Why Brad Stevens needs to consider changing the Boston Celtics starting lineup

(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images) /

The Boston Celtics have stuck with relatively the same starting lineup since Brad Stevens’ decision to bench Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward in December.

At the time, the move made sense. The starting unit was not playing as cohesively as it should have been, Brown and Hayward were struggling to find their game and as it turned out, Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris thrived in their new starting roles. The Boston Celtics started winning games.

The defense and energy that Smart provided complimented the other members of the starting unit and Morris was undoubtedly the team’s most consistent offensive threat.

When Morris became a starter in December, he had his best month in a Celtics uniform, shooting 52% from the field and 45% from three with an offensive rating of 130 while scoring 18.6 points per game. However, after December his stats have plummeted to numbers lower than when he was coming off the bench. In January and February, his field goal percentage, three-point percentage and even free throw percentage all hit season lows.

If you like the plus minus stat, Morris was a -9 in February, the first time all season he has been a minus player. Now some of his down statistics can be blamed on poor overall team play, but maybe the team playing poorly is partly a product of Morris being a starter.

The Celtics have now lost seven of their last 11 games, are 2-5 since the All-Star break and remain the fifth seed in the Eastern conference (though last night’s Warriors win was encouraging). With just 18 games left in the season, the Celtics are just three games behind Indiana for the three seed.

There’s a big difference between being the five seed and playing a series against Philadelphia or Indiana or being the three seed and having home-court against Detroit or Brooklyn. A shakeup in the starting lineup might be just what they need to get in gear and make a late push. It might be beneficial to swap Hayward in for Morris.

Hayward has actually been surprisingly good as of late. A lot of negativity has surrounded his name recently, with some members of the local media calling for a shutdown of the once All-Star forward. Clearly these people haven’t looked into it too far.

In February, Hayward shot his best percentage from the field (51%) and from three (44%). He also had his highest points per game average at 11.9 without playing any more minutes than he has at other points in the season. It seems as if Hayward is being more selective and taking smarter shots while Morris is not exactly the poster child for good shot selection. His 30-point performance last night was icing on the cake.

With Irving and Tatum already on the floor, it might be more beneficial to have a guy who is more selective and who is shooting a higher percentage lately.

Additionally, Morris might benefit from more minutes against other team’s second units and his toughness and grit can also help the Celtics’ bench.

Jaylen Brown is another guy to look at for a potential starting role. Brown’s game has improved lately despite his poor three-point shooting so Stevens could look to him if he really wants to shake things up and maybe have multiple starting lineups depending on the opponent and match-up.

With a tough road trip ahead, the Celtics need to do something to pull them out of their current rough patch. Altering the starting lineup might be a good way to try different combinations and send a message to certain players, but they have no immediate plans to change things

Brad Stevens says the team’s focus should be on playing better and not when they play. Easier said than done, Brad, but maybe changing the lineup will make them play better.

dark. Next. Can the Celtics give us a reason to hope?

The Boston Celtics have to try something because this team is running out of time and it feels like every day is one step closer to a second round exit in the playoffs.