By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics were called out by Brad Stevens after an embarrassing blowout loss at home on Sunday night against the Nuggets. On Wednesday night, they responded to that effort with the team’s worst defeat of the year against a 1-5 Washington Wizards squad. That latest result is either a sign of a team who is tuning out their coach (unlikely) or one that simply isn’t playing well top to bottom right now.READ MORE: Gov. Charlie Baker To Make Announcement About COVID Testing And Schools
With injuries littered throughout the team’s starting rotation during their 3-4 start to the year, many pundits are declaring it’s not time to panic just yet. They are not completely wrong. The Celtics have yet to play a game at full strength this year, and probably won’t until later in November when Jae Crowder (ankle) returns to the floor.
In the meantime, the Celtics will likely play at least a few more games without Al Horford and Crowder and are in danger of falling towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference if they can’t right the ship. What are some potential options for Brad Stevens to shake things up with the team’s current personnel? Let’s examine a few possible solutions.
1. Start Marcus Smart
To be honest, this is an option I am surprised that Stevens hasn’t utilized just yet. The head coach has stuck with Jaylen Brown at the starting wing spot with Crowder sidelined and the rookie small forward has struggled mightily on defense during that entire stretch. Smart has started for him in the second half in three of the team’s past four games, a red flag indicating that the 20-year-old isn’t ready to handle veteran forwards in this league just yet. Smart being moved into the starting five will weaken the bench unit, but the Celtics have been facing double-digit deficits before he’s even gotten into the game this past week.
With the defensive problems Boston has been facing, Smart is a potential spark for the starting unit since he’ll up the intensity almost immediately.READ MORE: Moderna Plans To Have Combination COVID Booster, Flu Vaccine Ready By Fall 2023
2. Shake up the big man rotation
The combos that Stevens has been leaning on with Horford out of the fold have simply not been working. Tyler Zeller and Amir Johnson are simply too one-dimensional offensive players to keep the Celtics balanced against the opposing starting five. Help is on the way with Kelly Olynyk now back in action after offseason shoulder surgery and his presence will help immediately. Johnson’s rebounding issues also loom large with the undersized starting five, so an Olynyk/Zeller front line should be on the table against bigger teams like the New York Knicks, who come to town on Friday night. The rest of Boston’s bench bigs (Jonas Jerebko, Jordan Mickey) aren’t producing consistently enough to be counted on, but Olynyk needs to step into a bigger (and likely starting) role immediately to stabilize the bigs.
3. Give James Young a shot
The third-year swingman has mostly been given minutes during garbage time over the last few games, but it might be time to give him a real chance in the rotation. His defense and rebounding are more reliable than Gerald Green, a veteran who isn’t hitting open shots with regularity yet. With Terry Rozier, Mickey, Jerebko and co. unable to provide any semblance of a consistent scoring attack, it’s Young’s time to prove he can give the team something. Otherwise, this team does not have the depth right now to validate keeping him on the roster.MORE NEWS: Registration For Pan-Mass Challenge Opens Tuesday
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.