Are the Boston Celtics Expecting Too Much From Youth?

BOSTON, MA - MAY 15: Jaylen Brown #7 and Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics react against the Washington Wizards during Game Seven of the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Finals at TD Garden on May 15, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 15: Jaylen Brown #7 and Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics react against the Washington Wizards during Game Seven of the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Finals at TD Garden on May 15, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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The Boston Celtics are expecting a lot from the youngest players on the team

The Boston Celtics have established a roster that is ready to compete for a title in the Eastern Conference, but they are doing it in an unconventional way. The Celtics have been rebuilding extensively through the draft, and always keeping the future in mind has made them one of the youngest teams in the league.

This season, the youth movement is hitting a new height. The Celtics have some experience on the starting unit, but it is staggering how many first or second year players are expected to have key roles on this team.

The Celtics love their young players, and it opens up tremendous potential to grow. The problem, however, is that it is incredibly rare for young players to have this much responsibility on a team looking to make the Finals.

The Celtics have always had a lot of young players on their team, but with the way this team is constructed, they have no choice other than to trust these young players with crucial roles at this point.

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Forgetting about players like Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart, who are incredibly young, but have enough experience in Stevens’ offense, the Celtics have a lineup of players in their first or second year that they need to excel in order to reach their peak.

The biggest risk is in the front court. The Celtics have one established piece in Al Horford, but after him they have two decent new additions, and then three rookies. The Celtics simply cannot sustain a deep front court if their youth does not work out.

Fortunately, they do not need all three of Ante Zizic, Guerschon Yabusele and Semi Ojeleye to work out, but if all three of them look like rookies next season then the front court will be a mess.

The Celtics need these versatile bigs to sustain small ball options and neither Marcus Morris or Aron Baynes can have that kind of versatile impact. Even if none of them are starting, the Celtics will not have a strong second unit if they do not get excellent results from their rookie bigs.

The Celtics have options, but none of these options are sure things, and that is always the risk with young players. The Celtics can love the potential these guys have and they can love what they will become down the line.

They will not throw these rookies away for having a bad season, but this is now a team that is trying to win right now, and it is hard to imagine the Celtics getting enough of an edge to make the Finals without being able to trust at least one of these rookie bigs having a stellar season.

The bigs are the most important for the Celtics because of how uncertain everything is after Horford, but it does not end there.

The Celtics also need to figure out who will be starting next to Thomas in the back court. There is a chance that Stevens puts Gordon Hayward there but we could be seeing 23 year old Smart, or 20 year old Jaylen Brown playing alongside him.

Smart is established, but the Celtics desperately need him to be running the second unit. If Smart is with the starters, then that leaves a much less experienced and still young Terry Rozier to lead the second unit offense.

Any of these situations mean one thing, Stevens needs to get great production from these young guys, or both the starting and second unit could be threatened. The good news with Brown and Rozier is that, while they are some of the least experienced players on the team, they have stepped up in the playoffs.

They have established a level of trust that is rare for players in that position. The question this season with Brown and Rozier becomes if they can sustain the moments they were great.

The Celtics know they have seen great things in these young players, but with the added responsibility this season, they cannot afford to fade in and out of relevance as they have done in the past.

For the bigs, the Celtics can afford to have one or two young players not work out this season. For Smart, Brown and Rozier, the three of them have specific and different roles that would be needed, and if they do not work out then there may be nothing else that can replace them.

Then there is the ultimate wild card, Jayson Tatum. The 19 year old is supposed to have an NBA ready offensive skill set, and with the way things are set up, he is going to be the primary scorer on the second unit.

Now it is not uncommon for top three picks to immediately be a top options on a second unit. It is uncommon for that to be the case on a team looking to get into the finals. If Tatum is not able to score, then the second unit loses all of the offensive firepower. The Celtics simply do not have another player that can bring that offensive potential.

The Celtics have a great and established lineup that they know they can trust. That alone will probably be enough to carry them to the conference finals. If, however, the Celtics want to get the edge that will push them to the Finals, it will have to be with these young players, who make it too difficult to figure out what they can do right now.

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The Celtics can feel great about their top end talent right now, but their ultimate goal will not be reached unless they get a special impact from their young core of Smart, Brown, Tatum, Rozier, Yabusele, Zizic, and Ojeleye.