Is Tyler Zeller falling out of favor in Boston's rotation?
The 2015-2016 season is young, but one that has been a disaster for Celtics center Tyler Zeller.
Boston fell to 1-2 on Sunday with their fourth quarter comeback against San Antonio being thwarted by the late brilliance of LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge's performance seemed to be what sent Zeller packing to the bench in the first quarter after just 6 minutes of playing time, but it was stunningly a seat that he would not stand up from.
Presumptions began racing through my mind as the center stuck to the bench throughout each quarter, foremost of which: has Zeller lost favor in this packed rotation of big men? It didn't seem like too large of a leap to a conclusion, especially with him recording just 16 points and 2 rebounds in 3 games as the starting center now.
Then I began to remember how little room for error there truly is in the front court. Amir Johnson established himself receiving 28 minutes, a season high for a C's big man, but David Lee and Kelly Olynyk shot 1-10 in 33 minutes of combined play.
That sentiment of parity was confirmed by Brad Stevens after the loss:
Stevens on Zeller not starting in second half: "We've got a lot of bigs. We're still working through it. That's not on Tyler, that's on me."
Zeller's rebounding issues have been well documented and there is definitely a cause for concern with him, but Stevens' word is usually worth taking at face value. 3 games is a minuscule sample size for a player who was extremely consistent in 82 contests a year ago, but there may have been more at play Sunday than Brad tinkering with front court combinations.
The Celtics need to cut down their rotations at some point and commit more minutes to players who are going to give them production night in and night out. Handing out 15-19 minutes per game to 5 or 6 big men as they have so far just doesn't seem sustainable.
For now I would say Zeller's job, even his starting role, are safe. But his struggles are certainly something to keep an eye on going on the road. Minutes are going to be something that the Celtics will have to shift around for a while before they can gauge what truly works best for them. That may mean more bench time for Zeller or anybody who isn't getting the job done on any night.