Starting Lineup: Smart, Bradley, Crowder, Lee, Zeller


Brad Stevens hopped on 98.5’s Zolak and Bertrand Show earlier today to discuss tonight’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers. He let them what the Celtics starting lineup will be tonights:


PG: Marcus Smart

SG: Avery Bradley

SF: Jae Crowder

PF: David Lee

C: Amir Johnson

Let’s take a minute to appreciate Bradley’s improved three-point stroke this preseason, considering everybody else in the starting lineup is sub-par from behind-the-arc. Spacing will be a problem for this roster but Lee’s passing should help compensate for this problem a tad, seeing as he’ll be able to find cutters despite log-jammed driving lanes. It’s also going to require some crafty play-calling by Stevens and Smart to really get this unit rolling.

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Expects tons of pick-n’-roll plays setting Lee and Zeller up on opposite elbows. A common set the Celtics run begins with the point guard passing it to a big at the elbow, who then hands the ball off to a wing who originates at corner, but then curls around this big man. As long as the cutter curves around the big man tightly enough, the hand-off should function effectively enough as a screen to open up a modicum of space for the wing. Bradley will get a ton of looks from mid-range from these sets that should translate to baskets at an above-average clip.

Defense should be serviceable as well. Tonight, specifically, I wouldn’t worry too much. If you want to see poor spacing, look at this 76ers roster. Robert Covington – perhaps their most proven shooter besides Nik Stauskas and Isaiah Canaan – will be out due to injury, and Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor are both negative floor stretchers.

For the long term, however, this lineup is not the team’s best defensive rotation, but between Bradley, Smart and Crowder, opposing wings and guards should be somewhat neutralized. Amir Johnson’s the team’s best defensive big, but he’s likely coming off the bench due to his compatibility with Kelly Olynyk.

Projected Second-Unit

PG: Isaiah Thomas

SG: Evan Turner/R.J. Hunter

SF: Jonas Jerebko/Evan Turner

PF: Amir Johnson

C: Kelly Olynyk

For the second-unit’s frontcourt, Olynyk brings the spacing, while Johnson brings the defense. Olynyk’s also a nifty passer with an effective face-up game, which should perfectly compliments Johnson’s back-to-the-basket game. Johnson will also take more three-pointers this season than last year, which should open up the lanes a little bit for Isaiah Thomas to cut into the lanes.

Spacing, however, is the least of this unit’s concerns. Even though R.J. Hunter’s probably too undeveloped at this point to warrant heavy minutes (he does have a high basketball IQ, though) he may find himself in this lineup to perpetuate this second-unit’s pace-and-space identity.

One concern I have for this rotation is the possibility of Turner and Thomas clashing. Both are best with the ball in their hands and both are poor defenders. Thomas will likely sub in for either Smart or Bradley in the first quarter to pair him up with one of the defensive-savvy Bradley/Smart.

Turner may therefore receive very few minutes this season, especially if Smart continues to develop his distribution abilities at point. But if Smart isn’t ready yet, Turner will go back into the starting lineup. Jerebko meanwhile, adds another layer of versatility to a team predicated on versatility, so he’s guaranteed minutes regardless.

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