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With the Boston Celtics' trade for Kyrie Irving official pending physicals, it's time to ponder the effect it will have on the franchise's young talent.

Alongside Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, the C's now have less depth than they did 24 hours ago. Isaiah Thomas and Irving essentially swap spots in the rotation, but the Celtics lost their best defensive wing in Jae Crowder, not to mention an important piece in the post in Ante Zizic.

Therefore, the team will be heavily reliant on the combination of 2016 and 2017 third overall picks Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to carry the load on the wing.

The Celtics can form a starting lineup without them -- Irving, Marcus Smart, Hayward, Marcus Morris and Horford, for example. However, this offseason has significantly depleted the team's depth. No more Crowder or Zizic. Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk (and, to a lesser extent, Jonas Jerebko) are gone, too.

Between Bradley, Crowder, and Jerebko, the Celtics lost 81.6 minutes per game from positions that Brown and Tatum can fill. Certainly Hayward's 35 or so a night and an increase in workload for Smart and Terry Rozier will lessen that. So would any free agent signing to fill the newly-opened roster spots. But the room is there for both Brown and Tatum.

While Brown is 6-foot-7, he can fill in at the two-guard spot with his ability to guard essentially any position one through four. In his first taste of the NBA, Brown played 78 games last season, starting 20, and averaged 17.2 minutes a night. That will almost certainly go up with his ability to wear many hats while having earned Brad Stevens' trust in Year 1.

If you're looking at his increased workload, you can start with Brown's last 25 games of the 2016-17 regular season, in which he averaged just under 21 minutes a game. It'll only go up from there. In the scenario where he comes off the bench, a raise to 24-27 minutes a night is reasonable, at least initially. However, if Stevens chooses to start him at the two, he could very well be up to 30+ minutes a game, a steep rise in trust and responsibility. While playing 30+ a night for a contending team is a lot for a soon-to-be 21-year-old, Brown has played on the big stage for a year now, even playing more than 12 consecutive minutes in Game 7 vs. the Washington Wizards last May.

As with any rookie, Tatum is in for a tough transition. He brings perhaps the most polished offensive game of any 2017 rookie, but he still needs to be a more willing passer and consistent defender in order to avoid the pitfalls that Brown ran into during his first season.

The Duke product is a small forward who played plenty of the four in college, but he'll have to add more physicality to play the four at the next level. For now, it's reasonable to pencil him in for a little more than Brown's first-year workload, say 21 minutes or so, considering the Celtics will be working with less depth than it had a year ago. Tatum could also be a more effective scorer with the second-team with his isolation game.

Without Crowder, Bradley or even Jerebko in their way, there will be plenty of minutes to go around for Brown and Tatum. With Morris and Aron Baynes replacing Olynyk and Amir Johnson, the team will likely need to use Horford more at the five this season, thus playing small and enabling more minutes for the Tatum-Brown combination. While Tatum could blossom into a small-ball four in the next few seasons, Hayward would likely take on the role to start.

Irving could be an impediment to their development if he focuses on isolation and doesn't fully buy into the Celtics' team concept. Still, Irving also can elevate the duo with his offensive talents providing space for them to operate.

The team can only go so far depending on their development. While the team can turn to its Big Three more come playoff time, Brown and Tatum -- along with second-round pick Semi Ojeleye and 2016 first-round selection Guerschon Yabusele -- will be needed in bulk, particularly as the team deals with the inevitable injuries that will touch its roster.

And ultimately, that's why the Celtics drafted each player third overall. Danny Ainge and co. see star potential in both players and they've each shown glimpses. The Irving trade gives them each a chance to expand upon those glimpses while putting their abilities in the spotlight.


Photos: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe (top photo), Maddie Meyer/Getty Images (Brown, middle), Ethan Miller/Getty Images (Tatum, bottom)

Follow Steven Tydings on Twitter @StevenTydings

Steven Tydings 8/23/2017 02:37:00 PM Edit
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