Celtics

Celtics Spotlight: Can Brad Wanamaker carve out a bigger role in his second season?

Celtics Spotlight: Can Brad Wanamaker carve out a bigger role in his second season?

Having played sparingly as a rookie last season with the Celtics, one wouldn’t hold it against Brad Wanamaker if he decided to take his game back overseas. 

A 29-year-old rookie last season, Wanamaker was used sparingly in large part because the two guys ahead of him, Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier, did what most guys in contract years do — stay healthy and play a lot of minutes. 

Spotlights: Walker | Smart | Brown | Hayward | Kanter | Tatum | Fall

Now, with Irving and Rozier having moved on to Brooklyn and Charlotte, an opportunity for an increased role is there for Wanamaker, who admits the lack of playing time last season left a bad taste in his mouth, and it's part of what has fueled his return. 

“I want to show that I can play with this team and on this level, and be a rotation guy,” he said

It’s a successful season for Wanamaker if… 

...he cracks the regular playing rotation and finds himself playing decent minutes behind Kemba Walker. Now we know that Walker is going to log most of the minutes, but there is a chance that this might be the year of load management for Walker. The three-time All-Star has been an iron man among players in the NBA, having missed a total of just six games in the last four seasons. 

However, he did miss a preseason game to rest his sore left knee, the same knee that Walker had a pair of surgical procedures performed on while he played with Charlotte.

Less Walker could mean more opportunities for Wanamaker, who seemingly made the most of his limited opportunities last season when he shot 47.6 percent from the field and 41.0 percent from 3-point range. And in the preseason, he has more than held his own in running the team as well as playing solid defense — two pillars for success as a backup point guard in the NBA. 

It’s a disappointing season for Wanamaker if… 

...this season looks anything like last season when Wanamaker appeared in 36 games while averaging 3.9 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists while logging just 9.5 minutes per game. More than the minutes played, Wanamaker is seeking an opportunity to simply be on the floor more often. If that doesn’t happen, it will likely be because of the Celtics looking to rely on the versatility of their core of Walker and Marcus Smart as well as Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to facilitate the offense. Or, it could be Wanamaker being beaten out for minutes by rookie second-round pick Carsen Edwards. 

2019-2020 Outlook

The one thing the Celtics like about Wanamaker is no matter how big or small his role may be, his play is consistently solid. Still, like last season, Wanamaker will again struggle to find quality minutes. It’s clear looking at how the Celtics’ rotation is shaping up that they will need a perimeter scorer coming off the bench. Thus far in the preseason, that job likely will go to rookie Edwards, who has shown the potential to be a lethal catch-and-shoot scorer from beyond 3-point range. And if that’s the direction Boston goes, Wanamaker will find himself in a similar predicament as he was last season as he searches for playing time.

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Final week focus for Celtics fans: Grizzlies pick and the No. 6 seed

Final week focus for Celtics fans: Grizzlies pick and the No. 6 seed

The Boston Celtics have clinched the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and their final two seeding games inside the bubble seem fairly perfunctory.

But there’s still plenty to be determined over what amounts to the final week of the NBA’s (not-so) regular season.

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THE GRIZZLIES PICK?

While Boston’s playoff seeding is locked in, the Grizzlies team they play on Tuesday evening is most certainly not.

Here’s the deal: The Western Conference will have a play-in game this weekend to determine the conference’s final playoff representative. The team with the eighth-best record in the West will play the team with the ninth-best record, but the No. 9 team must win twice in order to steal the final playoff spot. One win by the No. 8 team secures that spot for them.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Grizzlies, which begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

The Grizzlies enter Tuesday clinging dearly to the No. 8 spot in the West but there were three other teams within one game in the Blazers, Spurs, and Suns. Memphis isn’t just trying to hold onto that prime No. 8 real estate to make the play-in easier, they’re trying to avoid getting bounced from the play-in all together.

Which is why Tuesday’s tilt means a whole bunch to Memphis. But the Celtics have some motivation of their own to try to knock the Grizzlies out of a playoff spot and it centers around the Grizzlies' first-round pick that Boston is in position to collect this offseason.

If Memphis sneaks into the playoffs, they’ll avoid the lottery and deliver a pick somewhere between spots 15-17, depending on whether their post-bubble record is better than Orlando and Brooklyn.

If the Grizzlies fall out of the playoffs, they’ll land in the lottery and almost certainly convey the No. 14 pick to Boston. There’s a 2.4 percent chance that pick could vault into the top 4, which would trigger Memphis’ protections and cause Memphis to instead deliver a 2021 unprotected first-round pick.

To put it simpler: The Celtics can better their potential draft spot by up to three positions if the Grizzlies don’t make the playoffs. The Memphis pick is set to be the best of Boston’s three potential first-round picks in the upcoming draft (they also have their own and a pick from Milwaukee).

WHO IS GOING TO GET THE SIXTH SEED IN THE EAST?

Boston’s spot is set but their first-round playoff opponent is still very much in the air.

The Heat and Pacers played the first of their two remaining head-to-head matchups Monday with Miami cruising to a 114-92 win and taking sole possession of the No. 4 seed. Indiana sits a half-game ahead of the No. 6 Sixers, who are the most likely first-round opponent for Boston. Appropriately, Philadelphia had a nearly 76 percent chance of meeting Boston, based on projections by ESPN’s Basketball Power Index.

But those numbers could shift, especially if Pacers can't top the Heat in their second meeting. A look at each team’s remaining schedule:

MIAMI: 8/12 vs. OKC, 8/14 vs. IND

INDIANA:  8/12 vs. HOU, 8/14 vs MIA

PHILADELPHIA: 8/11 vs. PHX, 8/12 vs. TOR, 8/14 vs HOU

Remember, some of those matchups might look more daunting than they really are if some of the NBA’s top seeds downshift over the final week of seeding games.

While the conversation surrounding the Celtics’ first-round opponent has often centered on who might be the easier out — with Philadelphia’s recent injury woes seemingly making the Sixers a more agreeable draw — remember, too, that there could be value in the 4-5 winner being able to push one of the top seeds. It might be in Boston’s best interest if Milwaukee had to play a team like, say, the Heat in Round 2 given their regular-season struggles against them.

WHAT ELSE CAN BOSTON TAKE FROM ITS FINAL TWO GAMES?

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he will use the final two seeding games in order to ensure his team’s conditioning is adequate given the minimum three-day break the team will endure between Thursday’s matinee finale and the potential start of the playoffs next Monday. Still, we’d be surprised if Boston’s key rotation players log heavy minutes in Thursday’s game against the Wizards. 

A few things that Boston can still gather from these two games:

1) More minutes for the starting 5: A group that played only 188 minutes during the regular season can continue to build necessary continuity at the start and end of halves. With Kemba Walker’s minute restriction set to lift in the postseason, it will allow Boston’s core players to share the floor even more frequently and Stevens can continue to nail down his primary rotations. Daniel Theis did land on the injury report for the Memphis game but he’s probable with right foot soreness. And even if he can’t go it could given Stevens a better chance to experiment with his bigs including … 

2) Is it Timelord’s time? Second-year big man Robert Williams has put together consecutive quality outings against Toronto and Orlando. He’ll get two more games to build Stevens’ trust as a potential option off the bench. Kudos, too, to Enes Kanter, who was one of the more impactful players early in Boston's seeding games while the team shook rust, and has dealt with a reduced workload in recent games.

The Celtics essentially know what they’ve got in Kanter and Stevens seems to be using these games to figure out what he’s got with Williams. The split of postseason playing time for those players could be dictated by matchups. But Williams needs to continue to put his best foot forward this week to ensure Stevens is willing to lean on him in big-game situations.

3) Another audition for rookies: The Celtics played some of their best minutes of scrimmage play with Grant Williams at small-ball center but he’s struggled to consistently make perimeter shots in the seeding games and was a DNP against Orlando. We’re not ready to say that he’s out of the rotation — we can see Stevens leaning on him as much as Williams or Kanter in certain matchups — but as Semi Ojeleye fires away and makes 42.9 percent of his 3s over the past six games, the veteran is making a case to be that stout body that Stevens leans on when he needs a little extra muscle on the court.

Romeo Langford should also get another chance this week to show he’ll be ready to provide solid wing defense if called upon during the postseason. Every minute in a real game is an opportunity for Boston’s youngest players to make an impression and all of them should be motivated for the uptick they’ll see this week. Any floor time they get starting next week should almost certainly be in much small doses.

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NBA Rumors: 76ers star Ben Simmons expected to miss rest of season

NBA Rumors: 76ers star Ben Simmons expected to miss rest of season

The Philadelphia 76ers' 2020 NBA title hopes have taken a major hit.

Sixers star Ben Simmons left the Orlando bubble to undergo surgery on his left knee after injuring it in Wednesday's game against the Washington Wizards. Now, it looks like his season is over.

Simmons had the surgery in Philadelphia to remove a loose body in the knee, and he'll stay there for rehab. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Simmons isn't expected to return to the bubble for the 76ers' playoff run.


Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Grizzlies, which begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

That's obviously a huge blow to a Philly team that currently holds the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. Without one of their most important players for the postseason, it'll be extremely difficult for them to gain any kind of momentum.

The news directly impacts the Boston Celtics, who are locked into the No. 3 seed in the East. As of Monday, the 76ers would be their first-round opponent. But Philadelphia still has to wrap the season up with seeding games against the Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets.

Simmons averaged 16.4 points, 8.0 assists, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.1 steals per game during the 2019-20 season.