Marcus Smart is inactive for Wednesday's game against the Indiana Pacers with a sprained left big toe, and Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens is taking the opportunity to shuffle his starting lineup.
Isaiah Thomas will get his first start in a Celtics uniform, alongside Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Jared Sullinger, and Amir Johnson.
Bradley and Crowder remain the starters, but Stevens drastically shook up the frontcourt with Sullinger and Johnson drawing the start.
Tyler Zeller and David Lee have been ineffective in their 26 minutes playing together this season. In that small sample, the Celtics have a minus-18.7 Net Rating (77.1 Offensive Rating and 95.8 Defensive Rating).
The original thought was likely for Thomas to feast against bench scrubs, but he should be able to sustain similar levels of success against starters. The Celtics use Thomas like a superstar, and most of the time he performs like one.
Lee, whose athleticism and shot selection has been underwhelming, could also have an easier time scoring inside against bench bigs.
Pacers starters Ian Mahinmi (back injury) and C.J. Miles (sore ankle) will also miss Wednesday's game, with Lavoy Allen and Jordan Hill starting in their place. So even though the Pacers like to play small, they'll be starting with a "traditional" frontcourt.
Look for the Celtics to try and exploit rookie center Myles Turner when he's in the game by using pick-and-rolls featuring Thomas and Johnson. And if the Pacers do decide to go small, it'll be interesting to see if Stevens decides to match them by going small or by making them pay on the low post with Sullinger, Lee, or Johnson.
Overall, the big man rotation deserves close attention.
"I'd prefer not to, but I probably will. We'll just figure it out as it goes," Brad Stevens said Sunday when asked about playing five big me each game. "That's the thing that keeps you up because that's a puzzle. And so hopefully we can maximize it and play to each strength as well as we can. But I don't know, that's gonna be something we may have to change down the road."
Stevens' decision to shake up the starting frontcourt could signal that he's gaining clarity on what the big man rotation will look like going forward.