It’s been a long road but former Pitt guard Brad Wanamaker finally reached the NBA this season.
As the Post-Gazette wrote, he was the oldest rookie in the entire league this year at age 29. But as a player who doesn’t turn 30 until this summer, he’s still got plenty left in the tank.
This year, Wanamaker got into 36 games with the Boston Celtics after signing with the team last summer. But while his numbers on the surface don’t appear to be much (3.9 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 1.6 apg), if you dig deeper, you can see he was a highly productive player.
In those 36 contests, Wanamaker averaged only 9.5 minutes. His 36-minute totals would put him around 16 ppg with about six assists and four rebounds per contest. Wanamaker also shot a blistering 47.6% from the field this season — a lofty number for a 6’4” guard.
Additionally, he proved capable as a three-point shooter, knocking down 41% of those attempts. And shooting nearly 86% from the free throw line, he was adequate there, too.
Among Celtics players appearing in more than a handful of games, Wanamaker was near the middle of the pack in PER (Player Efficiency Rating) during the regular season (14.33). But his 20.18 PER in the postseason (Wanamaker appeared in four of the team’s nine games) actually led the entire team.
Wanamaker’s ‘problem’, as is the case with so many guys, is playing time. He was buried on the Celtics’ roster behind the likes of all-star talent Kyrie Irving and 2015 first-round pick Terry Rozier. That led to few opportunities where he could play significant minutes. But when he got them, he often proved valuable.
In 26 minutes against the Nets in January, he scored 13 points, tallying four assists and three rebounds. A few nights later in a win over the Cavs, he had 11 points while knocking down three of four three-pointers in only 20 minutes of action. Playing in the season finale against the Wizards, he scored 17 points in 29 minutes of action while also dishing out seven assists and grabbing six rebounds.
Wanamaker didn’t play much in the playoffs but showed some promise when he did, scoring seven points in only seven minutes of action in a loss against the Bucks.
Can Wanamaker deliver more if he gets more minutes? His numbers sort of indicate that, though he also had some struggles this year, too. But whether he gets that time to prove himself remains up in the air.
A big factor will be what ultimately happens with starter Kyrie Irving. Irving is still under contract with the Celtics for one more season but has the opportunity to opt out with a player option. If that happens, Wanamaker’s situation suddenly becomes more interesting.
That said, even an Irving departure doesn’t necessarily clear the path for him. For one thing, that’s assuming he even winds up in Boston again after signing a one-year deal for the rookie minimum last year. For another, he’d still have strong competition for playing time from other guards, including Rozier (if Rozier stays — he could also be gone).
And for yet another, there’s no telling what the Celtics will do themselves in free agency in terms of bringing in other players. For example, if the Celtics would lose Irving and/or Rozier, this site predicts the Celtics making a run at veteran Mike Conley.
In other words, Wanamaker’s situation is very much up in the air. But the former Pitt guard still had a nice rookie season and proved he can play at the sport’s highest level.