With the news that newcomer Malcolm Brogdon will be off the bench this season (along with the possibility that a slightly more prominent newcomer will now be officially off the table), it’s already fairly easy to see what’s on. Boston Celtics“The starting lineup is going to look like this season. Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Al Horford and Robert Williams III are sure to try to give opening advice for the 2022-23 Boston Celtics.
why not? Last year’s start five was one of the best lineups in basketball last season, a group that played the lion’s share of minutes in driving the Celtics to the top. The NBA Finals. It’s clearly not broken, so for now, there’s no real need to fix it.
But what’s more interesting is how Odoka intends it ending Games, which are always more complex calculus. Having added Brogdon without sacrificing any of their eight-man playoff matches from last season, the Celtics are genuinely embarrassed by the riches in their active rotation. But with depth, some tough decisions will come; Celtics can’t play all these players at once.
So, what names would Udoka be called with the game at stake? I’ve grouped the players on this list into loose categories based on their probability of finishing games. Let’s get into it.
carving it in stone
Jason Tatum, Jalen Brown, and Marcus Smart
The first two, of course, are not clear. When Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown are healthy, they will be on the field at every important moment the Celtics face this season. The only way it could have ever been wrong was if Brown had been the Brooklyn Network right now, and as we now know, it wouldn’t. Jays plays, so that’s two points from our closing line-up.
The intelligence may be a little lower in the eyes of those who have concerns about his attacking performance, but when he’s healthy, he’s sure to see the field in the team’s most important minutes. Defensive Player of the Year has been making defensive wins across games for years and remains – even at this very moment – the team’s best playmaker on guard. It is simply too important to ride a pine in these situations.
Immediately, three slots down. Now this is where things get more interesting.
One or both?
Alhorford, Robert Williams
The plot begins with the centers. Given that the team’s actual third position is, at the moment, likely Luke Kornet, it’s fair to assume that at least one of those two positions will be on the field. This is the fourth slot, right there. But which one? And what about both?
In the void, Horford would fall into the former group and would be a staple of Udoka’s closing formations. His skill set is one among one skill set. No one else in this front zone turn has the ability to raise a lineup the way they can on both ends of the floor. When it comes to pushing, he’s still the best on this list, and he should see court at a tough time, especially in the post-season.
But we’re not just thinking about pure ability in this discussion. There are complex factors that can affect the Celtics team’s ability to deploy it as judiciously as they wish. Horford turned 36 during the long playoff tour of Boston, and maintaining his health will be one of the most important elements of any successful season. We already know he won’t usually play back-to-back, so there will definitely be occasions this year where he won’t be available.
Williams comes. His 2021-22 season was a remarkable achievement, as he pursued his potential as one of the most exciting young players in the NBA. We already know he can thrive alongside Horford, as he flies around the Celtics’ defense as a de facto free safety. Now, he’ll see more reps without the vet covering his back. It’s an interesting test for the big guys, as only one lineup with Williams on and Horford off had a big time in the regular season last year (Tatum, Brown, Smart, Williams and Grant Williams – very encouraging rating of +31 at 109 minutes).
All that said, we’ve created some branching timelines here. If the Celtics simply decided to close with beginners, all five of our slots would be filled and this article wasn’t actually as interesting as I thought. If they sit on one of them, we’ll have another place to fill, and that leads to several other decisions.
It’s time to downsize
Malcolm Brogdon, Grant Williams
In the event that Udoka chooses to keep one of his greatest on the bench, we have a relatively miniature squad on hand. They will almost always be riding pines for a much smaller player as part of a more traditional NBA lineup. There are different levels of ‘small’, and these two players offer different brands of variety.
On the one hand, we have Brogdon. The Celtics’ offseason crown jewel is an impressively versatile combo guard with scoring clips and playoff experience. Although his Indiana numbers were disappointing, it was overtaken as one of the top two scoring options on the list. He’s historically a very effective goalscorer (scoring a 50-40-90 season in 2018), and it’s a very safe bet to bounce back to his Milwaukee level as part of a more talented Boston side. The moment he logs into the match, he will be the most prolific edge striker on the field with the Celtics.
But let’s not forget else Williams is on the list. For a team with no shortage of champions last season, Grant Williams stood as one of the most moving improvements. He shrugged off his slump in the second year of the season before becoming one of the most reliable triplex and triplex players in the NBA, shooting 41% from behind the arc while adding a physical advantage to the team’s defensive scheme. His contentious defense against Kevin Durant played a huge role in sweeping the Celtics in the first round. Brooklyn Networks.
In this scenario, which one joins the other four on a given night will depend on what kind of “little” Udoka he wants to go to. Would you rather have an extra goalkeeper on the field, adding the ability to craft play and drive while relying solely on Horford or Williams III as the only big player on the field? Or do you want to run forward again, adding physical strength, defensive toughness and a pick-and-shoot release valve, while sacrificing the offensive juice that Brogdon would bring?
Derek White, Sam Hauser
On an average team, a player like Derek White would be in the starting lineup conversation. Off the bench for the Celtics, he is unlikely to see the field at a critical time when the team is otherwise healthy. This is what we call a “good problem”.
However, “not much” does not equal “zero”. There are always occasions where a specialized skill set can help swing the game into the clutch. White, for his part, is a defensive risk. His versatility as a goalkeeper and ability to glide across screens has been an important weapon throughout the post-season, especially against the Miami Heat and all-action bowlers. His shot may be weak, but he remains a net positive attacking player with his effectiveness in leadership and playmaking.
The other discussion here would have been Danilo Galinari and his prolific three-point shot, but a Asian Champions League torn Suffered in international play would surely end his season. This brings us to Hauser, a similarly tall and high-profile deep threat, although much less proven than its Italian counterpart.
The Celtics are upbeat with Hauser, having signed him to a three-year NBA contract pre-season, and now he’ll take charge of filling in Gallinari’s boots. He can definitely shoot, and if he makes use of that ability in true NBA impact, it’s not impossible for him to find his way to the ground in important situations.
With the full roster activated, the Celtics are unlikely to dig that deep off the bench in a close match situation. But a full list is never a guarantee, and both players have skills that can help win tight games. They’ll get their chance, once in a while.
Break the glass in an emergency
Let’s start by saying: This is not a disparagement of Pritchard. The soon-to-be sophomore guard has cleared himself impressively, evolving into a 40%+ shooter from behind a three-point bow and a spark plug option on the back end of the seat. He’s played very well in the post-season, and he’s had some heroic moments in the process. However, a few minutes will remain for the small flamethrower. There isn’t much room for him in a healthy rotation.
So we have it: the top ten players on the list, and where they sit in the team selection standings at the moment. Personally, I’m very interested in seeing what Brogdon looks like alongside a beginner, rather than an adult one. In the post-season, White’s look really sang at times, and Brogdon is on a completely different level as a shooter who can unlock more. It would be very difficult to break through a lineup of Tatum, Brown, Smart, Brugdon and Horford at either end of the field.
Now it’s your turn. What is the potential final lineup on this list that compels you the most? Drop by in the comments below to let us know.