Boston Celtics Position Battle: Mickey vs Bentil

Mar 17, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Providence Friars forward Ben Bentil (0) dunks the ball in front of USC Trojans forward Bennie Boatwright (25) during the first half at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 17, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Providence Friars forward Ben Bentil (0) dunks the ball in front of USC Trojans forward Bennie Boatwright (25) during the first half at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

Looking at potential roles for Jordan Mickey and Ben Bentil on the Boston Celtics this season

While the battle for playing time between Jordan Mickey and Ben Bentil may not be that significant for the overall team, it could end up being one of the keys to maintaining their depth. Mickey and Bentil offer an interesting contrast while addressing important needs for the team.

Mickey has a great opportunity to be a phenomenal defensive small ball forward. His ability to block shots has been dominant at every level and the Celtics are rim protection away from being one of the most complete defenses in the league.

Bentil then has an opportunity to address the other crucially important need on the Celtics, shooting. Bentil was drafted largely because of his potential to stretch the floor in the front court and at 21 years old with a 230 pound frame he may not too much of a liability on the defensive end.

Right now Mickey should have a distinct advantage, and Bentil could be much more of a factor for the Maine Red Claws. Mickey is one year older than Bentil but, more importantly, he has had a great impact at every level that he has played at. Both players were second round draft picks and it is hard to imagine Bentil getting any opportunity before he establishes himself in the D League.

The opportunities will be there for these younger forwards. By losing Jared Sullinger the Celtics lost one of the most prominent players in their front court. A lot of minutes could be opening up and with the likes of Tyler Zeller being some of their competition, Stevens will not be hesitant to play the less established players.

The Celtics have also proven that they have no problem playing young players. Marcus Smart became a starter in his rookie season, Terry Rozier was a factor down the stretch and in the playoffs in his rookie campaign. The Celtics are one of the youngest cores in the NBA and they have demonstrated that they have no problem giving those young players a role.

What has always been key, however, is how these young players are able to get comfortable with how the Celtics play, and make sure to never threaten the rhythm and pace that is essential to their success.

Smart and Rozier have set a great precedent for these other young players, but problems with fit certainly give Mickey another advantage. Mickey never got a significant role but has played minutes in the NBA. He has also shown great signs of being a factor in transition and his size accommodates any lineups.

Mickey has a clear head start when it comes to establishing that comfort, but there is one factor that could put Bentil in a better position: Al Horford. Horford will be a huge factor on both ends for the Celtics, but his biggest impact should be felt on the defensive end. Horford is exactly what the Celtics have been missing, and with their incredible defensive guard depth, they may value Bentil’s shooting more than Mickey’s rim protection.

Bentil will have no opportunity if he is a liability on the defensive end, but he has an NBA ready frame and is coming off a season with a defensive rating under 100. Bentil cannot have the same kind of impact that Mickey can on defense, but if he can hold his own then his shooting will be the biggest factor in this battle.

The Celtics know that they are going to have a lot of different faces with big roles on their second unit, but neither Mickey or Bentil is a lock. The Celtics continue to have other options and with the way Stevens uses guards, he will not force Mickey or Bentil into the lineup.

It’s hard to imagine Mickey doing more as a shot blocker in the D League and it would be a surprise to see him off the roster come opening day. Mickey gets the advantage out of the gate but that does not completely rule out Bentil. If he can at least do enough this offseason to secure a consistent spot in the D League, he can start to catch up the Mickey’s level of comfort.

If he can establish any level of trust that he can have an impact with his shot, then there may not be any amount of shot blocking that will keep Bentil from getting an opportunity. They have spent far too long looking for forwards that can stretch the floor to not explore Bentil’s potential.

The Celtics gained stability in their starting unit this offseason, but it was at the cost of their second unit stability. Both Mickey and Bentil have an opportunity to help bring the depth the Celtics have depended greatly on over these last two seasons.

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With all their recent draft picks, the Celtics have an opportunity to grow into one of the deepest teams in the league, but the uncertainty and risk is very real, and neither Mickey nor Bentil are at a point where they can be trusted to be a viable big league option.