Although Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has gone through several different lineups this year, there are only two rotation changes that can guarantee that the team will still be playing basketball come June.
We have already seen glimpses of both. Now, it’s time for the full unveiling.
Through 35 games this season, the Celtics have already utilized more than 10 different starting lineups.
From the failed experiments of Jason Collins and Courtney Lee to the more productive additions of Avery Bradley and Jason Terry, Boston has tried it all.
So far, nothing has stood out as the definite winner—as their 18-17 record clearly goes to show.
However, there are two possible solutions that might prove beneficial on a more consistent basis.
Two solutions that just might help transform the Celtics’ recent surge of victories into a long-lasting run of success.
1. Start Jared Sullinger at Power Forward
To many of us, this move comes as a no-brainer.
Sure, Brandon Bass might have been the answer last season. However, this year’s version of Bass has just not been getting it done.
Through 35 games, Bass has only averaged 7.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game. His numbers recently are even lower.
There is also the fact that he has not been the most effective player on the court.
How ineffective has Bass been this season?
Take a look:
Not only is Bass at the bottom of the list, he is also at the bottom by almost double the amount of the second-worst player on the team.
And we’re supposed to get behind this guy as Boston’s starting power forward?
No thank you.
Instead, let’s focus on the man at the top of that list.
Jared Sullinger—yes, the rookie—is putting in the work.
Over his last nine games, the 20-year-old is averaging 9.1 points and 7.9 rebounds in 24.9 minutes a night. He reached double-digits in five of those games.
But his most impressive outing came on Wednesday night against the Phoenix Suns.
In 34 minutes, Sullinger recorded 12 points, 16 rebounds (five offensive), three assists, a steal and a block. The 16 rebounds were the most by any Celtic in over two years.
When Sullinger is on the floor, his effort and determination shows. When everyone else is content with conceding the possession, the rookie big man continues digging until he gets the results he wants.
The numbers show it. But most importantly, his teammates know it.
Just take it from Kevin Garnett:
First off is [Sullinger’s] effort. Any time you’re playing defense, any time you are stealing the ball, rebounding—all that’s effort. Obviously, his timing, body positioning—he has the perfect body for rebounding. He can take the pounding and bump a little bit, and he has great anticipation when it comes to the ball. And he has great hands. Put all that in the pot, you got Jared Sullinger, that’s what makes him a great rebounder.
Essentially, Sullinger can do it all.
And when he does, the team profits.
What more does Sullinger need to do to show that he is deserving of a start?
2. Give Jeff Green More Minutes: Reduce Paul Pierce’s Minutes
Jeff Green is one of two players on the Celtics’ roster who have yet to start a game this season.
Then again, playing behind Pierce on the depth chart usually translates to logging a large chunk of minutes on the bench.
But what about sharing minutes?
Given Green’s inconsistent usage, paired with Pierce’s age, it’s a concept that actually makes a lot of sense. It allows Green the opportunity to get into a rhythm during games, while giving Boston the advantage of having a well-rested Pierce come playoff time.
It’s a strategy that Rivers has implemented over the last two games.
Thus far, the results have been fantastic.
Against the New York Knicks on Monday, Pierce played 28 minutes, scoring 23 points and dishing out six assists. Green clocked in at 27 minutes, scoring 16 points and grabbing six rebounds.
Although Rivers’ hand was forced due to Pierce’s foul troubles, it must have been something he liked.
On Wednesday night against Phoenix, it was much of the same story. This time, Green even played more minutes than Pierce.
Pierce put in 24 minutes, scoring seven points and bringing in seven rebounds. Green played 26 minutes, netting 14 points and handing out three assists.
Could this be the start of a new trend?
The numbers back up such a plan.
In games that Pierce plays between 24 and 29 minutes, Boston is 7-3. Furthermore, Pierce has averaged 17.1 points per game in those contests. That’s only a slight decrease of 2.4 points from his season average. Not a bad tradeoff in exchange for fewer minutes for the 35-year-old.
On Monday, the Celtics got a good look at just how deadly a well-rested Pierce can be.
He showed more energy than usual, constantly making plays on both sides of the floor. The way he kept draining buckets to put the Knicks away almost seemed effortless.
On the other hand, Green has clocked in 27 minutes or more in 11 games this season. Green has averaged 14.2 points per game on 44.7 percent shooting in those games. That’s a solid increase on his season per-game average of 9.6 points on 41.6 percent shooting.
Graced with more consistent minutes over these last two games, Green played a lot more aggressive. He constantly attacked the hoop with confidence, drawing fouls and picking up easy baskets. The hesitation that plagued him for much of the season was nowhere to be found.
Instead, Green served as the focal point for multiple runs for Boston on Wednesday night.
With these two both playing at high levels, the Celtics have nothing to lose.
Summing It All Up
As it is, Boston is playing its best basketball of the season right now.
The players are giving it their all, the fans haven’t been louder and the wins are coming in bunches.
However, a few more tweaks and this team can easily take it to another level.
We’re not just talking about Atlantic Division champions. The Celtics have the possibility to be that and so much more.
These moves are just the push they need to be on their way.
All stats used in this article are accurate as of January 10, 2013
Also check out: Celtics Proving That Blockbuster Deal Is Not Necessary
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