The Boston Celtics surprised many last year by making it into the playoffs as the seventh seed. You can attribute their success to a multitude of things such as the acquisition of Isaiah Thomas, the genius of young coach Brad Stevens or the development of their young talent. No matter the reason, it’s likely that the Celtics take yet another step forward in the upcoming season. Over the course of the season the Celtics will likely mix and match different players for different situations due to the balanced nature of the team, but this is the lineup that they will bring out on opening day.
Point Guard- Marcus Smart: Coming off a great showing in the NBA Summer League, Marcus Smart is sure to get plenty of looks this season. The Celtics spent a very high pick on Marcus Smart and he has shown lots of promise. Both of these factors make Smart the easy choice for the starting job. Last season, his stats weren’t great, only averaging 7.8 points and 3.1 assists per game, but that was partially due to lack of minutes as well as poor shot selection. It seems that Smart has learned that he is best when driving to the basket this offseason, which in turn will lead to an uptick in both field goal percentage and points per game. Isaiah Thomas may still be the superior point guard in terms of pure skill, but Smart will start. Smart is the Celtics’ future and Thomas has performed incredibly well when coming off of the bench.
Shooting Guard- Avery Bradley: Bradley doesn’t have immense potential, nor is he a star at this point. However, he is an elite defender, as well as the best shooting guard on the Celtics roster. He’s been able to consistently improve his shooting as well, and if he can take another step forward next season, he will be a very worthy member of the Celtics starting lineup. The Celtics need help with shooting and for that reason, Bradley could be on the hot seat. However, the options behind Bradley aren’t yet developed enough to warrant sitting Bradley. James Young and RJ Hunter could both eventually become starting caliber shooting guards, but this isn’t their season.
Small Forward- Evan Turner: This one is tough. Jae Crowder has been earning himself a large role in the Celtics rotation; but at the same time Evan Turner brings a lot to the table. Neither are spectacular scorers, although Crowder is probably a bit better. Evan Turner is getting the starting job in this situation because of his ability to run Boston’s offense. Turner is a point forward, and considering Marcus Smart is still very young, that will come in very handy. It’s always good to be able to split ball handling duties when the team lacks a star ball handler like the Celtics do. Smart will develop into one eventually, but for now he needs a bit of help.
Power Forward- Jared Sullinger: Sullinger is the most talented scorer in the Celtics’ front court and possibly on the entire team. The Celtics need for scoring at any position on the court makes Sullinger the natural choice to start. Sullinger’s main competition will be David Lee. However, I still see Sullinger starting day one. Lee is sure to see starts here and there based on different lineups that the Celtics will trot out. However, the Celtics are still a young developing team and will definitely look to develop young talent such as Sullinger. Amir Johnson could also be a viable starting option at power forward, but he will most likely be a bench guy used to boost energy and rebounding in the second unit. Sullinger is young and is looking to bounce back from a year in which he only played 58 games. He will be given every chance because much like Marcus Smart, he is very much a part of this franchise’s future. However, watch out for Jordan Mickey who looks like he has tons of potential to become a future all-star if developed correctly.
Center- Tyler Zeller: This was the closest battle in the entire lineup. This battle was between Zeller and Kelly Olynyk. However, the Celtics need scoring and rebounding in the front court, although Zeller isn’t great at either, he is the superior rebounder. Ideally, the Celtics would find a rim protector to pair with Sullinger but they don’t have one, so Zeller is the next best option. He played very well for the Celtics in the beginning of the season and if he can replicate that success, he should be a serviceable starter. If Olynyk’s offense develops he will take over later in the season, but Zeller will start day one. Zeller’s starting job could also be in jeopardy should the Celtics make a move for a rim protector somewhere near the trade deadline.