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Celtics core four is elite; rest of roster is not

Boston’s foundation is solid, but the house built on it is a little shaky.

Philadelphia 76ers Vs Boston Celtics At TD Garden Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

It’s no secret that the Boston Celtics have gone through their fair share of troubles this season. From getting dominated by Brandon Boston Jr. in LA to allowing Jaylen Nowell to drop nearly 30 points. Don’t know those names? Neither did we, but the word “rough” doesn’t quite do their season justice.

There have been some bright spots. Robert Williams just put up his first-career triple-double the other night in a big time Boston win. He became the first player in NBA history to record a triple-double with at least five blocks and while shooting 100 percent from the field.

A recent episode of Celtics Beat on CLNS Media took time to reflect on the good while also tying it into the bad. They focused on this statistic from a recent NBC Sports Boston article written by Chris Forsberg.

“The Celtics’ four-man core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams, and Marcus Smart has a net rating of plus-15.5 in 214 minutes of floor time in 12 appearances this season. That’s the sixth-best mark among all four-man groups with at least that much floor time.”

Host Adam Kaufman reacted to that stat, explaining just how incredible that four-man lineup has been for the C’s.

“What that tells you, just in layman’s terms, is - the Celtics are really good when those four are on the floor together.”

Both Tatum and Brown are averaging over 23 points this year. Smart is leading the team in assists. Williams leads the pack in both rebounds and blocks. Needless to say, these four have played a huge role in Boston’s successful moments so far this season.

That being said, the real issue rears its ugly head when looking at how often the foursome shares the court. Co-host Evan Valenti made sure to point this out in response to Kaufman’s reaction.

“So that’s a great stat, no question. But what happens when you remove one of those guys? How bad does it cater? Because it looks like, on the court, it craters quite a bit.”

Each and every one of these players has had to miss time this season. Tatum just recently exited health and safety protocols. Brown suffered a hamstring injury, Smart cut his hand. Williams has dealt with several nagging ailments. The lineup including all four of them has only appeared in 18 of Boston’s 36 games this year - exactly half.

However, if this lineup is so successful, then couldn’t the C’s simply employ the same playstyle, but sub a bench player in when one of the core four is hurt? That’s the issue guest Brendan Glasheen, the new play-by-play voice for the Maine Celtics, pointed out.

“It should still somewhat the same when you plug in a Pritchard, a Nesmith, or a Langford, and it doesn’t. Or it does, but then they go away from it in the fourth quarter of the game.”

Glasheen nodded towards the fact that the core four’s elite play hasn’t rubbed off on the rest of the roster.

“I’m concerned that the play of Tatum, Brown, and/or Smart, it does not feel like it’s spreading to the rest of the locker room… Their play is not contagious to the rest of the team.”