No Horford: If you’ve watched any of the videos from Celtics scrimmages floating around on Twitter, you’ve seen the presumed starting five of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward vs. BWA’s Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, and either Semi Ojeleye or Guerschon Yabusele. We’ve seen glimpses of what makes Big Al such a touchstone for the Celtics’ offense; he’s setting wide screens, handling dribble hand-offs, and spacing the floor as a perimeter shooter.
That, however, is not Baynes’ game. In the closing moments of the first scrimmage, we saw Baynes trying to dribble out of the high post and fumble the ball out of bounds. Little offense has been generated out of him with Rozier, Smart, and Morris acting as primary ball handlers. Obviously, there will be more mixing and matching when the season starts. Playmakers from the first unit will plug into the bench mob and there will be more synergy in the 10-11 man rotation. Rolling bigs like Baynes, Yabusele, Theis, and Williams will find opportunities cutting to the rim. The offense will be geared to whatever the strengths of the players on the floor are. But with Horford being such a lynch pin for the team, keeping the 32-year-old fresh and healthy for the playoffs will be a big priority again this season.
No defense: When asked about whether or not last year’s #1 defense looked good so far, Brad Stevens bluntly replied, “no.” It’s not exactly concrete evidence, but the scrimmages have been close with Kyrie winning Day 1 on a three-pointer and Terry Rozier sealing Day 2 with a 3 of his own with scores in the high 20’s and low 30’s. Assuming they’re playing a full quarter, those are high point totals.
Sure, they’re playing at three-quarter speed and it’s just practice, but defense needs to be a priority and it will be. For the most part, the starters are all accomplished defenders and per Marcus Morris, the bench will be ready to “bust some @%$.”
Semi or Yabu?: File this under “not important, but something to keep an eye on.” There will be four consistent members for BWA: Smart, Rozier, Morris, and Baynes. You could even throw in Daniel Theis into that mix. From the practice footage, we’ve seen Semi Ojeleye and Guerschon Yabusele get minutes with that second unit. Both are entering the second year of their rookie deals and potentially have three more cost-controlled seasons for the Celtics.
The sophomore season can often be the springboard for an NBA player. After spending a year as a rookie, particularly for role players, figuring out their niche and maybe more importantly, gaining confidence, players get their sea legs in Year 2. Ojeleye seemingly already has a role on this team. In last year’s playoffs, he started a handful of games as a plus-defender against Giannis Antetokounmpo. Defense has always been a prerequisite for playing time for Stevens and Ojeleye should have no problem earning minutes on the floor. Hitting more 3’s as a prototypical 3&D player should help, too.
Yabusele is the bigger conundrum. If this team were still rebuilding, you might see the Dancing Bear getting a full complement of playing time to see if he can fulfill his draft promise. Right now, that won’t happen. He’s arguably fourth on the depth chart of traditional bigs and when the Celtics go small, he’s even further down. He’s a project that could definitely use some seasoning, but unless something catastrophic happens, it’ll be another year for Yabu in the Maine incubator.