5 Rotation Changes Boston Celtics Should Make
If one thing is for sure about the 2013-14 Boston Celtics, it is that nothing is set in stone.
Head coach Brad Stevens has proved time and time again this year that he isn't afraid to bench a player, play the hot hand or make changes to his starting lineup. There is hardly a safe rotation on the depth chart right now.
Because of the recent struggles, Boston is looking more and more like the lottery team many predicted in the preseason. If the playoffs are a fading hope in the eyes of everyone, the outlook of the team must change.
That isn't to say they should be trying to get worse or lose games, but they should be experimenting a little more to give them an idea of their direction both during the offseason and 2014-15.
Slide Kelly Olynyk Back Up Depth Chart
This rotational move may already be starting, as Kelly Olynyk has averaged 21 minutes over the last three games.
However, prior to that, he had fallen down the depth chart a fair amount, seeing less and less first and fourth-quarter action.
Overall, Kris Humphries has been a more stable, consistent option for Brad Stevens, which has led to a lot of single-digit-minute games for Olynyk. He is looking healthy after coming back from an injury in mid-December and has played well enough when given minutes.
The Celtics have to start seeing what they have in Olynyk now. They will need to decide what his long-term future is with the organization if making moves either before the trade deadline or this summer in free agency and the draft.
Boston moved up in the 2013 draft to get Olynyk, but that was before Stevens was hired. Hopefully he and management have the same idea of what Olynyk is, but we can't be sure. Upon hearing of the signing just a short time after being drafted, Olynyk was excited to play for a guy he opposed in college, per Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston:
I'm excited. He's a great coach. I really respect him, I think he's a great basketball mind, absolute-genius kind of thing. I really respect him because he knows the game, and know he's a student of the game.
Surely they need to know whether he can be a future starter, role player, trade piece or dud. They won't find that out while he is stuck behind Humphries.
Don't Be Afraid to Jostle the Backcourt
Jordan Crawford has certainly lost a fair amount of that early-season luster.
His shooting clips are rapidly shrinking back to career norms, which has gone hand in hand with a lengthy losing streak for the Boston Celtics.
Because of this and the recent trade for Jerryd Bayless, Brad Stevens shouldn't be afraid to make some rotation changes to shake things up. It is doubtful that a lot of these players are going to be long-term Celtics, so it would be good to see if there is a way to figure out who is okay with what roles.
Down the line, he still has to think about Rajon Rondo returning and playing 30-35 minutes per game. That time has to come from somewhere, and Crawford is the likeliest candidate as current starting point guard. However, Boston would ideally like to compact Crawford's production into 18-20 minutes.
The hope would be that Crawford will accept a diminished role. He is clearly loving the starting job, as he told Sean Highkin of the USA Today, "I like getting to play every night, I'm leading the team and getting everybody involved in the offense. It's just a bigger role."
Getting started on that now would be a boost to the adjustment period when Boston's All-Star point guard does return. As long as Crawford is able to get regular minutes and contribute, he should remain happy.
Don't Fear the Red Claws
It sometimes seems that the D-League is thought of as a place careers go to die before they even get started.
There is a fear among fans, and I'm sure some players, that getting assigned to the D-League means the NBA dream is coming to an end. However, there are numerous success stories of D-League assignees coming back to have NBA success.
Jeremy Lamb spent some time down his rookie year and is now a major contributor for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Even locally, Avery Bradley spent time with the Maine Red Claws before earning minutes with the Boston Celtics.
MarShon Brooks just went to Maine for a five-game stint and tore it up. It helps regain confidence and work on specific aspects of a player's game. That the Red Claws are 100 percent operated by the Celtics is a bonus. They can keep tabs and control exactly who is working with their assignees and on what they are practicing.
“They play a couple of games in a short amount of time; it’s a good opportunity to do that, and he’s going to get to play a lot, and a lot of minutes,” Brad Stevens told MassLive's Jay King on Brooks' assignment.
Therefore, a D-League assignment for Vitor Faverani, Phil Pressey or maybe even Kelly Olynyk wouldn't be such a bad thing. The Celtics have a logjam of similar players, and sending a couple to get big minutes in Maine might help everyone in the long run.
Play the Matchups
Less of a change and more of a commendation for Brad Stevens: He hasn't been afraid to play to the individual matchups that the Boston Celtics are facing. If the opponent is big and going to beat up Boston, like the Indiana Pacers, then have a deep rotation and let Vitor Faverani get some run.
If the team has skilled perimeter guys, expect a heavy night for Avery Bradley and what was Courtney Lee.
Unfortunately, this roster doesn't present a ton of options when putting legitimately skilled NBA players on the floor together. Hopefully that changes moving forward.
The Jerryd Bayless acquisition does some different things for Stevens and allows him to have a more offensively skilled guard to run the point for stretches. Phil Pressey is very challenged when it comes to scoring, and Lee wasn't a great ball-handler.
“He does give us more flexibility in ball-handling, with regard to playing some [point guard], which is good," Stevens told Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe about Bayless.
Another commendation for Stevens is his use of the offense-defense switch. He pulled it out towards the end of the New Orleans Pelicans game on Jan. 3. While they eventually lost the game, moving Kris Humphries and Jared Sullinger on and off the court was an interesting wrinkle to see at the professional level.
Shrink It Down
The Boston Celtics are 36 games into their 2013-14 season, more than 30 percent of the way through it.
That they still don't have a firm rotation is somewhat troubling. The fault for this can't go all on the coach though. He was given a team with a handful of guys at the same skill level. No one is more deserving than the other of playing time in a lot of cases, making it hard to judge.
Brad Stevens has tried to make the best of a bad situation by experimenting, occasionally successfully, throughout the first third of the season. That must slow at some point to give the team a firm foundation to build off of.
Danny Ainge felt Stevens' pain prior to the season, explaining the struggles that would arise to Sport Illustrated's Ian Thomsen.
In a lot of ways you're managing corporations, because how you play them and how many minutes they play and what roles they play have a great deal of effect on their career earnings. That's going to be a tough deal for Brad this year, the logjams at the different positions.
That point will probably come whenever Rajon Rondo returns, but preparation for it should start soon. Stevens is playing 10 or 11 guys in some of these game,s and it is difficult to expect what you are going to see each night. It is a wrinkle that worked early on, but teams are hitting their stride now and the Celtics aren't.
A large part of that reason is that the talent level simply isn't on par with the rest of the league. However, a small part of it involves the lack of a clearly defined, daily rotation.