This year’s Celtics rotation will be the strongest in years.
With Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving both returning, this is likely the deepest roster we’ve seen since the ’08 team. With 15 guaranteed contracts, the current roster is likely going to be the same as the opening day roster, barring an August trade. Let’s examine which players will get big minutes this upcoming year, as well as which players will see a rise or fall in their roles, and who is likely to ride the pine all year.
PG- Kyrie Irving SG- Jaylen Brown SF- Gordon Hayward PF- Jayson Tatum C- Al Horford
This was going to be the starting lineup last year before Hayward’s injury. This season, were are likely to see it opening night. Kyrie, Hayward, and Horford are locks to be in the starting lineup on a nightly basis. If the Celtics decide to go with a bigger lineup in some games, they’ll slide Aron Baynes in at center. If that happens, either Brown or Tatum will come off the bench (probably Brown). Brad Stevens has shown willingness to adjust the lineup depending on the opponent. With everyone healthy, he has more freedom to do so. The Celtics can go big with Baynes, and if they want, they can go even bigger by taking Kyrie out of the lineup for stretches and running with the remaining starters and Baynes. Brown, Tatum, and Hayward all have shown their ability to be ballhandlers in the past. Even Horford brings the ball up confidently and efficiently. Lineup flexibility is going to be a huge advantage for the Celtics this year.
As far as minutes go, Irving and Horford won’t see much fluctuation in theirs. Kyrie averaged 32.2 MPG last year and Horford averaged 31.6. These numbers won’t change much. The main variable is Hayward returning. He’s going to get around 30 MPG as well and he’ll draw them from a lot of different places. Tatum and Brown could see their minutes drop to accommodate Hayward, though not drastically. They both averaged 30 MPG last year. They could drop to around 28, but it probably won’t dip much farther than that. Things are pretty straightforward in the starting lineup, but the bench is where it gets interesting.
Guards- Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Brad Wanamaker, Jabari Bird Forwards- Marcus Morris, Semi Ojeleye, Robert Williams, Guerschon Yabusele Centers- Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis
As previously mentioned, this team is crazy-deep. Four of these players could easily be starters on other teams, and you can make the case for more. There are a few interesting situations to watch this year. One is what the team will do with Rozier. Last season, Smart played more minutes (29.9) than Rozier (25.9). However, with Rozier’s breakout at the end of the year, we’ll see if their roles change. I’d guess that their roles are similar this year; they’ll be the first ones off the bench. I don’t see Williams playing too much this year – he’s got Baynes and Theis both ahead of him on the depth chart. He’ll see some garbage time minutes, but probably not much more as the Celtics develop him.
Another story to watch is what happens with Marcus Morris. He’s still of value to the team, but Hayward is going to usurp much of his role. He played 26.8 MPG last year; that could take a big hit with Hayward and the continuing evolution of Ojeleye. Another player who will see their minutes drop is Baynes. His starting role is gone now, and though he’s the first big off the bench, his minutes will be reduced as well. Brad Wanamaker is a wild card, as he’s an overseas signing. It’ll be interesting to see if he plays.
This roster is a beautiful sight after the depleted stretches last year. This team has a lot of players that can contribute, but there are only so many minutes to go around. With lots of talent, Brad Stevens has some tough decisions to make. The starters are set in stone, but after that, the waters get murky. No matter who ends up playing, the Celtics are ready to go for the 2018-19 season. Let’s leave it in the hands of the best head coach in basketball to figure out the optimal rotations.
Who do you think will get big minutes? Let me know on twitter- @jackbuffett_