The trio of Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown are not stepping on each others’ toes anymore. Moving on from what looked to be a log jam last season, the Celtics are still playing a lot of forwards. So many, in fact, that their best lineups against the Orlando Magic were comprised entirely of forwards (and whatever Romeo Langford is).
One reason why this works is that both Tatum and Brown have taken monumental leaps in their development at the same time and the reason that works is because of how different their roles have become and how they now fit in alongside Hayward. Their skill sets were never identical, but they all fit similar molds of three-and-D slashers who can space the floor.
Gordon Hayward can straight up play the point guard position. He doesn’t have to, but was called on to do so without Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker available against the Magic and Hawks. Between himself and the Jays, Gordon is the least reliant on seeing the ball go through to be effective. He’s good for some spot-ups, but is by no means a specialist.
Jayson Tatum has separated himself as an elite defender and vastly improved rebounder. I point these things out first because these things get the ball in Tatum’s hands without him having to demand it from a teammate. Tatum’s early season performances tanked a lot of his efficiency numbers, which makes it a little difficult to identify his best skills, although I’m confident in saying he can create a shot whenever he wants and work the pick-and-roll as well as anybody. Also, Tatum can do this now:
Jayson Tatum for threeee— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) February 6, 2020
Drain of the Game is presented by John’s Sewer & Drain Cleaning pic.twitter.com/p9oW6ykLhW
Jaylen Brown is both a spot-up specialist and a certified deadly slasher. Per Synergy, Brown has consistently been one of the most efficient post players on a relatively small (but steadily growing) sample size. The interesting thing is that Jaylen is actually taking less spot-ups this year than last, while his relatively low pick-and-roll usage is up. If anything, it’s more evidence that he’s somewhat dependent on having the ball in his hands to be productive. With this roster, that’s not a problem.
Just for fun, I grabbed this chart from Synergy to show their play type involvement breakdown:
And here’s last year’s for comparison:
Two things stand out to me about this year:
1) Fewer post-ups. Thank god.
2) Significantly less spot-ups. The Celtics are very pick-and-roll heavy these days, so this makes sense. Also, a lot of last year’s spots-ups came from a stagnant offense running out the clock until someone felt inspired enough to shoot a three.
The boys are gelling. Things are good. The Celtics are a fantastic pick-and-roll team. The roster has some holes, but at least the hierarchy is clear. I have no strict trade deadline demands, but some bench scoring wouldn’t hurt.