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Opportunity knocks for the Celtics young bench

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The Boston Celtics have minutes to go around for younger players.

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The offseason seems to be winding down and the Celtics roster appears to be mostly in place. Good thing too, because games are coming right around the corner. I was pushing all of last year for some veteran bench depth. The Celtics finally went to the market and picked themselves up a center (Tristan Thompson) and backup point guard (Jeff Teague). Then again, those two essentially replace Enes Kanter and Brad Wanamaker in the rotation. Thompson’s role will be larger and Teague may need to fill more to accommodate Kemba Walker’s load management. So who replaces the minutes Gordon Hayward filled (when healthy)?

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Miami Heat Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics have a large group of younger players that I affectionately refer to as “The Kids.” At least a few of them are going to need to step up into bigger and/or more consistent roles. Here are a few to consider.

Grant Williams: The General is going to need to step in and contribute. Depending on how Brad Stevens wants to work out the rotations, he could even be the starting power forward at times this season. He has what I consider the highest floor in this bunch. He’s only going into his second year but I trust him like a 5-year vet.

Romeo Langford: A lot of folks considered Romeo the team’s “Hayward insurance” last year. Theoretically when Hayward missed time, Langford could get his feet wet and train to be an eventual replacement for Gordon. Unfortunately, Langford mirrored Gordon in bad injury luck, but former CelticsBlogger Chris Grenham has reported that Langford will be out of his cast in about a week. (Update: The Celtics announced today that Romeo is projected to return “four-to-five months” from September 22nd) At times he showed great promise last year, in particular on the defensive end. He was more of a slasher and scorer in college, so once he’s back and healthy the team should try to maximize his talents on both ends.

2020 NBA Draft Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Aaron Nesmith: As a rookie, the expectations shouldn’t be too high right away. But Nesmith has a very valuable and (in theory) translatable skill to bring to the table on Day 1. His shooting gives the Celtics a dynamic that they have been short in recently. It isn’t fair to expect Duncan Robinson-level production, but if you squint your eyes, you can see a similar style of play from Nesmith. Throw a trap at Tatum and he can swing it to Jaylen who can swing it to Nesmith with an open look. Soon enough defenses will have to take an extra step out there which frees things up in the lane.

Robert Williams: Thompson and Theis will be the best big duo in Boston since Horford and Baynes. They are mobile, switchable, and productive. So does that leave Robert “Timelord” Williams on the outside of the rotation looking in? Not necessarily. We all know that the “war on Theis” gets him in foul trouble a lot. Injuries happen (unfortunately) and we’ll need depth down low eventually.

This is also perhaps an underrated area where losing Hayward will hurt. Many times, in order to maximize the talent on the roster, Stevens would “go small” and use someone like Grant or Semi Ojeleye at the 5. That’s still an option but we might need Grant more at the 4 which opens up more time for Timelord in certain situations.

Payton Pritchard: As skeptical as I’ve been of this pick, it does seem like he’s a gamer who honed his game at the college level and might be able to step in and contribute fairly quickly at the next level. His shooting alone is something that could earn him some time and as mentioned above, there could be minutes at the point guard spot - at least early on.

Honorable mentions: That’s already a lot of youth on the roster, but wait, there’s more! Carsen Edwards and Javonte Green are still on the roster will have a chance to compete for playing time. Tremont Waters and Tacko Fall are back on two-way contracts, and this year, that could mean a lot of time with the parent club. Will any of them provide more than “break glass if needed” insurance? Not sure, but filling out the end of the bench with cheap developmental talent seems like a good idea.

So who do you think steps up into a bigger role this year? Will it be one or two guys or a committee approach?