One of the strongest positions on this year’s Boston Celtics squad just so happens to be at one of the most important.
With Kyrie Irving returning as the primary option, and post-season savior Terry Rozier—besides Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals—backing him up, there is a lot of talent filling this role.
Starter: Kyrie Irving / Projection: 20.9 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.3 RPG, 30.5 PER
After a string of former knee injuries resurfacing, Kyrie Irving missed the ending of the regular season, and it was eventually reported that he would remain out for the playoffs.
Prior to his injuries, the five-time All-Star stepped up in the face of adversity when fellow All-Star Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury in the season opener.
Irving also silenced the doubters who were concerned about his ability to lead a team, and be a primary option with no LeBron James to hide behind.
Now, with the development of young stars in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, as well as Hayward hopefully being able to finally merge with the Celtics, it is no secret that Irving’s scoring could certainly take a dip.
Even though the Duke University product is still the top weapon offensively, there is a whole starting lineup and even multiple bench players capable of dropping 20 points on any given night.
I fully expect Irving to settle into a more diverse role and average a career-high for assists. This level of talent bombarding the court, as well as head coach Brad Stevens’ diverse offense should allow the 6-foot-3 guard to have an unforgettable season, but in ways that transcend the box score.
Backup: Terry Rozier / Projection: 11.1 PPG, 2.3 APG, 4.0 RPG, 19.1 PER
Terry Rozier was one of the most overlooked players on his team, and in my opinion in the NBA, until he was finally given an opportunity to showcase his true abilities.
Rozier was the next man up following Irving’s absence, and boy oh boy did he deliver. The University of Louisville product stepped to the plate and rose from a great role player to a player garnering league-wide recognition.
He led what was healthy of his team through the playoffs, and all the way to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals where Rozier’s luck run dry and he played extremely poorly. That said, the 6-foot-2 guard tripled his postseason points compared to last year—just one of the many improvements.
If Irving remains healthy, however, expect Rozier’s numbers to fall slightly. His previous campaign was one to remember, but there is no chance of Rozier playing more than last season with an elite guard ahead of him on the depth chart.
Third off the bench: Brad Wanamaker / Projection: 2.0 PPG, 0.7 APG, 0.3 RPG, 8.0 PER
When fans found out Shane Larkin wouldn’t be re-signing with the Celtics, there wasn’t as much disappointment as I expected.
I think with Brad Wanamaker becoming the third option, we will soon realize how nice it was to have Larkin. His constant spark of energy and ability to score in a variety of ways was more than enough to gain my respect and appreciation.
Regardless, that ship has sailed and it’s time to discover if Wanamaker can translate his high level of play in the Euroleague to the NBA. Even though he could get filtered out from ever being a factor in games due to there not being enough minutes to go around, Wanamaker has been given at least a small shot to do exactly what a team needs him for.
To start, most of Wanamaker’s play time will undoubtedly come during ‘garbage time.’ If he can be successful against other teams’ bottom-feeders, it is possible he will eventually be rotated into lineups that need some quick scoring out of a fresh body.