There are many different lineups head coach Joe Mazzulla can put on the floor this upcoming season. Below are a few potential fivesomes we may see throughout the course of the season.
The starting lineup will more or less be the same throughout the regular season. The starting lineup that Mazzulla will most likely roll out will be Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Kristaps Porzingis, and Al Horford.
The biggest question heading into the season was who was going to be our starting point guard between Malcolm Brogdon and White, but that was put to bed after Mazzulla said that White is the starting point guard at Jaylen Brown’s contract extension press conference.
The next question regarding this lineup was who would be the fifth starter. It was between Horford, Robert Williams, and potentially Brogdon if Mazzulla elects to go with Tatum at the power forward position.
However, I believe Mazzulla will keep the reigning Sixth Man of the Year on the bench to lead the second unit.
So ultimately, it was between Horford and Williams. Horford still edges this debate because of his experience and his influence on the team both on offense and defense. The ability to spread the floor and still guard the opposing team’s best big man gives Horford the nod.
With that said, Horford is 37 years old and based on last season, it is doubtful he will play in back-to-back games which leads to my second starting lineup we will see.
With Horford most likely not playing in back-to-back games, this opens up another spot in the starting lineup. Williams is the obvious replacement to slot into the starting five so the Celtics can continue with its two-big lineup.
Late in the fourth quarter where every offensive and defensive possession matters, Mazzulla will want guys that he trusts. The first three guys will be on the floor late in the fourth quarter: Tatum, Brown, and Porzingis. Your three best players should always be on the floor when the game is on the line.
Horford, given his experience, should be the fourth guy on the floor to close the game out. Which leaves the fifth and final spot between White and Brogdon. The last spot will be whoever is having the better night of the two. Last season there were games where Brogdon ended the game with White on the bench and other games when Mazzulla relied on White ahead of Brogdon.
When you need a late stop there are two names that Mazzulla should have on the floor at all times: Williams and White. We all know what Time Lord can do on the defensive end and his ability to block shots out of nowhere means he’s going to be on the court. Never forget his game-sealing block against the Sixers a few years ago.
With Smart gone, White will be the player that is on the parquet when the Celtics need to get a stop. The All-NBA defender is coming off a great defensive year where he appeared in every game in the regular season and blocked a total of 76 shots which was the most by any guard. Additionally, White led all guards in contested 2-point shots with 335 contests, according to Taylor Snow.
The next two players who will almost always be on the court will be Tatum and Brown. Your two best players will be and should be on the court in crunch time.
That leaves one spot left. It will depend on how the opposition lines up. If they roll out two bigs, then Horford will get the nod. However, if the the team goes small, then it’ll be Brogdon.
There will be nights where the ball just doesn’t want to go in the hoop and Mazzulla will need to look for a spark.
Assuming Mazzulla leaves one of Tatum/Brown on the floor, the first one off the bench when the team needs some scoring will be Payton Pritchard. Pritchard has shown he can score when given the minutes, which makes him a prime candidate to be one of the first guys Mazzulla calls on when in a scoring drought.
The shooter next to Pritchard to spread the floor will be Sam Hauser. Hauser will need to do what he does best: space the floor and drill threes. After a breakout season shooting over 40% from deep, Hauser needs to keep the same production heading into next season.
Brogdon coming off a season averaging just under 15 points per game showed last year he is still a great scorer. From getting to the paint to his outside shot if we need a bucket, Brogdon tends to make good decisions with the ball in his hands.
With the Celtics only having one true-scoring big man, the last choice for this lineup is Porzingis. The Latvian is coming off a career year averaging 23.2 points while shooting 49.8% from the field. It’s been a while since the Celtics had a big man who can score at the rate Porzingis can. Pick-and-pop, in the post, or just old-school one-on-one, Porzingis is a matchup nightmare for most opponents. Behind Tatum and Brown, Porzingis will be the third option although there will be times throughout the season when he’ll be the team’s leading scorer on a given night.
A lineup of Tatum or Brown, Pritchard, Hauser, Brogdon, and Porzingis can get your offense rolling if need be.
Bus One Boys
This is a lineup that hopefully we’ll only see during the in-season tournament or the end of the year when our playoffs seed is locked. Celtics fans loved the Bus One unit that consisted of Blake Griffin, Pritchard, Hauser, and Luke Kornet as main guys with players like Justin Jackson, Noah Vonleh, JD Davison, and Mfiondu Kabengele making appearances throughout the season.
If Griffin decides to return to Boston, a lineup of Griffin, Pritchard, Hauser, Kornet, and maybe one of Dalano Banton, Jay Scrubb, Davison, or Oshae Brissett would be great for all the people who are heavily invested in the Bus One lineup. One thing for certain with this group, they will have great chemistry and be the first ones to the arena on any given night.