Bean: Come up with whatever lineup you want; the Celtics are still going to be stacked

Bean: Come up with whatever lineup you want; the Celtics are still going to be stacked

Brad Stevens was on this week's episode of Chris Mannix's podcast and acknowledged that the Celtics are super deep; as he put it, they've got “eight, nine, maybe 10 guys that are starters.”

While Boston's five best players is a rather obvious group, eight/nine/10 is more than five and sports observers really like exploring stuff that doesn't necessarily need to be explored.

Which brings us to today, when Celtics Blog tweeted out a post titled, "Should Al Horford come off the bench this year?"

After I recovered from my what-the-hell-could-possibly-lead-you-to-ask-such-a-dumb-question attack, I read the post. It wasn't bad, and as is often the case, the piece (written by Alex Kungu) was deeper than its headline suggested. 

Kungu wasn't necessarily advocating for Horford to be a bench player. He was taking a lot of factors into consideration -- Horford preferring to not play the five, the size of other centers, the desire to keep a star player fresh, etc. -- and weighing whether they could sway Stevens to go away from the team's obvious starting five. 

It's a fair question to ask, even if the answer is obvious. It's also the type of question that could be run into the ground as we get bored with how stacked the Celtics are. Stevens will pretty much be able to do whatever he wants with this group, so it's fun enough to keep ourselves busy by conjuring up off-the-wall ideas as to what that may be. 

Here's what it should be: A starting five of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford. Take out one of the forwards and slide Aron Baynes in against bigger teams. Easy peasy. No overthinking needed. We want to, though. 

There are factions that want to see either Tatum or Hayward come off the bench. You can see where they're coming from because either one of those guys leading a second unit is hilarious. It would speak to the embarrassment of riches that the Celtics have; a group far deeper and far better than any other in the East. 

Is that necessary? No. The Celtics can still beat the hell out of teams with a loaded starting group and secondary contributions from Terry Rozier and the Marcuses. 
 
Boston's starting five probably won't be the same every night, but when they need to go balls to the wall, you can imagine which five will be out there. It will be the all-world point guard (Kyrie), the emerging star third-year shooting guard (Brown), one of the best young small forwards in the game (Tatum), an All-Star forward (Hayward) and a five-time All-Star (Horford). 
 
“It’s about trying to be the best that we can be collectively. If we all do what we do to the best of our ability, it’ll benefit everybody individually," Stevens said on Mannix's podcast. "You only get so many chances to be a part of a special group. We’re pretty fortunate to be in this position, so we need to take advantage of it.”

Stevens will. Before he does, we'll probably talk ourselves in circles.

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As another summer free agency frenzy opens, Ainge kicks back

As another summer free agency frenzy opens, Ainge kicks back

BOSTON – Each of the past two summers, the Celtics have been at the front of the line when it comes to attracting the attention of the top free agents.

The reason was clear – they had lots of money to spend.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and assistant GM Mike Zarren had carefully crafted the roster for years in advance with an eye towards the summers of 2016 and 2017 to strike gold on the free agency market.

They did just that in signing a pair of foundation-type players in Al Horford (2016) and Gordon Hayward (2017).

Couple that with trading for Kyrie Irving last summer, along with the impact of young players Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and it’s clear that the Celtics are not in the market for making any blockbuster deals this summer.

And as much as Danny Ainge likes the available talent in free agency now, he loves his current roster even more.

“It’s easier when you have three guys [Irving, Hayward, and Horford] already that you got from the years before and you have budding stars in young players [Brown and Tatum] that are progressing,” said Ainge when asked about the temptation to pursue big-name free agents this summer. “We don’t have the cap space and we don’t really have a need. We have really good players. We have to surround them with role players with the rest of our roster that have a chance to win.”

And there lies the challenge for Boston heading into NBA free agency which begins 12:01 a.m. tonight.

Boston’s primary focus is to re-sign Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes, two key members of a team that was a win away from advancing to the NBA Finals.

Smart is a restricted free agent, so the Celtics can match any offer sheet he is given.

Baynes is an unrestricted free agent and will draw some interest, but most league executives anticipate the 6-foot-11 center will be back in Boston next season.

The Celtics are likely to try and get Smart’s deal done first, knowing its potential impact on their mid-level exception.

Boston currently has a non-luxury tax player mid-level exception that’s worth $8.568 million.

Re-signing Smart might push Boston’s payroll into the luxury-tax zone, which would reduce the amount of their mid-level exception to use toward signing another player or players, to $5.53 million.

Beyond the re-signing of Smart and Baynes, along with the one-year deal agreed upon with 28-year-old Brad Wanamaker of the EuroLeague, Boston will have a relatively quiet free agency period, which says more about how strong their roster is currently constructed than anything else.

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First-round pick Williams hopes to grow with Celtics

First-round pick Williams hopes to grow with Celtics

BRIGHTON -- When it comes to explaining why Robert Williams III slipped so far into the first round, one of the constant knocks against him was that his effort wasn’t nearly as consistent as it needed to be. 

“People question my motor a lot,” Williams III said during his introductory press conference to the Boston media on Friday. “I work hard and I know I can work hard.” 

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, has heard a similar narrative about Williams III, who was selected with the 27th overall pick by the Celtics. 
 
And his thoughts on Williams’ questionable motor?

“It’s hard to have a low motor if you’re Defensive Player of the Year two years in a row in a tough conference,” Ainge said. “That’s a hard thing to do.”

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Williams, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year during each of his two seasons with Texas A&M, was one of the nation’s best shot-blockers the past two seasons. So the kid knows a thing or two about timing. 
 
And his timing in joining the Celtics couldn't be better.
 
One of the concerns with Williams III has been his maturity, something he and his family point to as reasons why he did not enter the draft last year despite being projected as a lottery (top-14) pick. 

“He needed to go back to school and mature some more,” his father told NBC Sports Boston. “Coming back for a second year was really good for him.”

He joins a Celtics team that, while relatively young, does have a core group of veteran leaders led by Al Horford. 
 
Williams III said he had a chance to meet Horford earlier this week and plans to soak up as much knowledge of the game from Horford as he can. 
 
“What’s the most interesting part about his game, is Al, he doesn’t rush,” Williams III said. “He takes his time. Just studying his game . . . ”

And the message that resonates most from his brief time around Horford?
 
“Just work hard,” Williams III said. 

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Williams arrives at a time when the Celtics are knee-deep in trying to bolster a roster that’s already built to contend for a title. One of the many challenges awaiting him is proving his value, not relative to his draft class but to his teammates who are wired to compete at the highest levels night-in, night-out. 
 
And it’s that focus on being consistent that ranks high among the many questions surrounding Williams, a player most agree comes into the NBA with lottery-pick talent that is at times overshadowed by a questionable effort level. 
 
That’s what the next few weeks and months will be about: Developing the kind of habits both on and off the court that will enable him to be more than just another warm body on the bench. 

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