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Return of the Sixth: Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, and coming off the bench

Both players have served as sixth men and one will have to do it again next season.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Who makes the better sixth man: Marcus Smart or Gordon Hayward?

Jeff Clark: The good news is there is no bad choice here. Both guys are versatile winners with the right mindset and attitude. Each has proven that they can swallow their pride and both have the ability to come in and make a difference with the second unit - in particular running the offense.

So for me it boils down to preference and fit. In an ideal world I like to have Gordon Hayward starting and Marcus Smart coming off the bench. With Horford no longer on the team, I feel like Hayward might be necessary to run some of the first unit offense. In addition, with Kanter starting, there’s a potential need to put a lot of long, switchable bodies on the floor to help defend the paint without sacrificing the perimeter too much.

Bill Sy: I tend to agree with you. I think Hayward is going to get a ton of run at the 4, because he’s good at operating around the free throw line. But like a good starting pitcher, I’d want to establish my curveball early and Smart is the ultimate curveball. He’ll be able to take off some of the defensive pressure off of Kemba and cover opposing point guards and just set a general tone on both sides of the ball. If we learned anything from Team USA, it’s that Smart just makes things happen.

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Jeff Clark: The elephant in the room is the report that last year younger players were giving the side-eye to Hayward’s starting role despite his continued struggles. Theoretically, that shouldn’t be a problem this year since Brown and Tatum are both starting and Rozier is gone. However, Stevens can’t be seen as forcing Hayward into a starting role if he doesn’t deserve it with his play. Gordon has been working hard on amping up his aggression this offseason. It would benefit everyone if he could hit the ground running this year.

Bill Sy: There’s nothing more I want to see than Hayward going back to Old G (are we allowed to used old Kyrie nicknames?), but the starting lineup could use someone that doesn’t need to have the ball to be effective. It’s also been reported that Hayward has been at Waltham working out all summer with rookies while Team Shamrock is in China for the World Cup. Do you think his contract status at all plays in to how Stevens uses him next year?

Jeff Clark: I hope his play dictates how Stevens uses him. He’ll have a year to make his case for a longer term deal. If that doesn’t pan out, he can always pick up his player option for $34M.

I guess for me it boils down to Hayward’s higher upside. Smart is pretty much a known (very valuable) quantity at this point. Hayward has boom or bust potential. If everything is clicking, he’s got a chance to be the 2nd or 3rd star on this team. If not, then he can shift to the bench and once again be a very well paid utility guy that occasionally drops 30 points on the Timberwolves.

Bill Sy: I’ve thought a lot about Hayward during the off-season and what the roster construction was like for him in Utah and how that’s affected the expectations game in Boston. The Jazz ran a lot of motion offense around him, but he was such a big part of its engine. With the Celtics, he’s played next to Kyrie Irving and now next season, with Kemba Walker not to mention Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum. With so much talent around him, I’m not sure he’ll ever need to be a “superstar” again.

Jeff Clark: Oh, I’ve already lowered my expectations. Barring a change of scenery, I don’t see him getting back to his Utah days. However, I think he could be a Chris Bosh in Miami or Kevin Love in Cleveland level 3rd star. (And yes, I understand that we don’t have a LeBron James in our equation.)

Bill Sy: As long as Marcus Smart doesn’t become Mario Chalmers, I’m all for it.

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