Celtics Season Preview: Four Storylines To Watch During Training Camp

Who will replace Brad Wanamaker? How's Kemba Walker's knee doing?


December 1, 2020

Folks, NBA training camp has arrived.

Tuesday marks the opening of camps around the league, meaning the Boston Celtics will be getting going at the Auerbach Center in Brighton, Mass.

Roughly three weeks separate us from the start of camp to the beginning of regular-season games — with, in Boston’s case, two preseason games sandwiched in the middle.

So in the coming days, there will be roster battles to follow and storylines to keep track of.

Here are a few we’ll be eyeing.

How’s Kemba Walker’s knee?
Brad Stevens already revealed that Walker won’t be full-go right off the jump, and it sounds like he’ll be missing the beginning of game action after receicing a stem cell injection in his knee.

As a result, it’ll be fascinating to see just how involved Walker is in preseason practice. He obviously needs to ramp up to even be game ready in the first place, but it sounds like the coaching and medical staffs are trying to balance that with the threat of Walker overdoing it.

That brings us to our next point, which is…

Who is going to fill Brad Wanamaker’s role?
Marcus Smart can run point for the Celtics, but he should be used more as, to use a more traditional basketball term, a two-guard.

Wanamaker had a great season with Boston in 2019-20, specifically in the playoffs, and did a nice job as a reserve point guard, a role that there was production out of even prior to Wanamaker’s arrival courtesy of Shane Larkin.

But with Wanamaker now a member of the Golden State Warriors, that’s a role the Celtics have to fill. The two most likely candidates seem to be Tremont Waters and Peyton Pritchard.

Waters is in Year 2 and will be on a two-way deal, but because of revamped rules this season regarding two-way players, he likely will be spending a ton of time in Boston no matter what. His career ceiling probably is that of a useful reserve guard, so he could make strides towards that this season.

As for Pritchard, it seems the Celtics drafted him with this role in mind. He’s an older rookie at 22 years old, and the plus of drafting those guys is they tend to be more NBA-ready right away than those who spent less time at the collegiate level. He’ll have every opportunity to compete for the Wanamaker vacancy.

Of course, Jeff Teague fits into this mix as well, but he’s the obvious backup to Walker. If Walker misses time or needs load management, Teague is going to log big minutes.

How will the center situation be handled?
Daniel Theis had a nice campaign last season, and he’s proven to be a solid find by the Celtics scouting department.

But Boston brought in Tristan Thompson, who is a far more impactful offensive player. That begs the question of how will they use the two.

It seems unlikely Boston will try a double-big idea where someone is effectively being used as a power forward and stepping out of the paint — like what the Indiana Pacers do with Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis (also the reason they’re trying to trade the former: that method doesn’t always work).

As such, one has to think it will be Thompson who becomes the starter, with Theis coming off the bench. That would give a healthy Celtics team something like a Walker-Smart-Jaylen Brown-Jayson Tatum-Thompson starting five, with Teague and Theis the first two off the bench.

The Celtics also have a decent depth option in Robert Williams, who can come in as a defensive sparkplug. Grant Williams also could play an undersized big man role, and Tacko Fall might see more opportunities this season, too.

Will someone emerge as a sharpshooter off the bench?
The Celtics readily admitted that they didn’t have good enough shooting. Although they wouldn’t outright admit it, that has to be the impetus for their bullishness on Aaron Nesmith.

Nesmith shot the lights out of the building in college, and if that translates to the NBA, then he could be an impactful rotation player for Boston out of the gate.

The problem is, shooting doesn’t always translate to the NBA. Ask James Young and R.J. Hunter.

Even with that caveat in mind, Nesmith has a prime opportunity to be the shooter the Celtics need off the bench. That’s also a spot Carsen Edwards could receive a look at. He was a marksman at Purdue, but outside of the preseason that never really carried into his rookie campaign.

Teague historically has been a decent perimeter shooter, and Smart has improved over the years, but both of them probably aren’t the guys you want filling that role.

The ideal for the Celtics is either Nesmith or Edwards becoming that guy.

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