These aren’t your grandfather’s Boston Celtics. Scratch that — as far as familiar lineups go, these aren’t anyone’s Celtics.
The C’s entered the summer with the potential for a roster overhaul, and that’s exactly what happened: Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and other ancillary pieces from the 2016-17 club are out the door, making room for Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes and four draft picks, highlighted by No. 3 overall selection Jayson Tatum.
We still don’t know if Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has more roster moves in store. For the most part, though, the major work is done. That begs the question: What will this team look like in the 2017-18 season?
It’s a simple question with a very complicated answer. Boston’s roster is stuffed with versatile players who can fill different positions, leaving coach Brad Stevens with countless combinations to tinker with and sift through. Near the top of Stevens’ priority list is creating a starting five, which admittedly could look very different from one night to the next.
Assuming the current roster holds, here’s our best guess at an Opening Night starting five for the Celtics:
Isaiah Thomas, PG
Marcus Smart, SG
Gordon Hayward, SF
Jae Crowder, PF
Al Horford, PF/C
Thomas, Hayward and Horford are locks. After that, it could get tricky. Crowder has played the four in Stevens’ “small ball” sets, and the above lineup would give the Celtics great offensive versatility and spacing without sacrificing much on the defensive end. If Stevens wants a bigger lineup with better rebounding, he can start Baynes at center and shift Hayward to shooting guard, or replace Crowder with Morris at the four.
It’s a testament to Boston’s depth that we haven’t mentioned Jaylen Brown or Tatum. Here’s a look at the other Celtics who should see significant minutes this season.
PROMINENT ROTATION PLAYERS
Terry Rozier, PG
Jaylen Brown, SF
Jayson Tatum, SF
Marcus Morris, PF
Aron Baynes, C
Brown very easily could fill Smart’s starting role at the two before long, especially if he proves he can defend quicker guards. Stevens likely will ease Tatum into NBA action, but if he continues to live up to the hype, you might see the 19-year-old rookie get serious minutes, too. Rozier or Smart can run point on the second unit with Thomas on the bench, while Morris and Baynes should provide depth and size in the frontcourt. In all, this is a pretty solid 10-man rotation.
FRINGE ROTATION PLAYERS
Ante Zizic, C
Guerschon Yabusele, PF
Semi Ojeleye, SF
Jabari Bird, G
Kadeem Allen, G
Abdel Nader, SF
Zizic and Yabusele are the two players to note here. The Celtics need size, and their 2016 “draft-and-stash” picks could earn a spot in Stevens’ rotation if they can provide rebounding and interior presence. Ojeleye also showed upside in NBA Summer League play, but Boston’s wealth of wings means he likely won’t see many minutes this season.
Thumbnail photo via Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports Images
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