Some Celtics fans were surprised when the “Plan A” of the offseason – Enes Kanter – started the first preseason game of the 2019-20 season with the bench unit. Today at practice, Brad Stevens offered an update that might be a sign of things to come.
Brad Stevens indicates that Enes Kanter will probably come off the bench for the Celtics if they continue to start the four guards and wings. This will allow the team to play through him more in the post while he’s in.— Marc D'Amico (@Marc_DAmico) October 8, 2019
From a basketball perspective, this approach makes a ton of sense, and it might end up being the best for all parties involved. The Boston Celtics didn’t sign Enes Kanter to not be himself – a physical, back-to-the-basket post bruiser who needs to be near the rim for offensive rebounds. Enes Kanter likely wouldn’t be able to play like himself to the degree he’d like by playing with the starters.
Naturally, then, it makes sense to have him play minutes with the bench unit where his offense is likely to be needed more. We saw some of this in the preseason game. In lineups that feature Marcus Smart, Carsen Edwards, Semi Ojeleye, Grant Williams and Enes Kanter, the scoring has to come from somewhere. Edwards showed himself to be an excellent spark plug off the bench in the preseason opener, but a bench unit relying on a rookie (or rookies, depending on Romeo Langford’s progress) isn’t a sustainable approach to the start of the season.
This allows Enes Kanter to build good pick-and-roll chemistry with Marcus Smart, who’s known for bringing out the potential in rolling big men in that play type.
There could be a concern for Kanter’s contentment level, but if Brad Stevens gives him the minutes he feels he deserves, whether he’s starting or not, we probably won’t hear any complaints.
This, of course, begs the question: “If the guy we expected to start isn’t starting, who is?”
Marc D’Amico of Celtics.com added this to his original tweet:
Brad also talked highly of Daniel Theis. Mentioned that Theis already has a feel for everyone in the starting group, sans Kemba. I think the starting job comes down to him and Robert Williams. https://t.co/rsn4B5yTTu— Marc D'Amico (@Marc_DAmico) October 8, 2019
Daniel Theis has prior experience with the 3 wings who are slated to start this season, and he’s not prone to the same defensive lapses that Robert Williams III is. Whether Theis has the strength to battle against beefier centers like Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic is another tough question that needs to be answered. Williams physically fits the profile of what the Celtics need as a starter, so it makes sense why he started against the Hornets.
Poirier might be the best-short term fit. He sets solid screens, played solid defense, is a solid rebounder and he’s a solid rim-runner both in transition and the pick-and-roll. As Williams rounds into shape, Poirier might be worth a look for that 5th starter position.
Brad Stevens will likely experiment throughout the remaining 3 preseason games to find his fifth (semi) permanent starter as well as what lineups work. Boston will next take on Markelle Fultz and the Orlando Magic on Friday for their second opportunity for preseason evaluation.