With three preseason games under their belt, the Boston Celtics are trying to find a solid rotation that will spur regular season success while conserving their veterans for a long playoff run.
Such a formula is hard to find for even the hardiest of playoff contenders, but the Celtics are no strangers to grinding out a season with veterans who've been written off due to their age.
However, this year's influx of raw, young talent should be a massive boon to veterans such as Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett, who are pivotal players that will definitely need to be 100 percent healthy during the playoffs to sustain a deep push.
The onus is on Doc Rivers to find a suitable rotation for his team to yield the most efficient lineup.
Utilizing training camp and the preseason to his full advantage, Doc Rivers has tinkered with various lineups, and there have been some clear winners and losers in terms of players establishing themselves in the rotation.
In three preseason games, Courtney Lee has yielded decent statistical output while also showing the intangibles the Celtics like to see in their young players.
Averaging almost 10 points per game and a little over two rebounds in only 22 minutes of play a game, Lee shot a very efficient 53 percent from the field in those three games.
Despite struggling to fit in during the first game, Lee showed flashes of excellent play, but there are definite areas in his game that he needs to work on.
His first game with the starters was unimpressive at best, but the next two preseason games were more of a return to form for the young athlete.
Lee made strides, attacking the rim well and playing tenacious defence. However, he hasn't shown consistency and tends to drift on offence and defence due to a transitional period most players go through when learning a new system and playing with new team members.
Lee is definitely a winner in the sense that his overwhelming talent and potential has been recognized by the Celtics brass and coaching staff, and he is currently competing against Jason Terry for the starting spot during Avery Bradley's absence.
Dionte Christmas is one of the fringe players fighting hard for a roster spot.
However, these three preseason games haven't yielded the best results for the young guard, who hasn't shot efficiently from the floor and wasn't able to show real signs of being able to convert his game into more of a point guard-oriented style.
His best bet at making the team is turning his more scoring-based play style into a distributive approach. This way, he can establish his role as Rondo's backup point guard. However, after averaging less than one assist a game in 11 minutes per game while shooting at only a 41 percent clip, it's hard to yield any true value form his current production.
It would be helpful if he was a standout on defence, but the truth of the matter is that he hasn't really made an impact on that end of the floor either.
However, he did show some flashes of potentially effective defensive play, gathering two steals in Boston's preseason game against the New York Knicks.
Despite this flash of potential, he has not shot well enough from the floor or really orchestrated the offence effectively enough as a backup guard to really merit serious consideration at this point.
Though there is still time for him to make a stamp for himself, especially in practice, he has definitely been a loser thus far.
Jamar Smith is currently competing against the likes of Dionte Christmas for a roster spot.
However, his production in these three preseason games are even less impressive than those Christmas posted.
Shooting a less-than-extraordinary 24 percent from the field, Smith has looked overwhelmed playing on the big stage and has yet to record a single assist.
Despite the fact that running the point requires more than just racking up assists, Smith has not shown that he has the poise to run the offence as a backup point guard.
Although it is normal for a player to play under his potential his first few outings, players on the fringe require standout performances in practice and in preseason games in order to impress coaches and team brass enough to merit a roster spot.
Thus far, Smith has been a loser in these preseason games for his inability to impress in his limited minutes.
However, Portland's D-League team has all but guaranteed him a contract if he doesn't make the roster cut, and this may be the best option for a player who has yet to translate his elite-level shooting from overseas to the NBA level.
Jeff Green is a tentative winner in these preseason games.
Showing the offensive versatility that definitely makes him one of Boston's most dangerous weapons off the bench, Green has used his jumper, his face-up game and even his post-up game to score 15 points per game on close to 60 percent shooting from the field.
Sixty percent shooting from the field is an extraordinarily efficient percentage that can't possibly be maintained for the full duration of the NBA season. However, this a very excellent sign that Green is a definite boon on the offensive end and can be utilized in a variety of ways.
However, the knock on Green comes on his contributions on the boards.
Being a hybrid big man, capable of playing both forward positions, Green definitely has to rebound at a higher clip than his close to four rebounds per game.
After failing to register any assists in his first two preseason games, his third game against the Knicks did result in two assists, which is a good sign for the forward. He definitely needs to move the ball around more, but it's hard to argue against his low assist numbers when he is shooting close to 60 percent from the field.
After two impressive outings against European squads in his first two preseason games, Darko Milicic's production tapered off in a big way against the New York Knicks.
Already considered a non-factor on offense, Darko's real value came from his physicality and his ability to rebound using his wide girth.
However, the big man only tallied up two rebounds against a real NBA squad, but did manage to have one block.
Darko is valuable to the Celtics as a backup center who is physically strong enough to fight hard against opposing big men on the defensive end.
He gained praise and recognition for his poise and ability to conform to his role in the first two preseason games, so the third one against the Knicks may be considered an anomaly in what is otherwise an upward trend.
On the other hand, his production tapering off against a real NBA squad can be troubling, especially since his rebounding feats in the first two games were against non-NBA teams.
Nonetheless, averaging close to six rebounds in 14 minutes of playing time per game isn't too terrible, and his impressive outings in his initial two games has made him a winner in the eyes of Doc Rivers, who is even considering starting the big man for stretches in the regular season.
One of the biggest winners thus far in this preseason is Jared Sullinger, whose efficient shooting, tenacious rebounding and consistent play has warranted major attention in the press.
Perhaps the focal point on offense for the second unit, the forward, did not disappoint. Scoring extremely efficiently on close to 58 percent shooting to produce close to 14 points per game while rebounding at a 7.3 rebounds per game clip, Sullinger's only real knock at the moment is the fact that he fouled out in his third preseason game.
Other than that one anomaly, Sullinger has been an effective player who limits his fouls and plays with high basketball IQ on both ends of the floor.
Though he still has some mental lapses like any young player has on the defensive end, Sullinger has recorded one block in each of his first two games and has been a pest to opposing players as well.
His consistent play and energetic contributions have merited consideration for a starting spot alongside Kevin Garnett once the season begins.
Fab Melo isn't necessarily a loser despite the extremely limited minutes he played and the fact that he was a virtual non-factor in those minutes.
The fact is, Melo was drafted by the Celtics as a project. They knew that he was a big, athletic body with a penchant for blocking shots and rebounding. However, they also knew that he was a project, and he needed a lot of work on both ends of the court.
Furthermore, they don't really have a huge need for him due to their glut at the front court, but he is definitely a prospective building block that they can develop for the future.
For now, the decision is more about whether or not they should regulate the big man to a developmental team or keep him around to scrimmage during practices.
It's safe to say that there's is almost no chance that Melo is cracking the rotation and playing heavy minutes this upcoming season.