The Boston Celtics essentially scrapped their entire roster this past offseason, transitioning to a younger core of players, plentiful in young blossoming star power.
Following that same line of thinking, the Celtics have also formed a precarious duo of their own, in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, to help lead their new team into an exciting new era of Boston basketball. However, there’s a fair question to be asked in regards to the team’s new duo. Can they actually coexist on the floor?
Last season the Celtics found incredible chemistry with Isaiah Thomas as their singular scoring threat, using his talents as a focal point for the array of role players around him. Now, the Celtics have both Irving, one of the most talented scorers in league history, and Hayward – another dynamic in his own right. With two “ball dominant” players like Irving and Hayward, how can the Celtics formulate a rotation, and an offense to maximize their scoring talents? The simple answer would be to not have the majority of their minutes overlap, and create separate units that would accentuate each of their individual talents.
With Irving’s otherworldly ball handling abilities, and highly underrated accuracy from beyond the arch, it would only make sense to run a space-and-pace, small ball lineup around him. Similar to the style that the Celtics adopted once they began their comeback against the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs. For example, imagine a lineup of Irving, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford or Marcus Morris. Not only would they be able to play with pace, and create driving lanes for Irving, but they would have a fair assortment of perimeter defenders to create turnovers.
On the other side of things, Brad Stevens could run a larger lineup around Gordon Hayward, imitating the efforts of Quin Snyder in Utah. Of course the Celtics don’t have a defensive ace like Rudy Gobert, but they could definitely use Hayward’s versatility in the wing to slow down the pace of the game. Consider a lineup of Smart, Brown or Tatum, Hayward, Morris or Guerschon Yabusele, and Horford or Aron Baynes. Juxtaposed to the Irving lineup, the unit around Hayward would be focused solely on using their size to dominate the boards, and eliminate the opposing teams opportunities to capture the game’s pace. Something that brought the Celtics dangerously close to losing to the Bulls in last year’s first round matchup. ‘
Approximating separate lineups aside, both of those lineups could be applied to those two players while they share the court, because the Celtics are just that deep now. They have an array of talented players in their front court – such as Yabusele, Morris, Baynes and Horford. A well documented, and well criticized core of wings like Brown, Tatum, and Hayward. And, a fair assortment of guards to choose from – like Irving, Smart and Rozier. So, while it would be wise to separate their minutes, both to capture two different, but unique styles of play, it would be unwise to separate their minutes when the team demanded both of their talents.