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Celtics waive R.J. Hunter, give final roster spot to James Young 10.24.16 at 1:20 pm ET
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R.J. Hunter

R.J. Hunter

The Celtics have trimmed their roster for the start of the regular season, and former first-round pick R.J. Hunter was the final casualty, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge confirmed on Monday.

The team’s decision came down to Hunter vs. James Young, a pair of shooters who have thus far underachieved.

“James won the job,” Ainge said. “He played well. Day in, day out for the last six weeks, James was there.”

“I really like R.J.,” Ainge added. “He’s a great kid. He’s a good player and he had a good training camp also. So yeah, it’s disappointing. I think R.J. will get a chance somewhere. He’s a good player.”

The Celtics selected Hunter 28th overall in 2015, but he never cracked the rotation or established himself as a consistent marksman. He shot just .367 overall and .302 on 3-pointers.

His dad, Ron Hunter, told the Boston Globe that R.J. will move on. Hunter turned 23 on Monday.

“He’s disappointed,” Ron Hunter said. “For a kid to get waived on his birthday isn’t the best way to celebrate your birthday. But he understands this is a business and there will be another opportunity for him.”

The Celtics drafted Young, 21, with the 17th pick in the 2014 draft. He has averaged 2.2 points in 60 career games.

Read More: Celtics cuts, Danny Ainge, James Young, R.J. Hunter
James Young, R.J. Hunter battle for final roster spot 10.18.16 at 2:13 pm ET
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Oct 17, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard R.J. Hunter (28) controls the ball while Brooklyn Nets guard Bojan Bogdanovic (44) defends during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

R.J. Hunter and James Young will have one more chance to strengthen their case for final Celtics roster spot (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

With one final exhibition game left on the schedule, the battle for the last roster spot has intensified. James Young and R.J. Hunter figure to be battling it out to the end. 

The Celtics have until the end of the week to determine who will fill out the back end of their 15-man roster and Young and Hunter have both made strong cases for themselves in their last two games.

Hunter, who has made the strongest statistical case of the two, scored a game-high 17 points against the Knicks on Saturday, capping off an impressive shooting performance. He scored 6-of-8 from the floor, including 2-of-4 from deep and not only knocked down open jumpers but made strong takes to the rim and got to the free-throw line. 

Young, on the other hand, followed up Saturday night’s Celtics win with his best performance of the preseason Monday night.

It may not have been as flashy as Hunter’s 17 points at Madison Square Garden, but Young (10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, one steal) was able to make the most of his 16 minutes by stuffing the stat sheet in the win over the Nets at TD Garden.

He also looked a lot more comfortable on the floor, compared to the beginning of the preseason. 

“I’m way more confident in my game,” Young explained. “A lot of people are backing me up to just go and be aggressive, so that’s really helped me.

“I’m just trying to do a little of everything — scoring, rebounding, passing, and not to do too much at the same time. Whatever coach has drawn up for me I just do it and help out the team.”

Both Young and Hunter are scoring at a similar rate — making the choice between the two very difficult. Throughout the preseason, Young has averaged 5.1 points, 3 rebounds and shooting 45 percent from the floor in 15 minutes per game. While Hunter is averaging 6.1 points, 1.5 assists and shooting 44 percent from the floor.

However, Young has been an efficient 3-point scorer, shooting at a 42 percent clip, whereas Hunter — recognized as a precise 3-point shooter — is shooting 27 percent from downtown.  

Brad Stevens has certainly noticed the improvement, thus making the decision of cutting one of the two that much harder.

“They all really had good moments,” Stevens said. “As I said before the game, those are hard decisions because everybody’s improved. I thought they all played well at times.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, James Young, R.J. Hunter,
It already looks like make-or-break time for Celtics guards Terry Rozier, James Young 09.29.16 at 8:59 pm ET
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Celtics guard Terry Rozier hopes to take a step forward this year. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Terry Rozier hopes to take a step forward this year. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Terry Rozier didn’t explode into the NBA. After a lackluster rookie season, he opened some eyes in the playoffs, but he still comes to camp without the guarantee of a roster spot.

Five practice sessions into 2016, however, the improvement in the former first-round pick’s game is palpable — and it’s not going unnoticed.

“You can see Terry’s a different guy year two than he was in the first couple of days of year one, he just stands out right now,” head coach Brad Stevens said. “And I think that’s probably pretty typical because of the comfort level of going through camp again, for the first time versus again.”

Part of the growth process for Rozier has simply been experience. He’s no longer a rookie, and he’s clearly more comfortable. The challenge will be improving his ball-handling and decision-making.

“Things move really fast for everybody, and when you’re the guy with the ball, it moves even faster because you’ve got to be able to not only gauge what you need to be doing, but you’ve got to make sure everybody else is there,” Steven said. “And he’s got the ball a lot, I think he’s doing really good job of attacking and picking the spots he should attack, we can all get better at that.”

Isaiah Thomas also noted Rozier’s massive improvement, which he attributes to hard work.

“The biggest thing I’ve always said about Terry is he’s going to improve, because the guy works,” Thomas said. “From the minute we met him in the draft process, it was like this guy — there are work ethics and there are real work ethics and he’s got a real work ethic — and so I think he’ll do well.”

There’s no argument that the 22-year-old Rozier has skill. He’s torn up the D-League and summer league. He’s less of a sure thing in the NBA.

The same goes for James Young. Entering his third season at age 21, Young has yet to earn more than occasional garbage minutes. And given the team’s need for a pure shooter, Young could have filled that void some time ago.

But the reality is he’s competing for a roster spot.

“He’s improved a lot, and you can see the way he’s playing here, he’s really stepping up and we like that and that’s good for him,” Marcus Smart said. “He’s just more aggressive. The first couple of years he was a little timid, a little shy, but now he’s definitely been more aggressive, attacking the paint and playing great defense.”

Added Thomas, “He’s played well, he’s playing with confidence. I think that’s the biggest thing from previous years that I’ve been here, he’s playing like he’s confident, like he knows what he’s doing and he’s very aggressive. And he needs to be like that, for him to be successful he has to be like that.”

Read More: Celtics, James Young, Terry Rozier,
Celtics Player Preview: James Young 09.22.16 at 3:24 pm ET
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With Celtics training camp set to begin on Sept. 26, WEEI.com presents a player-by-player breakdown of the roster. The Celtics have 20 players under contract but will have to cut the roster to 15 by the start of the season.

JAMES YOUNG

2015-16 season

23 games with D-League’s Maine Red Claws: 28.3 minutes, 15.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals

After a decent rookie season in the D-League, Young had a rough sophomore campaign — one that had Celtics fans questioning his future in the NBA. In 29 games with the Celtics, he managed to only score 29 points, grab 68 rebounds and dish out nine assists. Young still has a ways to go in reaching his full potential as the 21-year-old heads toward his third year in the league. But after seeing rookies like R.J. Hunter and Terry Rozier earn more playing time than Young last season — especially in the postseason — it raises the question: Is there space for Young on the 2016-17 Celtics?

Projected role in 2016-17

Young’s scoring will make or break his chances of making the team this year. If he can hit 3-pointers at a high level throughout the preseason, he will have a spot on the back end of the 15-man roster. The Celtics are always looking to improve on their outside shooting. Young has shown glimpses of stellar 3-point shooting, but he’s going to have to piece it together and soon.

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Read More: 2016 Celtics Player Preview, James Young,
Celtics waive shooting guard John Holland 08.31.16 at 8:29 pm ET
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John Holland

John Holland

The Celtics announced Wednesday afternoon that they waived shooting guard John Holland. Above all else, it was more of a courtesy to the 6-foot-5 Holland, who was very much at the bottom of the C’s totem pole and highly unlikely to make the final roster.

A source told Celticsblog that the 27-year-old has offers in both the United States and Europe.

The swingman form the Bronx played at Boston University, then went overseas before making a return to the United States, signing with the Canton Charge of the D-League last Dec. 23. He signed a non-guaranteed two-year deal with the Celtics in April and appeared in just one game: the second game of the Celtics’ playoff series against the Hawks, in which he played less than a minute.

From a development standpoint, the decision makes plenty of sense. Even with a solid camp, Holland likely still would be deep on the bench had he even made the NBA roster. That, in turn, would steal a roster spot from the likes of Ben Bentil, R.J. Hunter or James Young — individuals the Celtics have invested much more in.

Read More: Ben Bentil, James Young, John Holland, R.J. Hunter
R.J. Hunter on competing for a roster spot: ‘I trust myself more than ever’ 08.30.16 at 11:37 am ET
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R.J. Hunter

R.J. Hunter

R.J. Hunter should not be in the position he is in.

The incessant griping about the Celtics’ lack of perimeter shooting is justified, with there being few — if any — options both in the starting lineup and off the bench for reliable 3-point shooting.

However, Hunter, a first-round pick in 2015, is known for his shot, so this should be his wheelhouse. Instead, he’s on the fringe of making the final 15-man roster.

“It’s just spurts where it’s like, ‘Bro, what I am I doing wrong?’ ” Hunter said, speaking to MassLive.com on Saturday at the Basketball Hall of Fame. “And it’s nothing. You’re just on a really good team.”

Hunter brings up a good point. On most any other NBA team, Hunter would have been a much more heavily utilized asset, not the eight minutes per game player he was in his 36 NBA games last season. Conversely, the 22-year-old didn’t do himself many favors when given the opportunity from Brad Stevens to play.

The shooting guard shot a pedestrian 30.2 percent from 3, while putting together a 36.7 percent field goal percentage, totaling a 2.7 points per game total over the course of the season. As a result of the underwhelming performances, he found himself in the D-League for eight games during the middle of the season. While there he shot slightly worse from 3-point range than in the NBA, with a 29.6 percent mark, but ultimately averaged 13.8 points per game.

“At that point, it was just so completely mental,” he said. “I’m not going to lie, my ego got in the way of me making shots. It was almost like for me, whatever I do, I’m in the D-League, and if I don’t do well, it looks worse. And that’s just the wrong attitude to have instead of just going in there. When you have that mentality, now I’m rushing shots. I’m not finishing shots. I’m not really putting in preparation like I have to on every shot. That’s part of growing up, though — you’re in the league, and you’re caught up in it.”

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Read More: Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge, James Young, R.J. Hunter
Breaking down current Celtics roster: Who makes final 15-man cut? 07.28.16 at 3:30 pm ET
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Brad Stevens will have some decisions to make at the end of the summer. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Brad Stevens will have some decisions to make at the end of the summer. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

If all things stay the same for the Celtics by the time training camp begins in late September, there’s going to be some trimming that will need to take place before the regular season tips off.

Here are a few things about roster sizes:

1. A team can carry 20 players on their training camp roster, and often times will sign players to training camp contracts bringing the size of that roster up to or near that number.

2. A team can carry a maximum of 15 players on their regular season roster.

So that creates something of a problem for the Celtics, who, after making the signings of five more players official Wednesday are carrying a roster of 18 players. 

So barring a trade or another signing, who would be out and in for the Celtics once the season begins?

Here’s a breakdown of the Celtics roster as it stands currently:

Guards: Avery Bradley, John Holland, R.J. Hunter, Demetrius Jackson, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas, James Young.

Forwards: Ben Bentil, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder, Gerald Green, Jonas Jerebko, Amir Johnson, Jordan Mickey

Centers: Al Horford, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller

There are plenty of players on this roster would be locks to make the 15-man cut. There are a group of players who could be left in limbo, however, including Bentil, Mickey, Young, Holland, Jackson and Hunter.

There are a few interesting cases here — namely Mickey, Young and Hunter.

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Read More: Ben Bentil, Demetrius Jackson, James Young, John Holland
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