The Celtics have one more roster decision

As the Celtics prepare to tip of their regular season tonight against the 76ers, one question regarding the roster remains unanswered. Pursuant to the CBA, teams are allowed to have 15 guaranteed contracts on their roster, but may only dress and play 13 every game.

As for the 13 who will be dressing for tonight's opener against the 76ers, remember Kelly Olynk is serving a one-game suspension for his incident with Kevin Love during the playoff series against the Cavaliers last year. That means one player who is active tonight will be deactivated prior to Friday's game against Toronto in order to make room for the returning Olynk.

At the outset, we can go ahead and eliminate Jordan Mickey from the conversation. He is not going to be one of the 13 active players. Brad Stevens has already discussed the current logjam in the front court, and stated he intends on a rotation of four bigs per game. However, the team currently has five fighting for playing time: Tyler Zeller; David Lee; Amir Johnson; Kelly Olynk; and Jared Sullinger. Then there is Jonas Jerebko who can also provide the team minutes in the frontcourt when shorthanded. There is simply no need for Mickey at this time, and he will start the season on the deactive list.

Regardless of what Stevens says leading up to the opening tip, this is his starting five:

1 Marcus Smart
2 Avery Bradley
3 Jae Crowder
4 David Lee
5 Tyler Zeller

During the preseason schedule, these five were nothing short of spectacular together, shooting nearly 50% from both the field and three, while their opponents shot 38% from the field and 32% from three. The trio of Smart, Bradley, and Crowder is extremely strong on the defensive end of the floor. They will be a nightmare matchup for NBA teams whose scoring punch is primarily in the backcourt and on the perimeter. Overall, do not be surprised if the Celtics end most first quarters with a lead.

Based on Stevens' preseason substitution trends, here are the first five players to most likely come off the bench (in order):

6 Isaiah Thomas
7 Amir Johnson
8 Evan Turner
9 Kelly Olynk
10 Jonas Jerebko

Isaiah Thomas is the team's best player and often replaces Smart. Amir Johnson tends to be next and replaces Lee. Turner and Olynk, not in the same order every time, were the next two to enter the game. Olynk always replaced Zeller, but Turner replaced both Bradley and Crowder. As for Jerebko, it was surprising how often Stevens mixed it up, but it was always Crowder or Lee.

11 Jared Sullinger

Between the starting five and the first five off the bench, we know who the first 10 in Stevens' rotation will most likely be. However, based on the performance of Jared Sullinger towards the end of the preseason, there is no doubt Stevens is going to use him as often as he can, especially on the back end of back-to-backs. Regardless, Sullinger will be active.

With that, we are left with three players - Terry Rozier, James Young, and RJ Hunter - and two spots on the active roster left. Young is not going to be given a spot for simple not being a rookie. However, given the fact the team used a borderline lottery pick on him last year, it will be a tough sell that they have not given up on him if they send him back to the D-league to start the season.

12 Terry Rozier

Rozier will be chosen first, and given the 12th spot. Rozier does so many things well already, including getting to the rim at will, end-to-end defense, and rebounding as a guard. Also, we also saw Rozier play the two-guard during the preseason, which also happens to be the spot on the floor the Celtics are thinnest (watch out, Evan Turner).

Above all else though, Rozier far outplayed his counterparts in Young and Hunter at both summer league and in the preseason, and ultimately you prove you are better by playing better. Rozier did that.

Rozier's Summer League/Preseason Stats:
Summer League: 8 G, 27.9 MPG, 12.2 PPG, 3 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, .354 FG%, .386 3PT%
Preseason: 5 G, 18.6 MPG, 9.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, .486 FG%, .571 3PT%

13. RJ Hunter

The Celtics like RJ Hunter. The team was shorthanded in their third preseason game against the Nets, with Smart, Rozier, and Bradley being held out, and Stevens had to turn to someone to fill that void. Facing that, Stevens played Hunter 30 minutes and Young 14 minutes.

Furthermore, throughout the preseason, Stevens experimented with Hunter in different roles on the floor. He was given minutes at three different positions, including point guard, which bodes well for him because it demonstrates the level of trust the Celtics already have in him.

14. James Young
15. Jordan Mickey

This will be a tough pill to swallow for the super-talented Young, but as we discussed yesterday, he is only 20. The Celtics will likely chalk this move up to his age, and the need for an extended maturation process in Maine. He and Mickey are going to be players in this league. Given how young they are, the future is bright.

Question for My Readers: If you were making the decisions for the Celtics, which 13 would be active? Why? Be sure to list the 13 out in your comment.

Follow Max Sandgrund on Twitter @SotoSpeakz

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