What should the Celtics starting lineup be at the start of the year?
Andrew Doxy: I feel really good about Smart-Brown-Tatum-Grant-Thompson and I’m probably wrong. Theis’ body of work over the last year as Boston’s primary center was certainly impressive. It’s just the defensive potential of that group is astounding, and that’s what keeps drawing me into that lineup. If Tatum can continue his tear from the playoffs, the offense will be just fine. It may lead to a few more Smart heat checks than usual, but this lineup is just so versatile. Grant’s shooting saw a serious uptick in the bubble/playoffs, so his position as a spot up shooter on offense and multi-positional defender on defense makes him the perfect plug-in at that four spot. Tatum and Brown could both be 25PPG+ scorers this year, Smart could continue his 15-5-5 output from the playoffs, and Thompson will be there to switch, protect the rim, and crash the boards relentlessly. Talking my way through it, I’m actually higher on this lineup now than I was when I started typing my answer to this question.
Jeff Clark: Brad Stevens is a big fan of continuity, even if it means inserting someone unorthodox in the starting lineup to maintain the roles and rotations. That doesn’t mean that Pritchard should get the start at PG because I think this injury/load-management situation is specifically what Jeff Teague was brought in for. Inserting him in the lineup keeps Marcus Smart at the 2 guard (or “2nd ball hander” if you prefer). Brown and Tatum are obvious locks and I think I prefer Tristan Thompson in the starting lineup as well. Once Kemba comes back, Teague can shift into the backup role and everything else remains constant.
Keith Smith: I think we know that Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart are all locks. I assume Daniel Theis will start off the year as the starting center, in part for continuity reasons and also in part because Theis was really good as Boston’s starting center last season. That means Boston either goes big or inserts another ballhandler. Assuming Brad Stevens isn’t mixing and matching for opponents, I’m guessing he might go big with Grant Williams. That way, Jeff Teague stays in the backup ballhandler role. It also allows everyone else to slot in to what their regular role will be. Now that I’ve written this, Javonte Green or Tacko Fall will start, because it’s completely out of left field.
Daniel Poarch: I’m going with Jeff Teague, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Daniel Theis, with some spot starts possible for Tristan Thompson against the Joel Embiids and Bam Adebayos of the Eastern Conference. I just can’t see Brad Stevens moving away from the lineup that triumphed over Toronto in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and with Walker hurt, I think Teague provides the smoothest replacement into that group.
In a different year, a starting role for Grant Williams or one of the rookies might be intriguing, but considering the warp-speed pace of the offseason and the Celtics’ general reticence to lean too heavily on youth, it just doesn’t feel likely. This setup allows the Celtics to open games with their most experienced lineups, and the young guard group of Payton Pritchard, Carsen Edwards and Tremont Waters have a chance to earn themselves a role filling the void at reserve guard that exists while Walker is absent. Given the fairly extreme circumstances, that seems beneficial across the board.
Bill Sy: Let’s get nuts. I know that in years past, the Celtics have featured a five-man unit of do-it-all players that maximizes versatility and switchability. With Kemba shelved and Hayward a Hornet, that creativity is gone. With Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown locks and taking on more playmaking responsibilities, I want a shooter out there and if his three-point accuracy translates to the pros, that means Aaron Nesmith. Marcus Smart seems like the logical choice to replace Kemba at the point, but I’ve always loved him more coming in as the sixth starter as a, well, gamechanger. I’ll go with the vet Jeff Teague. He won’t play nearly as much as Smart, but I like his steady hand to start games with Tatum and Brown. At center, Daniel Theis makes the most sense. He’s healthy and he’s earned it, but there’s something about the added nasty the Celtics would get out of Tristan Thompson that is so alluring to a fan of old school basketball.
Greg Brueck-Cassoli: I’ll take Teague/Smart/Tatum/Brown/Theis. Boston lost the ability to play super versatile lineups all the time with the departure of Gordon Hayward, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t lean into that strategy as much as possible. Slotting Teague into the starting lineup leaves a terrifying hole at the backup point guard spot, but I’d rather roll the dice on a bench ball handler than risk cramping things offensively with a double big starting unit. One crazy option would be to toss Aaron Nesmith into the fire as a starter right away, and leave Teague on the bench to run backup duties, but that’s probably a little too outside the box.
Bobby Manning: Smart-Brown-Tatum-Grant-Thompson. Go all defense to start games and rotate in offensive sparks off the bench like Jeff Teague, Daniel Theis and Aaron Nesmith with other starters. Some matchups will call for three wings. Some will call for Daniel Theis. I don’t expect a constant starting lineup in December or January. This should be the group most nights though.
Adam Taylor: I think that Theis will be the starting center to begin the season. With how short training-camp is going to be, and the minimal time Thompson has been with the team, it makes more sense to roll out a veteran of the system to begin with.I would assume the starting lineup is going to be Smart - Brown - Tatum - G Williams - Theis. But, I do agree with Bill in the sense that Nesmith could be a valuable starter, with Tatum sliding up to the 4-spot. One thing I’m certain of, is that we’re going to see a lot of funky lineups in the coming weeks, and everyone will get their chance to stake their claim.