Brad Stevens has a deep, deep roster with a lot of guys capable of playing rotation minutes. He also has a very normal desire to establish a rotation that features ten or fewer players.
“Ten (players) is what we usually play at the start of the season,” Stevens said. “It could be eight to ten, nine to ten. Anytime you can get to a solid eight or nine in a rotation, that’s beneficial.”
So let’s tick down the players one would assume are in the rotation for sure.
Starters (as of now):
- Isaiah Thomas
- Avery Bradley
- Jae Crowder
- Amir Johnson
- Al Horford
After that, the two names that come immediately to mind are Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk (when he returns from his shoulder injury). Either one could be a starter at some point this year and could start for a number of other teams around the league.
That’s seven strong candidates which leaves just three spots (at most) for the rest of the team to fight for.
Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier figure to get a lot of developmental minutes. Gerald Green and Jonas Jerebko both seem like feast-or-famine guys. Jordan Mickey has a higer upside, but Tyler Zeller is a safer (if unspectacular) option at center.
That’s six guys for three spots—all of which reminds me that as much emphasis as we always put on the 15th roster spot, it probably won’t matter who makes the final cut and who doesn’t. Or said another way: Barring a trade, if James Young or R.J. Hunter (or even Demetrius Jackson) actually sees court time this year, it will be because something went wrong.
On the other hand, Brad seems to understand that he can’t simply tell three rotation-capable guys and two other deep bench guys that they’ll never see the light of day. He hedges his bets and talks about situational rotations.
“We have to have everybody ready to go,” said Stevens who added, “and some days it’ll be a solid eight plus 2 (players) but that plus 2 may change game to game depending on who we’re playing, how they played against them, how they played in practice, how they played the game before.”
Early in the year you may see more of Jordan Mickey or Tyler Zeller if Kelly Olynyk isn’t up to full speed. In some matchups I think you’ll see Stevens go with more smallball lineups, which bodes well for Rozier, Brown, and Jerebko. Plus it sounds very much like the coach will ride hot hands, so look out for the occasional 18-point outburst from Gerald Green, sandwiched between a few DNP-CDs.
Of course anything we see early on should be taken with the appropriate sprinkle of salt. Last year coming out of camp it looked like Zeller was cemented as the starting center and Jared Sullinger was banished outside the rotation. Then in the first game Jahlil Okafor exposed Zeller’s weaknesses and Jared Sullinger proved his worth. So things can change quickly, especially when a coach (who likes to tinker) has so many options at his disposal.
So now it is your turn. Who’s your ideal 10-man rotation to start off the year?