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Do the Boston Celtics have too much versatility?


NBA: Toronto Raptors at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

After the (not so) shocking news of Avery Bradley being traded for Marcus Morris, the Celtics have found themselves in an interesting position. Though they now will have the money to sign Hayward to a max deal and potentially bring in overseas draftees Ante Zizic and Guerschon Yabusele, the team is absolutley stacked with versatile wing players. Between Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder, Jayson Tatum, and the freshly acquired Marcus Morris, the Celtics have truly taken positionless basketball to a new level. But did they go too far? How can all of these guys get minutes?

Step 1: Al Horford at the 5

It just has to happen. Horford has made it known in the past that he would prefer not to play the center position, but there's no denying that he is best served playing the position. With the all the extra wing help, it's almost essential now so that other members of the roster can get equal minutes, but we'll get to that later. At the 5, Horford has less of a burden to defend the pick and roll on most nights, and when he does defend it the assignment will be easier because he'll be defending guys that are slower than him and whom he can contain for the most part. Rebounding is a thing, I get it. But the Celtics don't have to be a great or even good rebounding team—they just have to be slightly below average, similar to Washington and Cleveland, who ranked 17th and 19th in rebounding rate last season. The Celtics can bring in a big with their mid-level exception, which is about $8 million, and potentially add another insurance policy in veteran guys like Bogut or Alan Williams to ensure Horford doesn't wear out during the season.

Step 2: Talent Disparity

In case you are not aware, the East projects to be much weaker this year, and the Celtics are looking like they'll be much more complete team than the 53-win roster they had last year. With so much depth and versatility, the Celtics may be able to drastically increase their margin of victory, which could include a lot of Gino time. Last year, the Celtics won a lot of games late due to the heroics of Isaiah Thomas, and that had a lot to do with the "overachiever" label that struck with the Celtics. Fast forward to next year, and the Celtics will most likely have a strong bench headlined by Smart, Morris, and Tatum. Boston will also have a powerful starting 5 filled with elite offensive talent, athleticism, and versatility. Outside of maybe the top three or four teams in the league, the Celtics have one of the most talented rosters in the league. With so many teams looking as if they'll be going young or tanking, that can lead to a lot of lopsided results, which in turn could lead to more playing time for reserves and rookie players.

Step 3: Projections

These projections aren't anything official or from some fancy system. The Celtics can only have five players on the floor, and each position or role can only get 48 minutes at a time, so I tried to get as realistic as I could with the minutes and came up with this for a putative breakdown of playing time at the wing:

Potential 2017-18 Celtics wing minutes per game

Player Minutes per game Positions played
Player Minutes per game Positions played
Gordon Hayward 33 3
Jae Crowder 30 3/4
Jaylen Brown 26 2
Marcus Morris 26 3/4
Jayson Tatum 14 2/3

For context, these minutes are assuming that Al Horford is played exclusively at the 5, and therefore Marcus Morris and Jae Crowder can get a majority of the minutes playing as the small-ball 4. It is likely that Horford will spend a fair amount of time at the 4 and that Marcus Morris (at 6'9”) plays some small-ball 5 in the second unit, so I know it's not a perfect projection. There's also a chance that Tatum is awesome and takes minutes from Brown and Morris. However, the point of this exercise is to show that it is possible to get these guys on the court for extended minutes due to their versatility. It'll be interesting to see what Stevens does with it.

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