Brad Stevens spoke to reporters after Thursday’s practice and acknowledged that while he’s always looking for opportunities to improve the roster, he’s also looking internally at potential candidates for increased minutes.
Stevens explained that while he’s monitoring outside opportunities on a daily basis, this particular Celtics team has already made its big splash when it acquired Jrue Holiday the day before training camp.
“Every year around this time, you’re looking at how do we improve to give ourselves the best chance?,” Stevens said. “There are different ways to do it. Obviously, you can improve within, and we can do better at what we do on both ends of the court, and hopefully make strides individually and in how we fit together. Then, you can improve from free agency and trades or whatever. I do think that the key to us is going to be improvement from within.”
Stevens identified adding another big wing to be his particular rotation priority.
“I would like to continue to see how we can find another big wing or so that can help us, and I think that can be from within,” Stevens said. “I also think we’ll continue to monitor free agency and trades, but again, the difference in this year and maybe other years is that our tools are pretty limited from a dollars standpoint.”
But, as he evaluated his options ahead of the February midseason trade deadline, Stevens doesn’t want to disrupt the team’s chemistry, either. The Celtics finished the month of December with an NBA-best 12-2 record, and continue to maintain the best record in the league (27-6).
Returning players like Payton Pritchard, Sam Hauser, and Luke Kornet have largely excelled in their roles, continuing to play well with one another and within the Celtics’ system.
“When you add players to your team, they can add to your team, or take away from your team,” Steven said. “You’ve just got to be careful. That’s something to think about when you have as many guys that are complementing each other as well as ours.”
The next month will serve as a good opportunity for Stevens to evaluate his options on the ‘guys in the building’, as he likes to call it.
For reference, the Celtics’ current collection of back-up wings include:
- Sam Hauser, who has excelled off the bench this season and has become a fixture of the bench unit. Hauser is shooting 42.2% from three and averaging 8.5 points per game, all while excelling within the Celtics defense as well.
- Lamar Stevens, who has historically been known for his defense, Lamar Stevens started 25 games for the Cavaliers last season. Stevens has seen just 60 game minutes so far this season, but has been pretty productive in those. His per 40 minute averages are 19.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 17.8 assists. Small sample, but he’s contributed well .
- Oshae Brissett, who spent the last three seasons with Indiana and became a regular rotation player there. Brissett has been a sometimes-rotation player, and has gotten about 190 minutes of action so far this season. His per 40 minutes averages are 10.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.7 assists, and he’s caught fire from downtown as of late, hitting 5 of his last 7 three-pointers.
- Svi Mykhailiuk, who has not yet seen much action this season after finding his way as a starter for the Hornets late last season. Svi has played 99 minutes but has struggled offensively in limited time, shooting just 28.1% from the field and 19.2% from three.
- Jordan Walsh, the 19-year-old drafted with the #38 pick, who has spent most of the year in Maine. Walsh is putting up 15.2 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. It’s unlikely he’ll get called on this year, but provides another “in-house” option.
- Drew Peterson, who is an undrafted rookie out of USC that was signed to a two-way deal with the Celtics last month, and has been a standout on the Maine Celtics, averaging 16.7 points per game. He’s a sharpshooter that has described himself as an all-around player who does the little things.
Stevens said January’s difficult schedule will likely provide an opportunity for more end-of-bench guys, a group that has sometimes been referred to as the “Stay-Ready” group. How those guys fare could help Stevens determine if he needs to look outside the current roster for back-up wing minutes before the February 9 trade deadline.
“We just have to be on the lookout for how we can fortify, how we can make it better,” Stevens said. “I don’t want to say that person is not in the building because they might be right now. I’ve been very encouraged when our bench has gotten in games, how they have helped us.”