One of the Celtics biggest strengths heading into 2014-15 as well as this season has been their depth. Unable to roster 3 superstars as stated in the traditional recipe book for NBA success the last decade, Danny Ainge has built a strong, young, and deep core. There are many strengths to this strategy including the potential for season longevity, raised intensity in practices, and the stockpiling on trade assets. However, there is a weakness to this approach, not everyone can play.
Last season, the Celtics started slowly out of the gates as head coach Brad Stevens and his staff experimented with different lineups and rotations. It wasn't until late November when Jae Crowder openly criticized the coaching staff for the team's lack of identity and rotations that appeared to force the coaches' hands to solidify a rotation. Entering his 4th season now at head coach, Stevens is not planning on making the same mistake.
Brad Stevens says he plans to have a 10-man rotation, for the most part, this season. Says it's an "8-plus-2," but the "2" might change.— Marc D'Amico (@Marc_DAmico) October 13, 2016
So at this point, we know our starters:
PG - Isaiah Thomas
SG - Avery Bradley
SF - Jae Crowder
PF/C - Amir Johnson
PF/C - Al Horford
Marcus Smart appears to be the next guy off the bench as Stevens has already declared him as the "6th starter" earlier this month. So to round out the final 4 spots that leaves potential back-up point guard Terry Rozier, spurt-ability specialist Gerald Green, 3 and D role-player aficionado Jonas Jerebko, high-flying rookie Jaylen Brown, behind the arc artist Kelly Olynyk (after return from shoulder injury), and Tyler Zeller. For reasons that basically boil down to not having a talent that earns you a catchy name like those listed above, Zeller won't be cracking the rotation anytime soon. (Despite somehow being the team's 4th highest paid player).
Even though we aren't exactly sure when Olynyk will return, there's potential he could be ready as early as opening night. By that point, he might not have had any pre-season action and Stevens will look to bring him along slowly, but the fact remains he will still likely garner a spot in the rotation.
Jerebko's ability to defend against multiple positions and stretch the floor at PF will be critical for the second unit, so for now, his spot seems to be safe.
That leaves Rozier, Green, and Brown to fill out the final two spots. My thoughts are that Rozier will open up the season as the team's back-up PG, but his spot in the rotation is expendable depending on the development of Marcus Smart as a playmaker/passer. Which by the way, he has shown some serious flashes of improvement on this pre-season.
While Green is considered a veteran, he still has a lot to prove entering 2016 after watching his production and scoring average significantly drop since his resurgence in Phoenis during the 2013-14 campaign. Lowering his points per game totals from 15.8 to 11.9 to 8.9 per Basketball Reference.
And despite being a part of the above highlight and contributing to an impressive highlight reel of his own so far, 19 year old Jaylen Brown will need to earn his minutes night in and night out as Stevens is not one known to play his rookies "just because".
In conclusion, with Olynyk's timetable for return still somewhat up in the air, the rotation will be pretty simple to start. Once he returns however, either Green or Brown will be the ones in the DNP section of the post-game box scores. Those two will have to prove they belong in the rotation in these opening games, with the only caveat being if Smart edges Rozier as back-up PG.
Photo Credit: Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Follow Nolan on Twitter @NolanChuck Nolan Connor 10/15/2016 02:18:00 PM Tweet Edit