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.
Once the Jackson waiving is official (he has to officially waived and then teams have a couple of days to actually claim him) the Celtics will sign Semi Ojeleye and the roster will set. Here’s how it will break down.
Ballhandlers: Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier
Wings: Gordon Hayward, Jae Crowder, Marcus Morris, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Guerschon Yabusele Semi Ojeleye, Abdel Nader
Bigs: Al Horford, Aron Baynes, Ante Zizic, Daniel Theis
Notice… I’m trying to adopt the Celtics style of categorizing players. If that’s how they’re going to operate, I figure this is how we should too if we’re going to try to understand what they’re doing.
There are guys who cross into other categories. Morris and Yabusele will defend some bigs… Hayward will bring the ball up… Smart will play some small-ball 3. But this is why the wings category is so big. It’s not just because Danny Ainge loves wings.
It’s because those versatile wings CAN cross over into other categories. There are nine guys in the “wing” category but every single one will be asked to guard guys in the other categories at some point.
With this in mind… let’s break down the roster and see what we have. I’m using the following categories based on last year’s minutes distribution.
Heavy rotation guys (30+ minutes per game)
Rotation guys (20-30 minutes per game)
Contributors (15-20 minutes per game)
“Stay Ready” guys (10+ mpg average but could be pressed into service)
End of bench
This is all simply based on how Stevens split the minutes last year. There were very clear tiers of players, but that could obviously change this season.
Heavy rotation guys
- Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward, Jae Crowder, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown
Isaiah, Hayward, Crowder, and Horford are your starters. The debate after that comes between Smart and Brown (something heavily discussed in this podcast). I’m leaning Smart but the Brown camp has valid points and I can see that as a definite possibility as well. Either way, the guy who doesn’t start is going to get heavy minutes off the bench. I think we might see the starters actually change based on matchups.
Brown did very well in starting lineups last season and he’s been working on a lot of individual improvement this summer. He’s also been asked to guard opposing 1’s and 2’s, and indication that he’ll be out there next to Isaiah Thomas a lot.
This group will present matchup problems for most other teams because Isaiah isn’t very trap-able now. As much as the loss of Bradley hurts defensively, he was replaced on offense with Gordon Hayward, which is a big upgrade (they both shoot equally well from 3 but Hayward took three times as many free throws). The Celtics can play Isaiah off the ball if they want and create mismatches that Brown, Horford, and Crowder can exploit.
The offensive options with this group are pretty amazing. Dribble hand-offs where anyone can pull up if the defense is out of position. A variety of screens where a switch creates a mismatch. Horford in the post finding cutters after some back-screen action. This team will be able to score.
Of course defense could be an issue. Al Horford is not a rim protector nor a great rebounder. Hayward is an underrated defender but he’s not locking anyone down 1-on-1. Isaiah needs to be hidden somehow. The hope is (a) the offense can score enough that OK defense is enough here, (b) better overall length on the floor can help with the rebounding, and (c) there is enough versatility on the bench that lineup tweaks can help fix deficiencies in bad matchups (more on that later).
- Marcus Morris, Jayson Tatum
Morris fills the Kelly Olynyk role. He’s an above average 3-point shooter but he’s not as prolific as Olynyk is. The hope for Morris is that the spacing allows him some cleaner looks and his 3-point percentage can jump a couple of ticks while adding some toughness off the bench. Morris isn’t going to improve the rebounding much, but he’s a better individual defender than Olynyk. Kelly was very good at being in the right position in the overall scheme but Morris will be able to keep more guys in front of him.
Tatum will essentially get the Jaylen Brown role from last year, but I’m giving him a little extra boost because of how good his offense is already. Brown got 17.3 mpg last year but I’m putting Tatum a touch higher because I think he’ll be able to get good shots off against bench players and help the C’s score when the regulars are sitting. That will help him earn 20 mpg this season.
- Terry Rozier, Aron Baynes
This brings us to a 10-man rotation, which is about what the Celtics used most of the time last year. However, the “contributors” and “stay ready” situation is very fluid and can change depending on performance.
After two seasons, Rozier will be asked to come in and provide some solid, regular minutes as a ballhander/shooter in small-ball lineups. He’s going to need that 3 to fall more consistently or he’ll fall into the “stay ready” and soon “former Celtic” category. Keep in mind the Celtics have a $3 million team option on Rozier next summer and a lot of money to spend on Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart. Rozier needs to have a really good season or he risks going to a new team.
Baynes is a big, tough guy who’ll be on the high-end of this range. I think 15 minutes per game is probably right for him. That’s right at his career average but it could get closer to 20 if the Celtics are getting crushed on the boards or in the paint. He’ll be thrown in to actually box guys out and might even get starts against teams like Washington and Cleveland. Plus, he’s motivated to get a new deal because he and his agent misread the market this summer… opting out of more than $6 million to end up taking $4.3 in Boston.
“Stay Ready” guys
- Guerschon Yabusele Semi Ojeleye, Ante Zizic
These guys are obviously hard to read because they’re all rookies. In our wildest dreams, they’re coming in to contribute right away… but in reality… there are only so many minutes. But each of these has the Gerald Green “break glass in case of emergency” potential.
Yabusele and Ojeleye are huge. The Celtics might need to buy more plates for the weight room if those guys plan on being in there together. Both will play similar roles off the bench as versatile “3-and-D” types of guys. Both have the ability to hit from deep (Ojeleye just shot 41% from 3 in Vegas) and both can switch onto bigs and push them out of position. The question is are they good enough to handle NBA speed and strength? I can see one or both of these guys earning more minutes.
Zizic is a work in progress. His Euroleague highlights show a different guy than we’ve seen in the U.S. I think we’ll have to wait until training camp to get a full idea of what he can be. Even so, he did improve in every game out in Vegas, which is a positive sign. If he can get that high motor back and show up to camp in top shape, then we’ll see if he becomes more for this team.
End of bench
- Abdel Nader, Daniel Theis
Nader is intriguing. He seems to have the offensive ability to stick with this team, but I don’t see him beating any of these guys above him. And I don’t know much about Theis other than what I’ve read… an athletic defender with limited offense who might be able to help with rebounding in a pinch.
With all that in place… the question now is… how much better ARE the Celtics?
“The addition of Hayward is nice, but the subtraction of some of those other players takes away some of that depth that makes Boston so good,” USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt told FanRag Sports and the “Locked on Wizards” podcast.
Zillgitt’s on-the-record comments essentially serve as proxy for others making similar statements to FanRag Sports. “If you want to look and just say Cleveland is the best team, then after that I think there are still open spots for Boston, Washington and Toronto right now. I think Milwaukee is a wild card.”
[…] “Losing Bradley exposes Thomas defensively,” one source said. “He also helped keep Thomas focused. If that contract extension doesn’t come, does he end up sabotaging the offense by looking to get his numbers?”
If any team takes down Cleveland, most reasonable NBA thinkers project Boston. That’s partly because of deals Ainge might pull off. That thinking also existed last season. Ainge held pat. Until he parts with picks, don’t assume it. Tatum and Brown might turn into All-Stars. Just don’t assume they will this season. The Celtics might be a level better than the Wizards and Raptors. Just don’t assume it.
Again, I agree losing Bradley hurts, but the Celtics will find someone to guard the Kyle Lowry and Kyrie Irving types. Whether it’s Smart who’ll try to handle the load in those games or if the Celtics adjust their strategy to more of a switching/trapping/ jump the passing lanes kind of approach, the team can manage the drop-off in individual play. Meanwhile Hayward is too dynamic an offensive player to ignore, and is the type of guy we were clamoring for whenever Isaiah got trapped.
Last year’s heavy rotation guys were Isaiah, Bradley, Crowder, Horford, and Smart. The rotation guys were Olynyk, and Amir Johnson, and Brown and Rozier filled the contributor roles.
This year, Olynyk is replaced by Marcus Morris, and Bradley is replaced by Gordon Hayward. If Jayson Tatum becomes a solid contributor, the Celtics will have improved enough to tack on a couple of extra wins. When you take into account how weak the East has become, the Celtics can see an extra few wins to finish the season with anywhere from 55-60 wins. It’ll be a little inflated due to the conference, but this team has improved.
And this is all just looking at personnel. We haven’t even seen what Brad Stevens is going to do with it yet. Who knows if his experimenting will go well or not, but he’ll definitely play mad scientist for a while.
These guys aren’t at “challenge Golden State” level yet… but they have moved into “interesting series with Cleveland.” At least they have now in my head…. in the middle of July… So we’ve got a lot to look forward to.
Page 2: Perk wants back into the NBA
The former Celtics big man has been working feverishly on his conditioning over the past several months and is looking for a training camp invite at age 32.
Perkins appeared in good shape when he stopped by the Las Vegas Summer League last week. He played in just 37 games for the Pelicans in 2015-16 before sitting out all of last season after teams showed little interest in his services. Perkins wasn’t pushing as hard for a return last summer, but that doesn’t mean he considers himself retired.
He hungers for a return, hoping to contribute as a backup center.
“The body feels good, man, I’m just sitting here waiting on an opportunity,” he said. “Hopefully I can get a training camp invite soon. I want to earn my way. I don’t want nobody to give me nothing. So I’ve been working hard, going two or three times a day, working and grinding. I’m just trying to stay with it.”
I love Perk. We all do. People are STILL pissed about the trade.
I hope for the best with Perk but I’m not sure what role he can fill in today’s NBA. Maybe and end-of-bench big you throw in there for 10 minutes against, like, the Pelicans to box out and piss off the other other team’s big? Who else can he guard at this point?
It’s amazing how just a few years ago an injury to Perk was the series death knell and now he’s completely phased out.
I hope some team can find a spot for him just because he’s a good guy who deserves to go out on his own terms. It’s too bad life doesn’t work that way.
First Bryan Doo left… now legendary trainer Ed Lacerte is out
The Celtics are revamping their sports science and training operation, and, in addition to strength coach Bryan Doo choosing to forgo an altered role, the club is parting ways with Lacerte.
The longest-serving trainer in franchise history will not be back for a 31st season. In addition to numerous honors within his profession, Lacerte was notably the trainer for the U.S. Olympic Dream Team in 1992.
[…] The Celtics are about to move into a new training facility in Brighton, with the targeted opening of June 2018, and have already expanded their operation in that regard. Johann Bilsborough was added to the staff two years ago as the team’s director of sports science, after beginning his career working with rugby and Aussie rules football teams in his native Australia.
Advances in learning how the body works, how it breaks down, and how it recovers are driving a lot of changes in the NBA. The schedule is starting two weeks earlier because of it. The elimination of back-to-backs, increased days off, and heavy focus on things like shoot-around and practice times (to maximize sleep & recovery) are revolutionizing the approach of all teams in all sports. With multi-billion dollar businesses at stake on both team and player sides, the in-depth research of maximizing performance is necessary.
Unfortunately, such revolutions cause changes in direction. Apparently, Lacerte is caught up in that. He’s been around so long that even casual fans recognize him. It says a lot about his work.
Good luck to you, Ed Lacerte.
Related links: Herald: Bulpett: Departing strength coach Bryan Doo high on young Celtics’ progress
The rest of the links