It has been an interesting but successful training camp and preseason for the Celtics, given their roster. On paper it seems each position is even deeper than that of last year’s team, which was already deep to begin with. Starters could very well be bench players on this team and vice versa. Guys who sit could very well be bench players. Across the board, there is a lot of depth and not much separation in terms of player skill level. So I ask plainly and directly to Celtics fans, is the competition on the roster for playing time and starting roles a good thing for this team? Do you think it will it be moving forward?
It seems to be working so far, as the team finished with a 6-1 preseason record. Players are responding in the fight for playing time, positions and roles. Particularly guys like Jared Sullinger, who suddenly is fighting for playing time and roles with Amir Johnson, Olynyk, Tyler Zeller, and David Lee, and Marcus Smart, trying to earn the starting point guard position on the team. Having guys compete with other talented and players on this team ensures that they aren’t just handed a role or position, and so far in the preseason, both guys have played well enough to earn better roles in the regular season. Must be the mohawk haircuts.
Marcus Smart and Jared Sullinger are two players who are seeing increased pressure to earn team roles.
Can Brad Stevens juggle the minutes and matchups? More players that have different skill sets gives Steven more lineups to play with, like going bug or small, 3 point shooting, late-game free-throw situations etc. Stevens is also known for giving minutes to guys who play best together, so he tends to favor the best combination of players out on the court over the talent of individual players. If Stevens can work lineups to his advantage (and from handling last year’s lineups, I think he can) the large roster could work out for the Celtics.
At the same time there are only so many minutes to go around, and players could get unsatisfied with their roles. The player talent level is so even on the team that a few guys are going to be cut out of the rotation completely that probably don’t deserve it. In that case, we can hope that Ainge could wheel n’ deal some players in order to clear out the log jams. It’s important to note that Zeller, Lee, and Turner and Amir Johnson can all hit free agency next year.
After cutting Perry Jones III, players next in line to see includes rookies Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter and Jordan Mickey – all of which seem like players who are ready to contribute in the rotation. However due to the roster, they may see a lot of time in the D-League, along with James Young, who spent a significant amount of the time the D-League last year for his rookie year. This doesn’t do young players much good in terms of development or confidence if they prove they can play in the NBA.
James Young should see more playing time this year at the NBA level, but will he find his NBA game?
The Season Moving Forward
It is well documented how Danny Ainge operates. He is an opportunist who thinks of players as trade chips when it comes to transactions. I don’t expect him to stop trading until he gets a marquee star player on his roster, something Ainge has been working toward since the Pierce & Garnett trade. There are a lot of intriguing chips this year he can use to flip, in order to do so.
Until trades happen, it’s up to Stevens to utilize this deep roster to his advantage. With of active roster management from both Stevens and Danny Ainge, I don’t see why the Celtics can’t compete again this year in the eastern conference. Stevens will tailor lineups based on match-ups, team chemistry and game situations. Don’t get too comfortable seeing the same starting lineup either, Celtics fans – it may take a while to find the right one. But if all goes well, things will fall into place and player roles will become more clear. The Celtics have the pieces to make some noise this year, but I the level success will ultimately come from the execution from Stevens and Ainge.