Crowder’s Injury Opens Up Minutes for Young Players

Oct 19, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) shoots the ball as Brooklyn Nets guard Ryan Boatright (lower right) watches during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 19, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) shoots the ball as Brooklyn Nets guard Ryan Boatright (lower right) watches during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports /

Boston needs to give their young players some time on the court following Jae Crowder’s injury

When looking at the Boston Celtics roster, you see a lot of solid players, depth, and a lot of young, unproven players. The Celtics have many options to choose from following Jae Crowder‘s high ankle sprain, in a way this is a blessing and a curse. While losing your starting small forward to a high ankle sprain, that could become a nagging injury through the playoffs, is never good, this finally opens up minutes for younger players waiting for their chance to shine in the NBA.

Evan Turner should see the bulk of his minutes, and even Marcus Smart and Jonas Jerebko should see an increase in playing time, however, that doesn’t mean that head coach Brad Stevens won’t be looking to the end of his bench over the next couple of weeks. Even with Kelly Olynyk returning, that doesn’t have a huge effect on the small forward position as none of their big men, besides Jerebko, have the ability to slide over to the three spot.

With that being said, Brad Stevens gave fans a little taste of a possibility that they could see over the next couple of weeks. Terry Rozier played 10 minutes in the second half of their loss to the Houston Rockets. That was the first time he eclipsed 10 minutes in a game since late November. Stevens elected to roll with a small ball lineup, something they have used more often, where they had four guards in with a rotating big man.

Rozier shined in his opportunity, scoring three points and also recording seven rebounds and three assists. He looked comfortable and played with a lot of confidence, only turning the ball over once. Rozier only shot 1-3 from the field but his ability to make smart decisions with the ball and move around showed a lot of potential.

Running a small ball lineup has been very effective for Boston this season, especially as of late. They used it to come back against the New York Knicks, and also in their win over the Memphis Grizzlies. The key is, they have enough quick guards who can rebound efficiently, and play tough defense.

Rozier has consistently shown the ability to stay in front of his defender during his little time in the NBA, and grabbing seven rebounds in ten minutes is no easy task for a 6’2″ guard. Stevens should elect to use a small ball lineup more often, although, it won’t be a super popular choice all the time as they have the chance of getting burned a lot, especially with no true center down low.

Even with Rozier arguably being the most proven rookie on the team, they’re going to have to turn to guys like R.J. Hunter and second-year player James Young, who was recently recalled from Maine.

My disgust with Hunter’s development has not gone unnoticed, but this will be his time to shine. Hunter is only 6’5″, but may be asked to play small forward to give Evan Turner a rest. This could be the second opportunity that Hunter receives this season.

He has seen very little playing time in his rookie season, usually in garbage time, but, at the beginning of the season, Hunter saw at least 18 minutes in four straight games. He shot less than 50 percent in three of the four games and didn’t record more than 10 points in any of them. His shooting has been a problem all season, and that was supposedly his calling card in the NBA.

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Maybe seeing more consistent minutes would help him, it probably will. With Boston set to make a run at big name free agents this off-season, and owning three draft picks, this could be one of the last chances Hunter gets. With the little potential he has shown this season, and the depth that Boston owns, there won’t be a lot of minutes going around for an unproven player like him. The same thing happened this year to James Young, their first round pick last season.

Young has only appeared in 24 games this season and only 31 a year ago. He was drafted 17th overall last season due to his amazing athletic ability and his potential to develop a jump shot. Athleticism can only get you so far in the NBA, and shooting 35.3 percent last season and 32.3 percent this season doesn’t say much about his jump shot.

While Young is more of a small forward than Hunter, playing at the three spot 46 percent of time he was on the court last season, it’s unlikely he sees much run. They recalled him from Maine the other day, but that was more likely to just add another guy to their bench.

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Young has not shown much to the organization and it’s clear that they’re starting to move on. Even in his lone chance this season, Young didn’t show much. In early December, Young saw at least ten minutes in five straight games. He shot a dreaded 28 percent from the field and only scored in two of the games.

He has not seen any significant time since and it’s unlikely he will now, even with the Crowder injury.

This is a rare, and unlikely, opportunity for Boston’s rookies. Terry Rozier may not get to show his potential at the point guard spot, but he can continue to impress in a small ball lineup. This will also be R.J. Hunter’s chance to show why he was a first round draft pick. He has matured throughout the season and maybe time in Maine and being with Boston, and in the NBA, longer has helped.

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I expect Stevens to get creative with lineups, and despite the Miami Heat right on their tails for the three seed in the East, give the young guys a good amount of run. Evan Turner, Marcus Smart, and Jonas Jerebko should get the bulk of Crowder’s minutes, but seeing Rozier and/or Hunter receiving around ten minutes a night wouldn’t be shocking.