On Monday, Danny Ainge announced that James Young had earned the final roster spot for the Boston Celtics, beating out R.J. Hunter. Now that the roster to start the season is set, Brad Stevens has some tough decisions to make in terms of dolling out minutes.
The Celtics starting five will consist of Isaiah Thomas at point guard, Avery Bradley at shooting guard, Jae Crowder at small forward, Amir Johnson at power forward, and Al Horford at center. After those first five, the Celtics will probably use an additional five players, according to CSNNE.com and coach Stevens. “Ten [players] is what we usually play at the start of the season,” Stevens said. “It could be eight to ten, nine to ten.”
The 2016-17 Boston Celtics Rotation
The first player off the bench will be Marcus Smart. Smart sprained his ankle closing out the preseason against the New York Knicks, but he won’t miss much time. Smart struggled shooting the ball last season, finishing just 34.8 percent overall and a terrible 25.3 percent on three-pointers. However, his defense and ability to play both backcourt spots will help him earn the most minutes off the bench. The next player off the bench is a toss-up between Jonas Jerebko, Terry Rozier, and Jaylen Brown.
Jerebko is the obvious choice for next man up. He can stretch the floor (shooting nearly 40 percent from three in the 2015-16 regular season), rebound, defend multiple positions, and slide in at either backup forward position. Due to injuries to other players, Jerebko started toward the end of Boston’s playoff run last season, and he impressed. His knack for making big plays and hustling will guarantee him minutes throughout the season.
Jerebko’s strong play this off-season combined with Smart’s injury guarantees Rozier significant playing time as well. Rozier has shown an improved stroke from beyond the arc, knocking down 60 percent percent of his threes in the final five games of the preseason. He also put up big numbers in Summer League, averaging 20 points and five rebounds per game. Rozier will most likely backup Thomas at point guard, with Smart playing a lot of two-guard.
Brown’s game is very raw, but his versatility along with his draft position guarantees him minutes. Brown’s athleticism, defensive potential, ability to play both forward spots, and ability to get to the rim all help place him firmly in the rotation.
Another rotation spot will most likely go to Tyler Zeller, because someone will have to spell Horford. Kelly Olynyk will also see time once he returns from injury, due to his size and shooting ability.
New addition Gerald Green may earn some minutes because he can flat out score. Coming off a bad season with the Miami Heat and in an already crowded rotation, Green will have to play very well to earn consistent playing time.
James Young, rookie point guard Demetrius Jackson, and second-year player Jordan Mickey probably won’t see any time unless injuries plaque the Celtics. Young and Jackson are simply buried on the bench behind better guards, while Mickey, who only played in 16 games last season, will again not play much. Mickey does have a chance to get some minutes if Zeller struggles and Olynyk continues to miss games due to injuries.
The Celtics have an interesting roster. Ten players will probably play, and as many as 12 could see decent time on the court. The Celtics are seen by many as the biggest threat to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. A main reason for this is their depth and roster versatility.