Editor's Note: It was very hard to not name this article 'Stop! Hunter Time'
There's this weird thing about injuries when your team is a little younger. Provided they're not serious, sometimes you kind of enjoy it. It opens up the unknown. A new opportunity for a new player, and a chance to see how that player responds in new situations.

We got that opportunity last night after Avery Bradley was taken out after being kicked in the calf, forcing Brad Stevens to give his rookie shooter his first chance at meaningful minutes. While Bradley's injury doesn't appear to be too serious - though there's no details at the moment - it allowed Hunter to log nineteen minutes in last night's 99-83 win, and could allow him to see significant minutes again tonight against Indiana.

Hunter more than performed - netting 7 points, 7 rebounds, and a block in a steal. And what's been so impressive about Hunter, as Kevin O'Connor pointed out, he's already shedding the notion that he's just a shooter. He's an intelligent player with a strong sense of where he should be on the court. He moves very well without the ball, both in freeing himself for shots as well as cutting to the basket when appropriate. While he didn't net any assists last night, he did show off a few very smart passes (to somewhat counter his two turnovers). Something he was particularly good at in the preseason.

It's that intelligence, well-roundedness, and ability to execute that already has Brad Stevens calling plays specifically for him. Two by my count. Here's one.

Defensively, he's adequate. He still has to work on his footwork to improve his lateral speed, but at the very least, he knows who he's defending, and where he should be at all times. That's not a rave review by any means, but it's also a head of schedule for a rookie swingman.

Whether he continues this streak of goodness remains to be seen, but RJ Sniper seems to be a bit of a dream fit for Brad Stevens, and he represents a new hope for Celtics fans.

Start Your Morning Off With: Another quick check-in on how the Lakers season is going

Mailin' It In w/ Topher Lane

Quick Note: This exchange happened before last night's game

MattDotRich: Topher, we have 5 traditional bigs and Brad Stevens has an itchin' to play a little bit more small ball. What should the Celtics be doing with their front court rotation?

Topher Lane: It's really tough to say. There's such a logjam in the front court and you can see every guy is vying for their spot in the starting rotation. Jared Sullinger had a career game against the Wizards where he was able to stretch the floor and nail a couple threes, and Kelly Olynyk was a defensive monster picking up four steals and a block. Those two will probably jump up in the rotation, but we also saw some strength in the small lineup. Jerebko earned some quality minutes last week and played aggressively working his way to the free throw line a couple times. I'd like to see Brad Stevens go smaller, but not if the bigs can contribute like they did against Washington.

MDR: Ya, that's the thing. As much as has been made about the 5 bigs itself, it does seem like the tweener forwards are presenting the most questions. Jerebko's really stuck out to me. It just seems like this guy needs to be getting more consistent minutes.

What are your thoughts on the Swedish Chef's performance through 5 games, and what's the right amount to play him on average?

TL: It's really interesting because we signed him to a good contract, and he's seen almost the fewest minutes on the team, only followed by the three rookies and Tyler Zeller. I think Jonas has a great inside-out game that would really help spread the floor for Isaiah or even Marcus and Stevens should be utilizing him more. I would expect him to be a strong contributor no matter how many minutes we throw at him, but the 14.4 he has now is too little.

MDR: But I guess that takes me back to my first email; Where do those minutes come from?

TL: I would personally cut Evan Turner's minutes. They're similar players, but Turner hasn't been turning out quality stats for the time that he's on the hardwood as illustrated by his 9.1 PER which is good for lowest on the C's (rookies excluded). Then I would also place Jerebko above Lee for the time being. Since Jerebko can be slotted in the 3 or 4 spot, I think he'd be able to soak up a couple of their minutes effectively.

I should say, I don't think PER means everything, but from a statistical perspective, I think Lee and Turner have been the least effective so far and Turner jacks up shots from mid range way too often. Unless there is someone grabbing his rebounds, he might as well be turning it over. I think Jerebko has definitely earned his spot above Turner on the depth chart. Lee on the other hand has just been struggling. I don't attribute it to much more than he just hasn't been able to finish his shots. I like Lee, but if Jonas can give the C's more production, I would rather see him on the floor than the former all-star.

MDR: I could be wrong here, but I do feel like Jerebko is much more useful as a modern-day small ball four than he is as a traditional small forward. I feel like a big part of his game is the pump fake and drive, and I just don't know if that's quite as effective against more athletic defenders.

I guess the only thing we haven't talked about is this idea of a rotating off-night, where we'd only dress 4 of our 5 bigs (provided everyone's healthy). What do you think about this idea, Topher?

TL: Well, to the first part, I agree. I don't think Jerebko has the strength to really post up against an athletic four. What I liked about his game against the Wizards last week was his ability to work his way to the line against bigger defenders. A couple times he would take it right at Gortat or Nene and was able to draw the foul.

And to your second point, while I think it would be good to give rest to one of our bigs every night, one thing this team boasts over others is the depth. And while we would still have 4 quality big men ready to play, I like that if one of them can't produce that we can turn to another. Obviously, there will be nights where we will want to give a guy a night off, and with the depth we have it's doable, but the versatility that each one brings will force the opposing team to scout the possibility of such a deep front court.

I think we need to give Jerebko the opportunity to prove us wrong though. Plug him in against a star athletic small forward and see how he does. I think he's a crafty player who would create opportunities for himself even against an athletic three or even four.

MattDotRich 11/11/2015 09:12:00 AM Edit
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