Any avid NBA fan has seen it many times. A team has injuries to key players, and a rookie or end-of-the-bench player steps his game up to help his team get wins. Well, tonight's game against Washington may be a golden opportunity for such a thing to happen for the Celtics. Three starters are definitely out, and a fourth (Al Horford) is questionable. And two backups critical to the second unit (Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis) are also out with injuries.

Another substitute, Shane Larkin, is apparently on a minutes-restriction limiting him to 15-17 minutes of floor time. I had previously broached a starting lineup of Aron Baynes, Greg Monroe, Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier and Abdel Nader, and that still holds, assuming Al does not play. That leaves Shane, Marcus Morris, Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele and Kadeem Allen as subs.

Particularly that second unit looks like a good G-League or Summer League group, but hey - times are tough. And what has Brad Stevens got to lose. We have a pretty good idea what Morris and Larkin can do, and both have the potential to have what Danny would call an elevated game. But for me, the focus is on Semi and Yabu.

The Dancing Bear (Yabu) has moved back and forth from the Celtics to the G-League Maine Red Claws. He does well with the Maine team but not with the Celtics. Brad has nothing to lose in this game by giving him significant minutes. There is little to lose, and therefore, low pressure on Yabu to succeed.

Semi has already proven himself on the defensive end, and he can cover anyone. Brad loves players that can guard one-through-five. Ojeleye shot well in college but has struggled in the NBA. This may be the time to see what he can do on the offensive end.

Ojeleye is signed for four years (1.3 million this year), with the final two years non-guaranteed. Yabusele is on the books for four years starting at 2.3 million, with the final two years a club option. This would seem to be a fine opportunity to see what these two players can do with increased minutes and responsibility. That number two slot in the East appears to be somewhat solid for Boston, so turn the kids loose.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via Tony Dejak/AP Photo

Tom Lane 3/14/2018 07:38:00 AM Edit
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