Celtics roster check: What do they have? What do they need?

It’s late August, but the Celtics have a bit more work left to do. After waiving Justin Champagnie early this month, the team still has room at the end of the roster with training camp a little more than one month away.

Brad Stevens has been patient in the past while building the back end of his roster. He set up a training camp competition for the final roster spots last year, which were won by Noah Vonleh and Justin Jackson. Stevens also signed Blake Griffin last season shortly after training camp opened. And the Celtics have again kept some flexibility at the end of their depth chart.

As the roster currently stands, they have at least two spots available though they could clear more space by waiving either Luke Kornet or Dalano Banton. Though Kornet’s contract is non-guaranteed, he was dependable last season when given the opportunity and is an extremely well-liked guy in the locker room. The Celtics also seem to be high on Banton, who they targeted early in free agency, but only $200,000 of his contract is guaranteed. Beyond the regular roster players, Stevens has one more two-way contract opening to fill behind J.D. Davison and Jay Scrubb.

Here’s a look at the current Boston depth chart:

Point guard: Derrick White, Malcolm Brogdon, Payton Pritchard, J.D. Davison (two-way), Jay Scrubb (two-way), D.J. Steward (training camp deal)

Shooting guard: Jaylen Brown, Dalano Banton (partial guarantee)

Small forward: Jayson Tatum, Sam Hauser, Jordan Walsh

Power Forward: Al Horford, Oshae Brissett

Center: Kristaps Porziņģis, Robert Williams, Luke Kornet (non-guaranteed)

After trading Smart for Porziņģis, Stevens made it clear the Celtics wanted to rebalance the roster by moving a guard for a big man. That suggests he’s satisfied with a backcourt of White, Brogdon and Pritchard. Behind those guys, Boston has used a pair of two-way contracts on young guards in Davison and Scrubb. Steward, who could end up with the Maine Celtics, gives the organization a bit more depth at the position.

Boston’s biggest remaining need is probably on the wing, as Stevens emphasized in July. The depth there shouldn’t be an issue when the entire roster is available, but could become one when the Celtics frontcourt is short-handed – and that group could be short-handed a lot. Porziņģis and Williams have regularly missed significant time throughout their careers. The 37-year-old Horford can at the very least be expected to miss 14 games when Boston has back-to-backs. And I would expect the Celtics to be similarly cautious with Williams.

Joe Mazzulla and Al Horford. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

Joe Mazzulla will likely rely on smaller lineups whenever any of those guys miss time. That would lead him to using more perimeter players off the bench. As of now, the Celtics’ second unit probably has just two wings who can be trusted to play regular minutes: Hauser and Brissett. Walsh, a rookie, is coming off an impressive summer league but will likely need time to learn how to become a winning NBA player. Banton has intriguing tools as a 6-foot-9 ballhandler, but didn’t prove himself as an impactful player during two seasons with the Raptors. If Mazzulla can’t trust either of those guys, it could push him to load up Tatum and Brown with more minutes when the Celtics are missing bodies. The organization should try to avoid such a scenario given all of the playing time Tatum has racked up recently.

Could any free agents help? Most of the intriguing free agents have already found landing spots, but some veterans remain unsigned. Javonte Green experienced knee problems last season, but is a world-class athlete when healthy, as the Celtics know after his stint with the team years ago. T.J. Warren had a down season after dealing with serious injury issues but has long been able to put the ball in the basket. Svi Mykhailiuk played well late last season for Charlotte, shooting 40.4 percent on 3-point attempts for the Hornets. Terence Davis remains unsigned despite contributing to the Kings over the past couple of seasons. Griffin remains a free agent after providing solid minutes in his role for Boston last season. Such players wouldn’t be expected to crack the regular Celtics rotation but could be helpful when the team is dealing with absences.

Stevens doesn’t necessarily need to limit himself to current NBA players. He looked outside of the league for players to compete for the final roster spots last season, targeting Vonleh after a season in China and Bruno Caboclo after a stint in Brazil. Both players were former first-round picks looking for a spot to reestablish themselves.

The Celtics have already pulled off their most significant shakeup in the trade of Smart for Porziņģis. Though the team lost some of its defensive switchability with the losses of Smart and Grant Williams, the new-look roster is teeming with size and rim protection. Mazzulla, who has made no secret of how much he appreciates 3-point shooting, could also have even more of it at his disposal now. Purely as a shooting threat, Porziņģis is an upgrade over Smart. The Smart departure should also free up more minutes for Payton Pritchard, a 40-percent career 3-point shooter, and Malcolm Brogdon, who ranked fourth league-wide last season at 44.4 percent from behind the arc. The Celtics lost a steady shooter in Grant Williams, but some of his minutes will likely go to Sam Hauser, who’s a much better threat on the move. Hauser has shot at least 40 percent on 3-point attempts in every season at least since he entered college. The Celtics attempted about four more 3-pointers per 48 minutes with Hauser on the court last season; now, he could be in line for a bigger role.

On the flip side of that, Porziņģis, White, Horford and Brogdon could all be due for some shooting regression. Brissett, in line for some minutes at power forward, sank just 31 percent of his 3-pointers last season. Tatum and Brown both recorded career-worst 3-point percentages last season. They should be considered likely to shoot at least a little better during the coming season. Regardless, the Celtics have plenty of marksmen. Next they need to make decisions about the end of their roster.

(Top photo of Jayson Tatum and Al Horford: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top