The Boston Celtics, who held the league’s best record earlier in the season, have come back to reality in 2018.
The slumping Celtics are 10-9 in the months of January and February, and have fallen behind the Toronto Raptors for the number-one seed in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s gonna be a tough ending if we don’t change a little bit,” head coach Brad Stevens said after the Celtics’ loss to the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday. “I’ll look at what I can change as well and I think we’re probably due for some of that.”
Stevens is going to shake-up the rotations after the all-star break. Let’s look at some potential changes that could be in store:
Marcus Morris to the Starting Lineup; Aron Baynes to the Bench
This seems like the most obvious potential change, considering how much Boston has struggled offensively in the recent weeks.
In their last 15 games, Boston’s offensive rating (102.8) ranks 25th in the league with the likes of the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, and New York Knicks. That’s not a good group to be apart of.
Although Baynes brings an overall upgrade defensively, especially against stronger big-men, he’s an essential zero on the offensive end.
Baynes is only averaging 18 minutes-per-game, but moving him on the second-unit, and replacing him with Morris could help the Celtics’ first-quarter offense, which has been inconsistent all season. Too many times the Celtics have found themselves in a double-digit hole heading into the second-quarter.
Additionally, Morris brings some shot-creating, another thing Boston has struggled with all season, to the starting line-up.
The starting lineup (Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, Al Horford) would be relatively small, but adding Morris might spark the stagnant Celtics offense.
It would also allow more defensive flexibility than having Baynes out there.
Marcus Smart to the Starting Lineup (when healthy); Tatum to the Bench
After an amazing start to his career, Tatum has cooled-off over the last few weeks.
Tatum shot 49-percent from three-point range in the months of October and November. The 19-year-old rookie has only shot 37-percent since, and 31-percent in the month of February.
It wouldn’t be the worst thing if Tatum moved to the bench during his rookie-wall, allowing him to build his confidence back with limited minutes.
There are a few critiques to this adjustment, the main one being that the loss of length defensively could be a net-negative. Also, allowing Tatum to work through this cold-streak with limited minutes could have the reverse effect. In some cases, the best way to get out of a slump is to continue shooting and build your confidence back that way.
On the contrary, having Tatum run with the second-unit might be a perfect way of improving that group’s offensive performance. Tatum may have more offensive freedom playing alongside the other bench players, and this could help develop his shot-creating ability.
Daniel Theis to the Starting Lineup; Baynes Out
This change isn’t too drastic, but has potential to help the floor-spacing.
Theis brings more defensive versatility than Baynes, especially when it comes to switching onto guards. The main problem is that Theis can’t hang with strong big-men like Baynes can.
That being said, Baynes hasn’t been especially great either.
The 25-year-old rookie also brings the ability to stretch the floor on offense. With Theis on the court, as opposed to Baynes, the spacing should see a large be improvement.
Theis isn’t an amazing shooter, but he’s capable of knocking down open threes, which could potentially clear the paint for Kyrie.
Terry Rozier to starting Lineup; Baynes Out
Moving Rozier to the starting lineup would make some sense, considering how well he played when replacing Irving a few weeks ago.
In the three games he started, Rozier averaged 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
The problem with this lineup would be size. Rozier isn’t tall enough to play the two-guard consistently.
This would be an incredible lineup to watch, and it would also be intriguing to see what Stevens would do both offensively and defensively. It’d be an interesting experiment to see this group get substantial minutes, but also unlikely.
Which one of these lineup changes would help the Celtics the most?