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Mailbag answers: draft picks, rotations, and seeing into the future

Marcus Smart’s payday, Al Horford’s minutes, future draft picks, and more.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game One Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Awesome questions this time everyone. Though that shouldn’t surprise me anymore. You guys and gals are the best.

Around what position and when do you think the Kings and Grizzlies picks will convey? - Kingfish71

Kings pick is top 1 protected. They have no reason to tank but they’ve got a super young team playing out West where they’ll be stomped frequently. My best guess is that they’ll finish in the bottom 5 and then it is up to the lottery odds to work the rest out (keep in mind that the lottery system flattened the odds a little for this upcoming draft).

The Memphis pick (top 8 protected) is a little harder to predict but assuming Mike Conley and Marc Gasol come back healthy and 80% of what they were, that could be a solid middle-of-the-pack team. So yeah, I think the Celtics could get this pick as well. Of course, if things go south quickly in Memphis and/or the team tanks to keep their pick then it rolls over to a top 6 protected pick in 2020 and unprotected in 2021.

While we’re here, the Clippers also owe us a pick (top 14 protected). The Clippers would need to make the playoffs in a very tough West and that’s possible but I wouldn't call it probable.

What are the Celtics going to do with 4 first round draft picks in 2019? Are there enough roster spots for 4 new faces? - Brian_J

We’ve been down this road before. Ainge loves having options. He can package them for a player, package them to move up in the draft, trade current picks for future ones, or use some on draft-n-stash players. Keep in mind that the team will be cap/tax strapped for years and using picks to bring in cheap, talented labor is a wonderful way to reload on the fly.

Will a rich Smart remain a hungry Smart? One of the most valuable aspects of Smart is his hunger and passion. While I like to think that’s simply part of his DNA, I wonder how much of that has been geared towards earning the contract he just received. Will we continue to see the same work ethic and drive from Smart (diving after lose balls, playing injured, watching copious amounts of game tape to prepare, boxing out opposing big men, relentless defense, maintaining the 25 lbs he lost last summer, continuing to work religiously on his shot) now that he has the next 4 years financially secured? - Blue Steel

This is a well crafted question, but not one that I’m overly worried about. I think Smart is one of those hyper-competitive souls that (right or wrong) would throw an elbow in a game of cornhole.

One optimistic theory that I like is that he’ll feel less stressed about proving himself and relax more in his shooting form, thus hitting more 3’s. (Yeah, I’m not holding my breath on that) He also has contract incentives to stay in shape, so that’s still a positive motivator.

This is the question most of us Celtics fans want answered... Will coach Jay Larranaga ever blink??- netrics07

I think that Jay’s facial expression is the personification of Jae Crowder’s all caps tweets.

Dear Jeff, what are the top five basketball cities in North America? And which city that currently does not have a NBA team, should get one? - dylan&townes

Is it cheating to say “Boston” five times? I haven’t been to enough stadiums and/or soaked in the culture in other cities enough to say definitively, but it seems like New York/Brooklyn would have to be on that list. I guess it depends on what you want too. OKC has a loud, passionate crowd. Miami and Los Angeles have great weather. Chicago has a large market and MJ dominated history.

Growing up the Sonics were probably my favorite West coast team so I’ve been eager to see Seattle get a team again. Probably inevitable that Vegas gets a team but I’m not that crazy about that. Maybe Louisville? SBNation looked at this question last year.

If you were Danny Ainge, would you trade Marcus Morris this offseason? What about Terry Rozier? In each case, what would you be looking at in return? - BHCELTICS

Not this offseason (unless a home run deal materialized). I think both guys have a critical role to play this season. It probably won’t be as big of a role as last year, but injuries could change that in a hurry (as we well know). Head into the year, see how things shake out in this complex, stacked set of rotations, and see what’s out there at the trade deadline.

If Danny really wants to avoid the tax, there are ways to do that at the deadline when he would have more information and a better way forward.

Your best guess at our 2021-22 starting lineup...Please explain how we got there. Let’s have some fun! - delisiodj

I’m pretty boring, so I’m going to say Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford. The owners will have to sell off a few of their Caribbean islands to pay the luxury tax bill, but can you really put a price on bringing back the team that just won back-to-back-to-back titles? Go for banner 21!

How many minutes will Horford get playing the 4? I hate to see that starting lineup with Al at center. I get that if you want to start your five best guys, he has to be there. I get that the NBA is moving toward positionless basketball. I still like watching Al play alongside Aron. Granted, if Al doesn’t play at the 5 for a good portion of each game, we need somebody to fill up the minutes, but even if Danny doesn’t shop for another veteran center, we have guys who need a chance to prove themselves. With the amount of firepower we have at other positions, we can afford to give Williams, Yabu and Theis lots of looks during the first couple of months, and see what happens. Not sure who I would ask to come off the bench, but maybe Hayward could do so while he comes back up to playing speed. - Celtics65

There are fewer and fewer pure 5’s that we have to worry about Al Horford banging with, but I get your point. There are ways to protect our man without altering our death-starting-lineup. He could play 5 minutes and bring in Baynes as the first sub off the bench.

The Celtics have Baynes, Theis, and Robert Williams that they can run out there next to Horford to play “big” if they want. They can also pair him with Ojeleye and switch Horford on to the “lighter” big on the court. Brad Stevens is going to have a lot of fun cooking up lineups this season.

Between Hayward, Tatum, and Brown; Whose best suited to play the small ball 4 with Horford at center? - Celtics21

Any of the above, really, but I think the best fit is probably Tatum due to defensive matchups. Brown can keep up with guards and Hayward feels like more of a wing. Tatum doesn’t have the girth but he’s long and has great lateral quickness. Ultimately though, I think Stevens will see who’s on the floor and make decisions based on that.

Thanks again for the great questions everyone! Let’s do this again next week.