The Boston Celtics got virtually no time together while fully healthy last year but look to change that heading into the upcoming season.
Even though they were not at full strength, they were able to play well in the Eastern Conference Finals. All season, despite injuries, head coach Brad Stevens was able to maximize their potential and lead the team to surprising success. Now that LeBron James is out of the East, expect a big season from Boston.
Here is what their starting lineup on opening night projects to look like as of right now.
Al Horford, Big
Jayson Tatum, Forward
Gordon Hayward, Forward
Jaylen Brown, Guard
Kyrie Irving, Guard
Before the Celtics lost their marquee free agency signing Gordon Hayward last season, they were poised to have one of the most exciting starting lineups in the Eastern Conference. Hayward will return to the first unit, joining star point guard Kyrie Irving – who also missed time due to injury. While it was clear that the team still had tremendous success without the two, they are prepared for a run at the 2019 NBA Finals. Al Horford is currently coming off an All-Star campaign while Jayson Tatum finished third overall in Rookie of the Year votes. Jaylen Brown has continued his development as an essential piece of this core.
Boston outscored opponents by 7.9 points per 100 possessions when Horford was on the court with Tatum and Brown last season. While this group had an extraordinarily high-volume sample size, one could expect that they can even outperform these marks when adding Hayward and Irving back into the mix. It seems unlikely that head coach Brad Stevens sways from having his best five on the court, especially at the end of games. This lineup might be smaller than rival teams, most notably in the frontcourt. But it’s also the five that will match up best against teams like the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers, who are likely going small to end the game as well.
The success of the team will ultimately come down to the development of Tatum and Brown. Both have shown amazing potential and could even be in the consideration to represent the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game next year. Other factors to consider include whether or not Irving plays the entire season with the Celtics or if they decide to trade him before he will become an unrestricted free agent. Of course, it’s also worth monitoring how Hayward recovers from his injury. But when they’re all playing at their best, this is easily one of the strongest groups in the league.
Aron Baynes, Big
Daniel Theis, Forward
Marcus Morris, Forward
Marcus Smart, Guard
Terry Rozier, Guard
Last season, Boston was able to outscore opponents by 8.6 points per 100 when Aron Baynes was on the court with Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart. All three of these players proved they were capable of playing in the first unit for the Celtics as key figures on the squad recovered from injury. This five-man grouping, with Semi Ojeleye in the frontcourt instead of Aron Baynes, was able to outscore opponents by 8.4 points per 100. Rozier was very good as a spot-up shooter and shooting off screens last season while Smart was an amazing perimeter defender. Their second-unit is serviceable on both sides of the ball in the frontcourt and can help them stay in games while their starters are resting.
Robert Williams III, Big
Semi Ojeleye, Forward
Guerschon Yabusele, Forward
Brad Wanamaker, Guard
Jabari Bird, Guard
There are several players who are capable of eventually joining the second unit for the Celtics, including young talents such as Semi Ojeleye as well as Guerschon Yabusele. Their first-round pick, Robert Williams, has shown promise and potential in the past as well and can use this season to either develop his talents or get a chance to showcase them in the NBA. Brad Wanamaker averaged 15.6 points and 5.3 assists per 36 minutes in the Euroleague last year. Jabari Bird impressed during summer league, averaging 20.2 points and 7.2 assists per 36.
Walt Lemon Jr., Guard
PJ Dozier, Guard
Last season, Walt Lemon Jr. averaged 22.3 points and 6.1 assists per game in the G League. He has struggled as a three-point shooter, however, which is a facet of his game he will need to improve for a more legitimate chance to play regular minutes in the NBA. PJ Dozier recently signed the other two-way deal, though he has had similar trouble behind the three-point line as a professional basketball player.
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