Sorting Through the Celtics Potential Starters

BOSTON, MA - MAY 17: (L-R) Al Horford
BOSTON, MA - MAY 17: (L-R) Al Horford /

Now that the craziness of free agency has ended for the Celtics, it’s time to turn our attention elsewhere. The new question that captivates Boston fans is, “who will be starting for the Celtics.”

It’s no secret the C’s have been busy this offseason. They’ve signed numerous solid players that are vying for a starting spot this year.

Newly acquired Gordon Hayward will obviously start, but what about the others? There are several newly acquired players who may end up starting this season.

However, you shouldn’t forget about the returning players who are in the running for a starting role.

So, we are going to take a quick look at the players who have the highest chance of starting next season.

BOSTON, MA – MAY 17: Marcus Smart
BOSTON, MA – MAY 17: Marcus Smart /

ThomasSmart – Hayward – CrowderHorford

I’m just going to send out a disclaimer early — Thomas, Hayward and Horford will be in every starting lineup. So, there are only two spots open in the starting lineup. Notice I say “spots” and not positions. The reason for this is Brad Stevens philosophy on position-less basketball.

In this scenario you can see that Smart and Crowder are penciled in as the two missing starters.

With this group, not much changes from the previous season. Smart comes in as a seamless replacement for Avery Bradley due to his defensive tenacity. Smart does offer more defensive versitallity than Bradley. With his solid frame, Smart can legitimatly guard just about every position on the court. Yes, that includes center — just ask Kristaps Porzingis, Joel Embiid, etc.

Crowder is a returning starter from the year before. He’s a solid defender, but recently looks like he has lost a step. As a result, Celtics fans harass Crowder on all forms of social media expressing their hatred for him.

If the fans would look deeper, they would notice that his misstep is a result of a seriously sprained ankle in the 2016 NBA Playoffs. People may think that he should have healed by now, but that’s simply not the case. I’ve sustained two serious high-ankle sprains throughout my life and I can tell you it NEVER fully heals.

So, how do you compensate? Easy — move him to a position with slower players. By moving him to the four, Crowder immediately becomes a dangerous stretch big. Also, he’s now on a level playing-field defensively. He can matchup with fours based on his strength and quickness.

Overall, this lineup would be seamless transition from the previous year.


Thomas – Hayward – Crowder – Horford – Baynes 

This is more of a prototypical starting lineup. The previous group was comprised of undersized players whose main goal is to provide mismatches on offense, while focusing on perimeter defense.

In this lineup, you could operate out of the post much more. Aron Baynes is pretty much limited to that. Sure he can space it out to the midrange, but not the 3-point line. To put this into a full perspective, Baynes has only ever attempted seven 3-pointers in his career and converted on just one.

This isn’t knocking Baynes. He’s still extremely efficient with a career field goal percentage of 51. Additionally, he has a career true shooting percentage of 56.

With Baynes in the starting lineup, the Celtics get themselves a serious rim-protector and rebounder. Last season Baynes averaged 10.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per 36 minutes. Add that in with the fact that he finished the year with the fourth highest defensive rating (98.5).

The only other change in this lineup from the previous season is that Hayward’s now the starting shooting guard. As I stated earlier, Stevens’ position-less  basketball renders this unimportant.

In a nutshell, this lineup gives the Celtics an old-school center.

WASHINGTON, DC –  MAY 4: Jaylen Brown
WASHINGTON, DC –  MAY 4: Jaylen Brown /

Thomas – Brown – Hayward – Crowder – Horford

This lineup is a lot like the first, but still different. Obviously the only change is swapping out Smart  for Jaylen Brown.

At the end of the day, this is the decision I believe Stevens must make. Brown or Smart —Smart or Brown.

If Brown is the player who gets the nod he will immediately inject a surplus of athleticism into the starting lineup.

Hayward gives the Celtics another player to run the fast break. Brown would feast off of this. Just imagine Hayward running the floor before lopping it up to Brown for the alley-oop. Something tells me that if this lineup comes to fruition, we will be seeing a lot of that.

Brown has been improving his defense. In the Eastern Conference Championship, Stevens even tasked him with defending LeBron James. Recently, J.J. Redick gave Brown major a compliment.

"A guy who did a great job [defending me] last year was Jaylen Brown. Avery [Bradley] was hurt the first time we played them, so Jaylen guarded me in Boston and he just did a great job of sticking with me. He has the length, he’s strong and he’s athletic.”"

Starting Brown could also advance Brown’s ascension to stardom. There’s an old idea that if you play with high-level talent, you too will raise your game to match them. You can be certain that Thomas, Hayward and Horford will expect Brown to elevate his game to a new level if given the opportunity.

Next: What to Expect From Boston Celtics Rookies

So essentially, you would be providing a winning lineup for today, while molding a future superstar.

Let it be known that there are several other combinations the Celtics could construct, but these are the most likely.