With many reports ranging from Marcus Smart’s absence to a potential appearance on opening night, it’s easy to get confused on where exactly his status lies. For the sake of this piece we’ll just go with the most reasonable scenario of Smart missing a couple of games. Between Smart’s 27.3 minutes per game last season and Turner’s 28 mpg, the Celtics will have to rely on other guys to make up for about 55 minutes of production that’s no longer going to be there. The Celtics can handle this dilemma in a few different ways, but here are my two likely scenarios.
Option 1: Rozier and mix
At this stage we all know that Rozier is wowing coaches and players with his offseason improvements, and barring anything crazy, he should be in line for a big minutes upgrade. The Celtics could opt to give him a full 30 mpg and split the remaining 25 with a combination of Jaylen Brown, Gerald Green, and R.J. Hunter or James Young. I’ve never been a fan of the “by committee” gameplan because I think players play better when they know they’re going to get a certain amount of play time coming in. However, I think in this scenario Stevens goes on a game-by-game basis and plays whoever can exploit the other team’s weakness the most. Need to stretch the floor? Put in Gerald Green. Gerald Green reverts back to... Gerald Green? Try out Hunter. Need more slashers? Insert Brown.
It’s not something that Celtics would plan to use for a prolonged period of time, but this plan could be effective in finding out just how good Rozier can be as the lone ball handler on the team.
Option 2: Stagger city
The Celtics did some of this when their second unit struggled in the preseason, and it may be worth transferring to the real games. My vote is keeping Thomas on the floor with Rozier to give him a veteran presence on the court. This move worked great in Toronto, where Kyle Lowry was tasked with a similar role and flourished. Similar to Lowry, Thomas would be sharing the floor with another guard who can bring up the ball, enabling him to search for his offense. A possible lineup could be Rozier-Thomas-Green-Brown-Jerebko. It’s super small for sure, but in short spurts the Cs could use it to fly by teams up and down the court while surrounding guys like Thomas and Brown with enough shooting to attack the rim.
Depending on how confident the Celtics are in Rozier’s ability to run an offense, another option could be to use one of the other vets to stagger. Horford played a couple of minutes in the preseason with the second unit and looked pretty good. The same goes for Crowder, and last year Bradley tore it up as a sixth-man candidate. With Bradley’s newfound ability to create for others, he would be my next ideal candidate to stagger with the second unit. The defense in a Rozier-Bradley backcourt would be a demoralizing for the average bench unit and could allow the second unit to survive off of creating turnovers. Similar to the first option, the point here would be to simply keep the game afloat while the starters rest.
The loss of Marcus Smart will hurt no matter which quick fixes the Celtics try to whip up. His energy and ability to make the plays that win you games will be missed. However, this is also a nice time for the Celtics to explore different ways to use the guys on their roster. Rozier will get a real chance to show that his production wasn’t limited to games that don’t count. Whoever makes it out of the #BattleFor15th will immediately have the opportunity to battle with Green for potential second-team minutes. The roller coaster that is the Celtics will continue to be an adventure, and it’ll be fun few days of speculating before the 26th.