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CelticsBlog mailbag: Centers, rotations, and COVID

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Photo by Keith Sliney/NBAE via Getty Images

Answering mailbag questions about the Boston Celtics.

I don’t really have anywhere to put this but here, but my suggestion is that everyone prepares for a really, really weird year. The shortened season, no fans in the stands, and, of course, COVID. That could mean cancelled games, key players missing time, or maybe things will work out better than expected. Some teams might be impacted more than others and that alone would be weird. So I guess we just have to buckle up and hope for the best.

Anyway, thank you once again for your questions! I’ll get right to the answers.

Do we need a 7-footer? The Celtics do not have a center on their 15-man roster who is taller than 6’ 9”. Is that a problem? I think it is. Small ball won’t work against every opponent. Should the Celtics use the TPE to address this need? – punwab

That’s what Tacko is for!

That semantic point aside, I see what you mean. It would be nice to have a really big body to throw at guys like Embiid or Jokic but thankfully there aren’t a lot of guys like that around the league and frankly there’s nobody that defends them well anyway. What the Celtics do have is two very adaptable and mobile bigs that can switch out on wings and defend the paint and a lot of other things in between. They also have a guy in Robert Williams who has the hops and length that makes him FEEL like a 7 footer.

All in all I’m pretty happy with the center rotation for the first time since Baynes was traded.

Starting PG? First Team? With Kemba out, who will start at PG? I’d vote for Marcus—alongside Jaylen, JT, maybe Grant, and Theis. What do you think about those starters? 3-and-D around the J’s! – D.G. G.

We talked a lot about the starting lineup in our roundtable here. I’ll say that our starting lineup at the start of the year – in particular with Kemba out – will likely not be the same as our starting lineup at the end of the year. For continuity sake, we might see Theis start at the beginning of the year, but it could flip to Thompson at some point too.

Assuming full health, I’d like to see a FINISHING lineup of Kemba, Smart, Brown, Tatum, Thompson.

How much of an impact will Nesmith have early on? I personally think he can easily slide into the Duncan Robinson starting role to open up the offense without a presence like Kemba without needing starter level minutes and it makes our lack of ball handlers go further. – Random Coffee Table

Early on he might not find a lot of playing time if only because he’s had no summer league and very limited training camp to get up to NBA speed with. On the other hand, his special skill (shooting) is very translatable. If he can be at least net neutral on defense (not as easy as it sounds) then he could see some time pretty quickly.

As you mentioned, I do love the idea of him getting minutes with the top end rotation guys because of the spacing he provides without needing the ball in his hands for long. It is an interesting wrinkle that Brad Stevens hasn’t had much of before.

Are the Celtics in jeopardy of missing the playoffs? – jeromefoxworthy


who in the east is the biggest threat to win the east and where do you place the celtics? – nazzbo1

Let’s see, if I’m putting teams in theoretical tiers I’d lump them as follows.

Bucks in a tier of their own – at least in the regular season.

Fighting it out for the 2 seed is the Heat, Celtics, Sixers, Raptors, and Nets. Not a lot separating those teams and any number of variables could push them up or down within this tier.

I think the Pacers get a tier of their own and it wouldn’t shock me to see them struggle a lot.

Below that is the glut of play-in-tournament teams. The Wizards, Hornets, Magic, and Hawks all should be in the mix.

Barring the unexpected, I don’t see much hope for the Bulls, Cavs, Pistons, or Knicks.

Will anyone on the Celtics staff come up with something to IMPROVE defensive schemes? Forget the analytics…c’s defense is the reason they didn’t beat Miami – lefty12

I do think that the defense struggled in the Miami matchup but a lot of that is due to Bam Adebayo. He’s… really hard to match up against. Tristan Thompson will help some, but as you allude to, it can’t be any one player. It has to be a scheme and mentality that the team has to lock into.

The Heat themselves created a lot of issues for the Celtics by throwing a lot of zone at them. The Bucks play a lot of drop coverage, but that didn’t work to well against the Heat. I think the key in this league is being adaptable enough to play a lot of different schemes so that you can keep throwing new looks at your opponents to hopefully keep them from getting too comfortable.

Who is the first player acquired with the TPE from Hayward? – Motor City Kid

The name that comes up a lot that I like is Aaron Gordon, but I don’t know how reasonable that might be. Part of that is because I have no idea what the Magic are doing or what they are looking for in return.

The ultimate answer to this question might end up being dependent upon positional need. If Kemba misses more time than we thought and Teague isn’t a perfect answer, we might have to go after someone like George Hill. If the young wings can’t step up, we might need to go out and get a veteran wing.

Training camp roster question. I’ve seen some official training camp rosters from some teams, I haven’t seen an official training camp roster from the Celtics? – crzytensdad

As you may have read here, the Celtics aren’t participating in the G-League bubble this year. So pretty much no reason to invite more players to the training camp roster (other than maybe to have extra bodies to practice against).

Timelord. When is he? – Dylie33

Great question. The answer is yes.

Not sure how many minutes he gets this year if everyone is healthy, but I think it is a given that no team is going to be fully healthy for long this year. As mentioned above, Williams has an opportunity to give the Celtics a different look at that position if he can keep the mistakes to a minimum.

Failed Indy S&T

Jeff, I’m probably in the minority here, but I liked the Indy S&T. Turner gave us a rim protected who is starting to shoot 3s with a decent make percentage, but who I agree is overpaid. McBuckets is a shooter with an expiring deal. And an extra first doesn’t hurt. I’ve heard a couple of reasons that Danny didn’t like the deal. First Turners salary, which I agree is high, but is productive and he would provide Danny with a salary match in a big deal. Second, Danny was afraid that he would help Indy too much and they might overtake us in the standing.

My opinion is Danny missed out on this deal. I think we’d be better with Turner, without Thompson, if Danny turned the MLE into another shooter.

So two questions:

1. What do you feel is the reason we didn’t do the Indy deal?

2. What do you think of my suggestion we be better with Turner plus another shooter?

posted by badax33

First I think the Indy deal fell through simply because Danny Ainge doesn’t see Turner the same way that you do. While he blocks shots and shoots three pointers, there are questions about his ability to defend at the level that we’re looking for.

The common complaint with Hayward was that his max contract was tying up too much money in one player that could be better spread between several players. The Celtics currently have a 3 man center rotation that makes a combined salary that is less than what Turner makes.

Theoretically Turner and a shooter for the taxpayer MLE would have been another way to go. I could have been talked into it. I was assuming that was the plan for days. I gotta say though, I’m interested in what is behind door number 2.

This debate boils down to the Trade Exception. If Ainge can use that to add an impact player or two, this is a home run win. If it goes unused or used on a player that doesn’t work out, that would turn this into a pretty sizable swing-and-miss.

Buddy Hield

Rumors are he is still available.

1, What would you pay to get him?

2. Would Brad play him with his defensive deficiencies?

Posted by Celtics21

I get the appeal but Buddy Hield makes an average of about $22M over the next 4 years and he doesn’t play defense. The Celtics just drafted a shooting specialist who makes $3.4M. I think they made the right call.

Can you predict rotation minutes

You’d expect for:

Grant Williams

Robert Williams

Aaron Nesmith

Romeo Langford

Posted by Celtics21

I think Grant gets a minimum of 20 minutes a night. Someone needs to mop up those Hayward minutes.

Let’s say that both Theis and Thompson get 20 minutes each at center. That leaves 8 minutes a night for smallball or Timelord. Let’s give the minutes to Timelord!

While we’re at it, let’s give 15 minutes a night to both Nesmith and Langford (when he’s healthy).

What does that all add up to? I really don’t know and I’m going to change the subject before anyone does too much math here.

Brads ballers

Who will emerge/surprise?

Who will emerge/surprise us coming off the bench? We know what our starters can do but what’s our bench going to look like? Will one of last year’s rookies have a huge leap this season? Will one of our incoming rookies bypass last year’s bench players? Or will someone like Timelord come in this year with a sense of urgency and leap past the other centers to grab the top spot? I’m finding this coming season to be one of the most interesting in a while. The opportunity seems much more open this season and I’m interested to see who will seize the opportunity.

Posted by Brads ballers

I really think that this year is Grant Williams’ big shot. I think he has (here comes the clichés!) a high floor, a high motor, and adds a lot of great intangibles. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he’s going to be a star or fill Gordon Hayward’s shoes or anything. He just has the ability to become one of those high level role players that helps teams be great.

I’m holding out hope for all the young players. I like the Nesmith pick, I liked what Romeo showed (while healthy) last year, and everyone loves Timelord. One of Pritchard or Waters probably has to pick up some minutes early this year. So let’s see how they develop.


Best guess naming last years players who improve their three point percentage this year.

Posted by Katahdin

Grant Williams! Here’s hoping he doesn’t go oh-fer-2-months again.

I could see Daniel Theis improving as well. And hey, maybe Romeo can shoot better than 18.5%. Here’s hoping at least.


Is it true that you only eat Fluffernutters?

Posted by Enik

I’ll neither confirm nor deny.