Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Point guard Kyrie Irving, forward Gordon Hayward, and forward/center Al Horford have all been All-Stars and they will be the anchors of this otherwise youthful roster. But there is an opening at shooting guard, as well as in the frontcourt.
The center position is a little less tricky. Stevens’s most likely options are to start Horford alongside power forward Marcus Morris, or to go with the more traditional center Aron Baynes and slide Horford to his preferred power forward slot.
Morris’s abilities as a defensively versatile, 3-point shooting big man should make him the choice over Baynes. But, like last season, Stevens may very well swap lineups based on nightly matchups. A Horford, Morris, and Hayward frontcourt could have some issues gathering rebounds.
The Celtics were prepared to enter training camp with 16 players under guaranteed contracts, one above the maximum allowed at the start of the regular season. But after they traded Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Ante Zizic to Cleveland in exchange for Irving, it created an opening that has not yet been filled.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has said that the team’s preference is to keep the space open at the start of camp to maintain flexibility in case there is an injury. And at this point, there aren’t many obvious options left anymore, with free agents such as Andrew Bogut, Tony Allen, and Gerald Green having been scooped up by other teams. Forward Thomas Robinson, a good rebounder but poor offensive player, completed a workout with Boston last month and could be a possibility, but there is clearly no urgency for Boston.
Boston Globe: What to keep an eye on during Celtics Camp
We finally made it. The crazy offseason is over and training camp begins tomorrow in Newport, RI. The 53-win top-seeded Celtics only return four players. This degree of roster turnover is unprecedented, especially for a team with their level of success.
In comparison, the 2007-2008 Celtics returned six players from the previous year’s dreadful 24-win team. Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward have recieved most of the attention amongst the newcomers, and rightfully so. But from top to bottom, this roster has new players thrust into new roles, and the coaching staff has a short training camp/preseason to get everyone situated.
The big-man rotation remains one of the most pressing issues. Horford and Baynes are the traditional bigs. Marcus Morris played small foward throughout his Pistons years, but given his new team’s depth-chart, most of his playing time should come at power forward. Out of necessity, rookies Guerschon Yabusele and Daniel Thies will be forced to contribute immediately.
It’s a new situation for Brad Stevens. Last season, the team added Horford to a frontcourt that included Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, and Jonas Jerebko, with Tyler Zeller and Jordan Mickey at the end of the bench. Everyone besides Horford is gone. The previous season, Boston entered training camp with six bigs (Johnson, Sullinger, Zeller, Olynyk, Jerebko, and David Lee… yes he was once a Celtic) all competing for playing time.
While Stevens is accustomed to a crowded big-man rotation, Danny Ainge has constructed past teams without regard for a deep reserve of bigs. Before the 2012-2013 season, he didn’t sign a center to backup Kevin Garnett, and prior to the 2007-2008 championship season, the only bigs behind Garnett and Perkins were Glen Davis (a rookie), Leon Powe (a sophomore), and Brian Scalabrine (an unrealistic rotation contributer on a contender).
Luckily, the Celtics have an open roster spot. They can sign a guy before the season starts, or wait until a veteran gets waived/released during the season. Maybe they take a look at old friends Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger. Lavoy Allen, Spencer Hawes, and Jordan Hill are all available. Or maybe they re-open trade talks with Philadelphia, and try to acquire Jahlil Okafor.
It’s been an exciting offseason for Celtics fans. We traded the top pick, signed a top free agent, made a deal with the top Eastern Conference team, while gutting the core roster. There are still moves to be made and several unanswered questions surrounding this team, and the next few weeks should paint a clearer picture.
Page 2: Where Marcus Smart is Already Making an Impression
“He’s flying around,” said one Celtics source. “He’s jumping like crazy.”
Another onlooker of recent team workouts said Smart looks “fast as (expletive).”
The rave reviews, echoed by others, came after Smart dedicated his summer to slimming down. Entering the final season of his rookie contract, Smart said earlier this offseason he had dropped about 20 pounds. His latest stated weight, 219 pounds, indicates he played last season as a 240-pound guard — a startling size, even for a rugged player with a linebacker’s build.
Marcus Smart’s weight became a subject for discussion during the offseason. He appears to have slimmed down after packing on some extra pounds over the course of last season, as the initial reports regarding his physique are encouraging.
Smart always seems to attract attention during the offseason. Last year, he had a “new and improved” shooting form. The previous season, a strong summer league performance had fans believing he could make an offensive leap. Despite several reasons for fans to feel uneasy about his game, he always wins us over.
He still has terrible shooting numbers and even worse shot selection. Despite making strides with ballhandling, passing, and playing in the post, his finishing at the rim regressed during his third year.
Last season, Marcus Smart and “winning plays” become synonymous. His versaility and tenaciousness on defense covered up his lack of offensive efficiency. The front office and coaching staff have unwaivering belief in his abilities, and for this upcoming season, he’s arguably the most important defensive player on the roster, and he has the distinct title of “longest tenured celtic.”
During last year’s playoffs, Smart shot 40 percent from three on 73 attempts. In the Celitcs game three win during the conference finals, he scored 27 points and shot 7/10 from three. Despite his shooting numbers veering into “historically bad” territory, he has enough flashes of brilliance to get fans on his side.
In yesterday’s dump, John asked who will lead this Celtic team. Kyrie is the floor general and face of the team, but he’s brand new to this organization. Horford and Hayward are the best all-around players, but they’re soft-spoken and typically lead by example. Marucs Smart will be thrust into a leadership role.
He’s most familiar with the Brad Stevens offense and is the most vocal on-court player on the roster. When the team traded Avery Bradley, they knew Marcus Smart could replace much of Bradley’s defensive production, and they organization was ready to push him into a more demanding role.
Brady had everyone on notice after yesterday’s comeback victory, and Pierce is never shy to congratulate a fellow Boston legend.
The Rest of the Links:
NBA.com: Roster Breakdown: The Bigs