The Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers will begin the 2017-18 NBA season Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena in a rematch of the 2017 Eastern Conference finals.
The main storyline entering this matchup is Kyrie Irving’s return to Cleveland after he requested a trade from the Cavs and was sent to Boston in a deal involving Isaiah Thomas over the summer.
Just four players from last season’s C’s roster remain on the team, so head coach Brad Stevens and his staff don’t yet know which five-player combinations work best.
With that said, here’s a look at the Celtics roster entering the season opener.
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Al Horford
Stevens recently hinted at this being the starting five, although he didn’t assign positions to specific players. With Marcus Morris injured and Aron Baynes picking up an injury in the preseason, this unit makes the most sense for the opener.
The only surprise is Tatum being in for Marcus Smart, but the longest-tenured Celtic could have immense value as a defensive guard off the bench.
This starting group is among the most versatile in the league. Brown, Hayward and Tatum all can play shooting guard, small forward and power forward. They all can shoot from the outside and attack the basket from the perimeter, as well.
The Celtics had trouble finding consistent scoring outside of Thomas last season, but that shouldn’t be much of an issue this campaign after the additions of Irving, Tatum and Hayward over the summer.
Terry Rozier, PG
Shane Larkin, PG
Marcus Smart, SG
Jabari Bird, SG
Kadeem Allen, SG
Abdel Nader, SF
Semi Ojeleye, SF
Daniel Theis, PF
Guerschon Yabusele, PF
Aron Baynes, C
The Celtics went 12 players deep last season, and we should expect Stevens to use a full bench this year, too.
Rozier is a tremendous rebounding guard with an improved outside shot, so look for him to take a sizable step in his development. Smart, as noted above, is a fantastic perimeter defender, and his outside shot appears to be improved based on his preseason play. He also has plenty of motivation to play the best basketball of his career as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.
Theis and Yabusele stretch the floor with their long-range shooting, and Baynes provides the toughness and rebounding ability Boston lacked for most of 2016-17.
The primary concern with this group is its youth. Bird, Allen, Nader, Ojeleye, Theis and Yabusele all are rookies or are entering their first NBA season after playing overseas. There will be an adjustment period for these guys, so fans will need to be patient.
Marcus Morris, PF
Morris was acquired in the Avery Bradley trade. He gives the Celtics rebounding, toughness and outside shooting. He didn’t play much in the preseason, so it might take him a bit to develop chemistry with his new teammates. Morris also has played pretty good defense on Cavaliers forward LeBron James throughout his career, which obviously is a useful skill for the C’s. We might even see Morris as the starting power forward when he’s back to full strength.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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