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Mazzulla says Derrick White starts at the point, what does Celtics’ rotation look like?

2023 NBA Playoffs - Miami Heat v Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MA - MAY 29: Derrick White #9 of the Boston Celtics looks on during round 3 game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals 2023 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat on May 29, 2023 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

For the past two seasons, Marcus Smart has been the starting point guard for a Boston Celtics team that went to the NBA Finals one season and seven games into the Eastern Conference Finals the next.

Smart is now out and big man Kristaps Porzingis is in. What does that mean for the Celtics’ starting five? Coach Joe Mazzulla said this at a recent press conference, via Jared Weiss at The Athletic.

“We haven’t gotten that far yet,” coach Joe Mazzulla said as the media surrounding him laughed. “Derrick (White) will be our starting point guard and he will be one of our starting guards.”

So what does the starting five look like? Four/fifths of it are locked in: Derrick White at the one, Jaylen Brown at the two, Jayson Tatum at the three, then Porzingis. The question is, who is the fifth Beatle? My money would be on Al Horford because Mazzulla leans into offensive-first lineups and Horford can space the floor as a shooter and is still a plus defender. However, if Mazzulla goes defensive (figuring there is plenty of offense on the floor already), Robert Williams III starts, although his minutes need to be managed. One could even make a case for going small and starting Malcolm Brogdon, although it makes more sense to leave the reigning Sixth Man of the Year in that role.

White, Brown, Tatum, Porzingis, and Horford start, then it is Brogdon and Williams the first two off the bench. After that some combination of Payton Pritchard, Luke Kornet, Sam Hauser and Oshae Brissett likely get minutes.

The Jays will still initiate the offense on most trips down the court, but Weiss noted that having Porzingis set screens for White — or being part of a Spain pick-and-roll (where a second screen is set to slow the roll man’s defender) — could be a nice upgrade for the Boston offense.

White’s main pick-and-roll actions last year were basic pick-and-pops on the elbows or staggered screens in the middle of the floor. The former has him take a few dribbles to the side to draw over two defenders, then quickly flip it back to the screener to shoot it. This worked well with Horford, but can fully unlock Boston’s offensive potential with Kristaps Porziņģis.

The Celtics’ offense will be one of the top five in the NBA this season.

Is that enough? Will the team get enough stops, can Porzingis stay healthy and play to the level he did a season ago, and can this team play at their best day in and day out, not only when their backs are against a wall?

Boston enters next season as a legit title contender, a team that — on paper — is better than the one from a season ago. White at the point is part of that, he brings more offense to the table. The big question is whether this Celtics team can show the grit and heart to consistently play up to the standard of a contender. One that may not get answered until next May.