When it comes to the Boston Celtics’ success in recent years, the team’s overall depth has been a major factor.
But as talented as players may be, there are only so many bodies Brad Stevens will look to put on the floor every night.
And more times than not, Boston will have a double-digit number of players see action. We saw that last season when Stevens played at least 10 players for at least five minutes apiece, in 60 of the team’s 82 regular season games.
Barring injuries, it’s hard to imagine Boston’s regular playing rotation this season shrinking.
The starting five this season will likely be the same one that began last season: Kyrie Irving; Jaylen Brown; Gordon Hayward; Jayson Tatum and Al Horford.
And the first five off the bench will likely include some combination of Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and Aron Baynes.
Beyond those eight, the rest of the Celtics bench will likely be used on a need-to-play basis.
Here’s a look at the players likely to be see action off the bench who aren’t necessarily in Boston’s top-8 mix.
Although his minutes were limited, Theis was often the best rebounder on a Boston Celtics team that surprised many in finishing among the league’s top-10 on the boards. Theis’ 21.7 defensive rebounding percentage led the Celtics and ranked third in the NBA among all players who logged 15 minutes or less per game. He was one of the team’s best finishers on lob dunks when rolling to the basket. And prior to a knee injury that ended Theis’ season prematurely, he was showing signs of becoming a more consistent perimeter shooting threat as well. Both Theis and the Celtics are looking forward to him coming into training camp looking to build off the success he had near the end of last season.
As we saw last season, Morris has the ability to contribute scoring the ball as a starter or coming off the bench. In 21 games as a starter last season, he averaged 14.6 points while shooting 45 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from 3-point range. Those numbers weren’t that far off from what he did coming off the bench in 33 games while averaging 13.0 points. But what makes Morris so invaluable to the Celtics’ second unit is his versatility as a defender. He’s strong enough to defend players with more size, agile enough to keep up with players smaller and presumably quicker, and smart enough to use whatever advantage has – whether it’s size over a smaller defender or quickness against someone bigger – to his advantage which provides Boston a much-needed lift offensively from its frontcourt.
Without question Jayson Tatum was Boston’s breakout performer among its rookies last season, but Ojeleye proved he too could make an impact for the Celtics in his first NBA season. At 6-6 with a hulkish-like frame and above-average lateral quickness, Ojeleye was primarily counted on for his defensive ability. But he spent this offseason working to become a better scorer off the dribble while looking to finish at the rim more – two things we did not see much of from him last season. Adding those elements to his game will make it extremely difficult for Brad Stevens to not find steady minutes for him.
It’s unclear what role he’ll play this season, but Yabusele’s play with Boston’s summer league squad in Las Vegas provided more glimpses of why the Celtics were so high on his potential when they selected him with the 16th overall selection in the 2016 NBA draft. It wasn’t so much the points and rebounds he tallied, either. It was the way he moved with and without the ball, whether it was attacking the rim off the dribble or pulling up for a 3-pointer. There are still a number of players ahead of him coming into camp. But if he can show that what we saw in summer league wasn’t just him feasting off inferior talent, Yabusele could carve out a role for himself that involves more playing time than he had a year ago.
The new guy will fill the role held down last season by Shane Larkin last season as Boston’s fourth guard, behind Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. However, Wanamaker has better size (he’s 6-foot-4, Larkin was just 5-11) and is a more physical player so there’s the potential to play him with more combinations. But when this roster is at full strength, minutes will be at a premium. More likely than not, injuries and illnesses of some degree will afford him chances to play and the Celtics are hoping that similar to Larkin, Wanamaker will make the most of those moments.