a blowout victory over the Grand Rapids Drive on November 20th before garnering 32 points and an eye-popping plus-minus rating of +28 on 11-17 shooting from the field in a triumph over the Long Island Nets on January 6. His 7.6 field goal makes per game ranks seventh in the D-League while his 4.6 conversions at the free throw line per outing ranks 13th. Despite taking an average of 15.6 shots per contest, the seventh-highest figure in the league and a significant increase compared to his 9.6 shot attempts per game in 2015-16 while with the Cyclones, Nader is converting at an impressive 48.8 percent clip while hitting 38.8 percent of his three-pointers. Nader is also knocking down 78.3 percent of his free throws, an uptick from his 73.8 percent rate in his final season in the collegiate ranks.
From in between 20-24 feet from the basket, Nader’s shooting percentage hovers around 46.5 percent while he is shooting 43.8 percent on three-pointers from the left corner and 41.2 percent on three-pointers taken from the opposite corner. If Nader can continue to hone his ability to knock down the open look from deep, he could be a valuable asset to the Celtics in the coming seasons with the team’s offense so reliant on hoisting up the deep ball.
Nader has struggled with turnover issues, averaging the most turnovers per game in the league at 3.9 per night. While this rate is certainly head-turning, it must be noted that Nader bears the responsibility of a hefty usage rate of 29 percent. This represents a measurable increase in usage from his collegiate years, as Nader recorded a usage rate of just 21.5 percent last season. Nader must become accustomed to having the ball in his hands more often while being relied upon to generate offense for himself and his teammates. Although his turnover rate has ballooned as Nader has posted a whopping 5.0 miscues per night in January, he has accounted for 18.6 percent of his team’s total assists, picking up nine dimes in the Red Claws’ win over the Windy City Bulls on Saturday. He also boasts a superb offensive rating of 108.1.
The 6’8″, 225-pounder has also showcased his talents on the glass. Nader’s defensive rebounding percentage of 16.8 percent is marvelous for a perimeter player while his 5.2 defensive boards per game places him nearly within the top 25 in the league. Nader paced Maine’s efforts on the boards against the Nets by hauling in 10 rebounds, matching the 10 that he racked up in a narrow loss to the Los Angeles D-Fenders on December 17. As the Celtics struggle mightily with rebounding, Nader could be a solution off of the bench from the small forward spot in the coming seasons.