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Glue guys could make or break the Celtics this season

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown receive all the hype, but can key role players step up?

NBA: Playoffs-Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

We hear the term “glue guy” quite a bit as sports fans. They are the players who don’t make many headlines, sell out crowds, or sign massive advertising deals.

Glue guys are the unseen engines that keep a team chugging along. As the name suggests, they piece together the little things that stick and construct a foundation for the stars to build off of.

While most of the hype surrounding the Celtics focuses on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, there are multiple integral role players on the squad. Without key contributions from them, it will be difficult for Boston to get back to the NBA Finals.

Let’s dive into a few of those players and what to expect from them this season.

Malcolm Brogdon

NBA: Boston Celtics-Media Day Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Brogdon will be the ultimate glue guy for the Celtics on multiple fronts. Behind the scenes, the 29-year-old will serve as a veteran leader.

That steady, confident presence is needed now more than ever after Ime Udoka’s suspension. The players have raved about Joe Mazzulla, but he’s still a 34-year-old rookie head coach who wasn’t even on the front of Boston’s bench last season. Tactically, Mazzulla has shown elite knowledge, but he’ll need some help from a leadership standpoint.

That’s where Brogdon steps in. He is widely respected across the league, serving as Vice President on the NBPA’s Executive Committee since 2019. That experience has resulted in an existing rapport with Jaylen Brown and Grant Williams, who are also high-ranking members of the NBPA.

On the floor, Brogdon gives the Celtics exactly what they were lacking last season - bench scoring and efficient playmaking. As of right now, he is expected to serve as Boston’s sixth-man.

Brogdon is coming off another impressive campaign in which he averaged 19.1 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.1 rebounds per game. It is fair to assume that those numbers will take a dip as he sees fewer minutes this season. However, if the Celtics can get 15-17 points and 4-6 assists out of Brogdon while maintaining his health, that’s a huge boost off the bench.

Al Horford was initially going to appear in this article, for reasons similar to Brogdon. However, I believe it’s fair to call Horford a vital piece of the puzzle for Boston with Rob Williams out for an extended stretch, not just a glue guy.

Grant Williams

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to overstate the importance of Williams to this team, especially for the first chunk of the season in Rob Williams’ absence.

As much as Celtics fans would love to see Al Horford play 35-plus minutes on a nightly basis, that realistically can’t happen at his age. It seems like Luke Kornet is primed for a legitimate role, and Boston will pick up some insurance from the group of Mfiondu Kabengele, Luka Šamanić, and Noah Vonleh.

All of that said, it’s virtually a guarantee that Williams is going to see the court a lot. Perhaps as much as 30-35 minutes per game. Not only will he receive an extended role, but many of those minutes will come at center. At 6’6, that’s not ideal, but Williams has a large enough frame to make it work.

Grant took a considerable step forward offensively last season, raising his points per game from 4.7 to 7.8 — which is a more significant bump than you think — and more notably his three-point shooting percentage from 37.2% to 41.4%. Statistically speaking, he was one of the best shooters in the league last year. That proficiency from behind the arc will have to continue this season along with a more polished post-game and defensive presence.

If Williams can take the necessary steps to make his game more complete, it will answer a lot of questions about Boston’s shallow frontcourt depth.

Derrick White

NBA: Finals-Boston Celtics at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

When the Celtics traded for Malcolm Brogdon this offseason, some believed it made Derrick White redundant. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Yes, he struggled at times in the NBA Finals, playing a part in exposing Boston’s lack of bench firepower. Brogdon was brought in to address that issue, but the Celtics still need significant production out of White.

Before being traded to the Celtics, he was averaging 14.4 points per game in San Antonio. That number dipped to 11.0 after his arrival in Boston, and similar results this year would actually be fine. Getting 11 points on a nightly basis from the second player off your bench is decent production, although White is clearly capable of more.

The real number that needs to improve is his three-point shooting percentage. The veteran barely eclipsed 31% from behind the arc, which simply isn’t good enough from a rotational guard on a title contender.

The bright side? White has been working diligently on his shot.

With Rob Williams out, the Celtics are going to be rolling out small-ball lineups frequently this season. That means White will need to be a reliable option for 25-30 minutes. With an improved shot and a full summer to get adjusted to Boston’s system, he’s capable of taking that next step.

Brogdon, Williams, and White represent a larger group of role players who will need to step up if the Celtics are going to make a deep postseason run. Not only will the added boost they provide create stability for Boston’s stars, but it will also force opposing teams to actively defend them, creating more opportunities for Tatum and Brown. The Jays can push this team over the top, but they need a solid foundation of surrounding pieces to get them in range of Banner 18.

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