You know that scene in Interstellar when they try to explain wormholes? That’s how difficult it is to describe just how versatile this Celtics roster could be this season.
When Brad Stevens seemingly simplified how he saw the makeup of his roster, he said that he broke the players down into three categories: ball handlers, bigs, and wings (or swing men). It made sense at first. Ball handlers were traditional point guards that could run an offense. Wings were previously known as shooting guards and small forwards who could both shoot from outside and attack the rim off the dribble. Bigs were players 6’10 and above who could protect the rim and rebound. While most of those descriptions still might hold true, because defenses have started adjusting and switching so much, players have been forced to expand their games.
Until we see more from the back end of the roster, I think it’s safe to classify Jabari Bird and Semi Ojeleye as wings, Robert Williams and Guerschon Yabusele as bigs, and Brad Wanamaker as a ball handler. Where I hesitate is labeling Terry Rozier. After replacing Kyrie Irving in the starting lineup (and shouldering much of the point guard position while Marcus Smart was out), Terry was scary as a lead guard and proved in the playoffs that he can be a 30 minutes a night contributor in this league. However, point guard might night be his best position. I could see him playing off of Kyrie or Smart next season and thriving off the ball. He shot over 40% from behind the arc from February to April and seems to have bulked up in the summer.
I also wanted to differentiate Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis from the younger bigs. Not only will they play a larger role in the rotation, but because Baynes and Theis have added three point shots to their arsenal, they’ll add a different dimension than RWIII and Yabu. Yes, I fully realize that based on Venn diagram rules, the overlap suggests that their ball handlers, too. Unless All of Australia has added a killer crossover this off-season, this probably isn’t true, but the fact that they can stretch the floor does open up space on the floor for actual ball handlers to attack the paint.
“Playmakers” is a bit of a catch all. No one would argue Irving’s inclusion in this category, but here’s the case for Smart and Jaylen Brown. Reader CelticsSquirrel asked about who the Tommy Points leader would be next season and that’s clearly Marcus Smart. They’re not always assists on the offensive end, but Smart does so many little things and makes so many winning plays in a game. On the flip side, Brown has the potential to be a loud game changer. IF he improves his free shooting AND IF he’s tightened his handle AND IF he maintains his consistent shooting, he’s the kind of playmaker that could solidify the Celtics as a contender next season.
I know that “small ball 4’s” is such a boring moniker for three of the more dynamic players on the team and I don’t want to minimize their importance, because the fact that Brad Stevens can roll out lineups with Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Morris at the 4 could be extremely important. All three are accomplished scorers in the mid-range and in the post and they give the Celtics the ability to attack bigger and slower lineups. Hayward in particular--and to some extent Tatum--could and will be playmakers too, but their biggest value might ultimately be in mismatches.
Finally, there’s Al Horford. He’s been at the heart of this rebuild and the driving engine of two consecutive Eastern Conference Finals runs because he can do everything. Need him to ISO and score out of the post? He can do that. Need him to facilitate froma above the break? Sure. Need him to anchor the D where he’s the last line of defense against quicker guards and bigger centers? No problem. He’s a unique player that deserves center square billing.