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Celtics development power rankings: finding more time for the kids

Romeo Langford and Aaron Nesmith climbing up the charts

NBA: Preseason-Boston Celtics at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics just had their best win of the early season and were fueled in part by performances by Romeo Langford and Aaron Nesmith. So, it seems like a good time to check in on the development power rankings.

For reference, here are last week’s rankings:

  1. Grant Williams
  2. Payton Pritchard
  3. Romeo Langford
  4. Aaron Nesmith
  5. Bruno Fernando
  6. Sam Hauser
  7. Broderic Thomas
  8. (TBD) Yam Madar & Juhann Begarin

Stock Up: Romeo Langford and Aaron Nesmith

Josh Richardson was not available for the Heat game, which provided Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford additional minutes to contribute. It will be very interesting to see if Ime Udoka alters his playing rotations after their performances.

Langford in particular has found himself solidly in the rotation (averaging 17 minutes per game) but saw his minutes jump to 27 in Miami. He earned those minutes, too. He contributed to the Celtics defensive improvements and he’s been hitting his shots.

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

I loved this quote from Will Bjarnar’s post on the bench:

One shot, in particular, was pivotal from Langford: with Miami making a run in the third quarter, cutting a lead that had surpassed 20 points down to 10, he made a big three in the corner to stop the siege of Heat scoring. And yet Langford didn’t even realize that it was a big deal. “I didn’t even know that was a big shot,” he said after hitting four of his eight shots, two from behind the arc. “I was just shooting, just playing the game and letting it come to me. It does feel good to see things go my way.”

Then there was Aaron Nesmith, who had been buried at the end of the bench and only really finding minutes in garbage time. He finally got a chance to play and delivered his trademark shooting and crashing through windows, Ralph Wiggins-style play.

Stock Down: Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard

I don’t get the feeling that Williams or Pritchard are playing poorly per se, but the minutes have to come from somewhere and as minutes rise for some people, logically someone else gets squeezed out.

Perhaps Ime has liked the wing versatility of Romeo more than the stretch 4 versatility of Grant Williams lately. Maybe Pritchard’s size has been a detriment to his ability to defend. Or maybe Udoka just trusts the veterans more and can only find time for the kids when players are out of the lineup.

New Rankings

  1. Romeo Langford
  2. Aaron Nesmith
  3. Grant Williams
  4. Payton Pritchard
  5. Bruno Fernando - garbage time All-Star
  6. (TBD Maine) Sam Hauser & Broderic Thomas
  7. (TBD overseas) Yam Madar & Juhann Begarin

Note: This ranking is skewed toward “how are they doing lately” so Grant’s early season success is worth less than Nesmith’s big game against the Heat.

Romeo has made a legit case to stay on top of this list for a while and has made me look silly for largely glossing over him as a potential contributor this season. Staying healthy enough to play certainly has helped.

What will be very interesting going forward is how Udoka manages the minutes once Richardson is available again. Will Nesmith find himself back on the bench or will he find himself in the mix again. If Nesmith and Romeo both get minutes, where do they come from?

I think we could safely move Jabari Parker to a “break glass if you need points in a hurry” status. But it isn’t like he’s getting regular minutes now anyway. It would have to come from Richardson and/or by limiting some of the minutes from the starters. It might be a good idea to get the Jays some more short rests, but not at the risk of losing winnable games.

I would like to say that having “too much depth” is a good problem to have, but I’m not even sure if we’re there with this group yet. One of the issues with this team has been their inconsistency and one of the defining characteristics of younger players is inconsistency. So let’s not count those chicks when the eggshells are firmly in place.

It has been great to see some recent success from Romeo and Nesmith, but we were saying the same thing about Grant Williams a week ago. Ime’s job is to win games and he’s going to have to pick the right young players for the right matchups on nights when they have it going. That’s not an easy job (but it won’t stop us from telling him how we’d do it).

Tune in next week when everything could change again.

Bonus: G-League Corner

The Maine Red Claws Celtics had their first game on Friday.

Sam Hauser led the team with 27 points behind 6-of-11 shooting from deep. Old friend Luke Kornet finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists. Broderic Thomas was inactive.