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Who starts for the Boston Celtics next year?

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Who starts? Who finishes? What are some options for coach Stevens?

Boston Celtics v Washington Wizards - Game Three Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The Celtics roster is shaking out about how we expected based on the reports from a week or so ago. As it stands, they look to have fifteen players lined up for the start of training camp (though I wouldn’t completely rule out additional minor moves).

Boston now has a staggering nine new faces that were not on the roster last year. Six of those new faces belong to rookies. There were times last year where Stevens had little choice but to go with super-small lineups. Sometimes Marcus Smart was forced to play minutes at small forward. That shouldn’t be necessary this year since the team has six players between 6’7” and 6’9” listed.

All of which begs the question: What lineups will Stevens use? Who starts? Who finishes? I’m glad you asked.

Starters:

The starting lineup doesn’t always feature your 5 best players. Last year Amir started a lot of games at center, but Horford was clearly the finishing center with a smaller lineup on the floor. Still, it is important to start off the game strong and to match up with the majority of the other team’s best players.

Isaiah Thomas, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford are all givens. Flexibility is key these days, and Hayward and Horford can guard multiple types of opponents and fit into various lineups. Thomas leaned on Avery Bradley to cover opposing point guards, but that made the starting lineup pretty small last year.

Will Stevens elect to put Marcus Smart into the starting lineup to cover guards? Marcus is not as quick as Avery covering on the ball, but he has off-ball skills that might surpass those of Bradley.

Johnson started a lot of games to give the Celtics a reliable paint protector. That appears to be the role that Aron Baynes was brought in to play. So perhaps he’ll be the starter, playing 15–20 minutes depending on matchups.

There’s also Jae Crowder and Marcus Morris, who could both give the lineup additional flexibility. The presence of Hayward could open up additional catch-and-shoot 3-pointer opportunities for Crowder in particular.

My best guess boils down to two options that Stevens could consider at the start of the year.

Thomas - Smart - Hayward - Crowder - Horford

or

Thomas - Hayward - Crowder - Horford - Baynes

The first one embraces small ball from the start and banks on the fact that fewer and fewer “traditional” bigs are going to present too much of a challenge for Horford. The second one provides more size across the board but might make it harder to defend guards.

After a few months, you could see someone like Jaylen Brown or perhaps even Terry Rozier force their way into the starting conversation. Perhaps by the end of the year Zizic will develop enough to slot in at center. Or maybe Tatum will be so good offensively that Stevens won’t be able to resist adding him to the starting lineup. Obviously injuries could open up opportunities for any of these guys.

Finishing Lineup:

Generally speaking, starting lineups are decided upon and don’t change unless there’s a need to do so. This allows players to get into a rhythm either as a starter or in their role coming off the bench.

Finishing lineups are a lot more fluid. They vary based on matchups, game flow, and how certain players are performing in that particular game.

Once again, you can expect to have Thomas, Hayward, and Horford on the court to close out games. Beyond that, Boston has some interesting choices to make.

Marcus Smart has that knack for making “game-winning plays” (diving for a steal, tracking down a loose ball, flopping for a charge call, banking in a ridiculous 3-pointer he had no business taking, etc.).

Jae Crowder gives the team spacing with his shooting and can more than hold his own on the defensive end.

Marcus Morris provides a more versatile mix of skills. Brown adds athleticism and can cover ground quick enough to cover three point shooters. Baynes can protect the paint and grab a rebound when you need it.

My Best Guesses

I come back to the two lineups I named in the starting section, so I’ll cheat and pick one for each.

Starters: Thomas - Hayward - Crowder - Horford - Baynes

Finishing Lineup: Thomas - Smart - Hayward - Crowder - Horford

We’ll see if I’m anywhere close to what Brad Stevens picks. Before we find out, though, you have every opportunity to tell me how wrong I am in the comments section below.

I also plan on writing a follow up article on some creative lineups that Stevens could experiment with next season. So look for that soon.

Poll

Which starting lineup do you like best?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    Thomas - Hayward - Crowder - Horford - Baynes
    (1843 votes)
  • 18%
    Thomas - Smart - Hayward - Crowder - Horford
    (1758 votes)
  • 29%
    Thomas - Brown - Hayward - Crowder - Horford
    (2768 votes)
  • 20%
    Thomas - Hayward - Crowder - Morris - Horford
    (1874 votes)
  • 11%
    Other
    (1067 votes)
9310 votes total Vote Now