Boston Celtics Camp Battles: Guards
POTENTIAL STARTERS - MARCUS SMART
Last season: 7.8 points, 3.1 assists, 3.3 rebounds per game. Appeared in 67 games with 38 starts.
Smart floated in and out of the starting unit as a rookie last season, in part because of his play but also due to the emergence of Evan Turner as a playmaker. The Celtics got a nice, long look at Smart running the team this summer and for the most part were pleased with what they saw. He suffered a dislocated index and middle finger while participating in the Las Vegas Summer League, but he is expected to be healed in time to fully participate in training camp.
Smart’s defensive skills coupled with an improved ability to be a run the offense, will make Smart an extremely tough cover and the Celtics a better team with the kind of point guard that can impact the game at a high level at both ends of the floor.
POTENTIAL STARTERS - AVERY BRADLEY
Last season: 13.9 points, 1.8 assists, 3.1 rebounds per game. Started all 77 games he appeared in last season.
No Boston Celtic on the current roster has appeared in more games (282) for the Green Team than the 24-year-old Bradley who is now entering his sixth season – all with Boston. It’s hard to imagine Bradley being unseated as a starter considering he’s still among the top perimeter defenders when it comes to pressuring ball-handlers. Because of his age and skillset, Bradley has the potential to help the Celtics in a multitude of ways. The additions made this offseason should take some of the scoring burden off his shoulders and allow him to get back to being an elite defender who from time to time, can knock down shots as well.
POTENTIAL STARTERS - ISAIAH THOMAS
Last season: 16.4 points, 4.2 assists, 2.3 rebounds per game (Between Phoenix and Boston). Appeared in 67 games with one start in Phoenix.
He was Boston’s best scorer last season, doing all his work coming off the bench which was a role he has thrived in for most of his NBA career. Thomas maintains he wants to do whatever helps the team win, but he wants to be a starter.
The Celtics love his ability to score in a variety of ways, whether it’s from the perimeter or knifing through the heart of an opposing team’s defense for lay-ups. And while his defense wasn’t nearly as bad as advertised, the Celtics clearly aren’t the same team defensively when he’s on the floor in place of Bradley or Smart. And it’s not just the fact that he’s 5-foot-9 either. Despite having off-the-chain quickness with the ball in hand, Thomas doesn’t keep players in front of him nearly as well as someone with his pure speed should be doing. Defensive shortcoming aside, Thomas has tremendous value for the Celtics – especially when he’s doing it off the bench.
ROTATION POSSIBLES - TERRY ROZIER
Last season (at Louisville): 17.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Appeared in 36 games with 35 starts.
Boston's top pick (16th overall) in last June's NBA draft showed signs of justifying why the Celtics turned a blind eye to the draft boards of others to rate Rozier extremely high on their wish list. The speed that Rozier is known for having is definitely there. Because of that, it wouldn’t be all that surprising for him to make the most of his limited minutes and parlay those into more court action sooner rather than later.
But like most rookies, he's still trying to figure out what's the best pace for him to play at, and still be effective enough to gain the confidence and trust of head coach Brad Stevens to play him with some consistency.
Barring injuries or trades, Rozier will spend a decent amount of time of his first NBA season with the Celtics Development League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.
ROTATION POSSIBLES - R.J. HUNTER
Last season (at Georgia State): 19.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Appeared in 35 games, all starts.
He did a nice job of showing that he was more than just a 3-point specialist during the Boston Celtics’ Summer League play in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. It’ll be interesting to see if he can build off that performance in training camp against players that will be significantly better than what he faced in July. Hunter’s defense and ball-handling still need work, but his basketball smarts allow him to display difference-making potential despite his obvious shortcomings which means you can’t rule out him finding a way to get on the floor as a rookie. But a more likely scenario will have him splitting time between the Celtics and the Maine Red Claws, similar to what they did last season with James Young.