When Too Much Talent in the Starting 5 is a Bad Thing

In lieu of the Celtics win on Monday in New Orleans, the people have been clamoring for Marcus Smart, Screaming for this man, even. This is for good reason as the longest-tenured Celtic provided aggressive defense, forced turnovers, and injected some life into the starting 5. While I’ve seen a lot of articles strictly saying that Smart needs to start, I have a slightly different take on this. I agree that Marcus has a great case to start full-time, I just think it could be done differently. Brad said it best when asked about Smart starting down the road.

His impact off of the bench is unmatched and I think, depending on matchups, he fits better in certain scenarios off of the bench. My proposition for the starters is this:

  1. Start Kyrie, Tatum, and Al every single game
  2. Decide who you would rather start out of Hayward/Brown
  3. Start the guy you choose, keep the other on the bench as a 6th man
  4. Have the 5th spot switch between Smart/Morris

Early in the season, we’ve seen the opening night starting-5 struggle.Look at their advanced ratings to see how poorly they have performed together

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While the defense has been up to par, the offense has been pitiful. Look at their shooting splits, there isn’t enough to go around so they’ve been forcing it.

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With that many offensive weapons, things can get wonky in regards to who takes the shots. I think breaking them up and adding someone else as the 5th man would do them a lot of good. In regards not only to team performance, but individual performance as well.

I know that Hayward is coming off of the bench now so the odd man out is him, but I’m talking about long-term. If Hayward returns to form off of the bench and gets close to where he was in terms of play pre-injury, he has to start. On the flip side, if he doesn’t, he’s the odd man out in terms of starting. While that is a lot of “ifs”, it isn’t unreasonable to expect Hayward to figure it out. If (sorry, another if) he does return to form then the focus turns to Jaylen Brown.

Jaylen’s been disappointing to start the season, dipping in nearly every statistical category in comparison to last year.

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He’s also looked lost on the floor at times with the starters as there isn’t enough to go around. This, in turn, has caused him to press and he’s hurled up a lot of nonsense at the hoop thus far. He’s a slasher at heart and he’s gotten away from that. Look at his shooting splits and they tell the story.

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He’s taking nearly 60% of his shots from outside of 5 feet and shooting a repulsive 29.7% from such spots. On the flip side, he’s shot 54.1% from inside of 5 feet. While that’s honestly not the best mark ever, you get my point. He’s taking way too many outside shots and is straying away from who he is as a player. He’s a driver with the ability to hit outside shots, not an outside shooter with the ability to drive. I think a move to the bench would be refreshing for Jaylen and it could really bring out the best of his abilities on the hardwood. Lastly, having that off of the bench, alongside Terry and Morris, opens up a whole new slew of possibilities for Stevens to explore. As I said referring to Hayward, Brad doesn’t care about who starts the game, if you are playing well, you will be relied upon. This “Star by Committee” approach bodes well for Jaylen and coming off of the bench. He’ll always have opportunities to play and show his worth, albeit a different role.

Moving down the line to the 4th part of my proposed plan, is deciding who does start. While I’m suggesting to basically platoon Smart/Baynes there is some method to this madness. Starting with Smart, we know his deal. He plays some of the best defense in the league, makes all of the hustle plays, facilitates the offense, and doesn’t complain about a thing. In terms of rating (depending on who is in out of Hayward/Brown) the two respective starting lineups have performed far better in terms of rating compared to the opening night starting 5.

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They’re both far better offensively, and while they’re worse defensively, they still have a positive net rating. This isn’t a surprise either. Smart has been widely regarded as the man who knows what Celtic’s basketball is better than anyone else on the roster. He runs the offense with ease and having this ability to facilitate, next to Kyrie, gives him (Kyrie) the ability to focus more on scoring and less on getting everyone else involved.

Next, we have Marcus Morris. We all know how good he has been and the impact he has had on this team off the bench (Check out my quarter grades for all 14 players for more analysis on his impact: https://viewsfromthewall.com/2018/11/27/letter-grades-through-1-4-of-the-season/). He brings automatic offense, fearlessness, and toughness on both ends. As we’ve explored with Smart, lets check out the two lineups that could possibly be in play if Morris were to start.

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That first lineup with Hayward is preposterous how efficient it is. They’ve locked up teams at a mind boggling clip and scored at will. While ratings aren’t everything I still think there is some merit to this. They’ve used these lineups enough to get a real sense at how effective they are and I think it’s worthwhile to explore as this team figures out their identity. I think Stevens can get creative with his roster and mold this starting-5 to whomever the opponent is. If he finds the ability to do that effectively, this team is a whole different animal, with a lot of different options to throw at any opponent.


For more analysis like this check us out on Twitter @ViewsFromWall and YouTube for our video work: Views From The Wall

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