The season is just getting started, but through three games, one thing is already abundantly clear: The Celtics’ starting five is truly spectacular.
I genuinely believe that no one is stopping this group. When one or two guys are off, there’s someone nearby who’s more than capable of carrying the load. Teams already exerted enough energy worrying about Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Derrick White last year, and now they have to worry about Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday as well. It’s exhausting just thinking about trying to cover all of them.
But the bench...Not quite as impressive so far. By my count, Boston’s reserves are shooting 18 for 62 (29 percent) this season. Al Horford, Sam Hauser and Payton Pritchard have all been up and down (Horford is, of course, a lock in the top-6). Oshae Brissett had a great spurt against the Heat but has been quiet otherwise. Luke Kornet has been slightly below his usual serviceable self.
I have a suggestion, and it’s not one that’s particularly wild or out of left field: Play Lamar Stevens. Stevens didn’t get any time in games one or two and saw just six minutes of action in Monday’s 127-106 win over the Wizards.
I’m not suggesting that Stevens should play 25 minutes a game. He has to earn that. But I really believe he should see double-digit minutes most nights. At a minimum, he deserves an audition and a chance to prove himself.
Lamar Stevens making his Celtics debut and drops in an immediate bucket.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) October 31, 2023
Svi Mykhailiuk also making his Celtics debut and he picks up an assist on the next possession.
Stevens and Grant Williams are different players, but they have some similarities. The main one, in my opinion, is that they both are at their best as a fifth option with elite players around them. So many times with the Celtics, Williams complemented Tatum and Brown perfectly, guarded the other team’s best player and hit timely shots. I believe Stevens has a chance to fill a similar role.
That’s nice and all, but what about Brissett? Well, yeah, he can do that too, but I give Stevens the slight edge as a playmaker, defender and glue guy.
Stevens’ career field goal percentage is 46.7, while Brissett’s is 41.2. Brissett was a better 3-point shooter than Stevens when each entered the league, but Stevens has since closed the gap.
NEW: Lamar Stevens won’t hesitate to challenge the Celtics’ stars.— Jack Simone (@JackSimoneNBA) October 25, 2023
“They might not like it in the moment, but they know… I’m just trying to push them and us to be great.”
I spoke with Stevens and others about leadership.
An exclusive for @celticsblog: https://t.co/ccFlFmuTv8
Stevens hit a sweet jumper in the paint, buried a 3 and played elite defense Monday. He’s not a guy who’s going to hurt you or make mistakes. He pressures the ball, can guard 1 through 4 (and the occasional 5) and is a high-energy dude. Stevens started 38 games on a good Cavaliers team over the past two seasons. That’s not a coincidence.
All you have to do is take three or four minutes from Horford, Pritchard and Hauser and give them to Stevens. If what he’s shown so far isn’t a fluke – which I don’t think it is – I’m confident he’ll make the most of them.