Come playoff time, teams usually roll out with a smaller rotation than they’re used to using throughout the regular season. Teams that generally would play around 10-12 players a night might turn that into 8-10 players a night, and 10 might even be a stretch.
Brad Stevens loves using his players based on specific situations and matchups. For example, Boston fans shouldn’t expect to see much of Semi Ojeleye this postseason, unless the Celtics run into the Milwaukee Bucks. Since Ojeleye is a player who can somewhat stay in front of Giannis Antetokounmpo and “contain” him, he’ll see himself playing a good chunk of minutes during that series.
But besides that, which players should we expect to see consistently come playoff time? We know for a fact that Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, and Daniel Theis will all see consistent playoff minutes. It’s the rest of the roster that Brad Stevens needs to sort out.
With the NBA allowing teams to have 17 players on their roster, the Celtics will have plenty of options to choose from. One player who I believe will see a good amount of minutes is Robert Williams.
Robert Williams missed a majority of the season due to a hip edema and missed the last game of the season because of a back strain. When he was healthy, he was a difference-maker for Boston. In 23 games this season, Williams grabbed 4.7 rebounds and blocked 1.2 shots a game while only playing 14 minutes a night. While shooting 68% from the field, Williams was an effective rim-protector and provided a spark whenever he came off of the bench.
Now that Williams will be back at full strength, I believe he deserves to see some valuable playoff minutes. He will provide the Celtics with everything they need from a big man off the bench. He can run the floor, rebound, and block shots, which are all things the Celtics missed from him for most of the season.
Enes Kanter deserves to see the court during the playoffs. Although I just talked about why Robert Williams should play valuable playoff minutes, Kanter deserves to be out there as well.
Listen, I understand Kanter isn’t the best defender in the world, but he also isn’t the worst. Kanter has a defensive rating of 103.7, which ranks seventh on the team, and is right behind Jayson Tatum (103.5).
The reason Kanter really deserves to be on the court is because of his outstanding rebounding abilities. Kanter has a total rebound percentage of 23.7, which ranks second on the team behind Tacko Fall and would rank sixth in the entire league. He also leads the team with an offensive rebounding percentage of 17.1, which would rank fifth in the NBA. Kanter also rounds out top-20 in the league with a defensive rebound percentage of 30.2.
The point I’m making here is that Enes Kanter is very good at rebounding. In fact, he isn’t just very good, he’s one of the best rebounders in the league. His ability to grab rebounds and give the Celtics second chance points gives him value and is why he deserves to play some playoff minutes. Not a lot, but some.
Now that we’ve settled on which big men should see playing time during the playoffs, let’s talk about the guards that should be coming off the bench.
I know Brad Wanamaker gets a lot of slack from Boston fans, but he’s not a TERRIBLE player by any means. Sure, he has his moments where we scratch our heads, but who doesn’t have those moments? At the end of the day, Wanamaker is a high IQ player who takes smart shots, and his percentages prove it. He has the fifth highest 3PT% on the team and has a higher FG% than Kemba Walker. Sure, he doesn’t nearly shoot as much as Kemba, but he knows his role and can provide meaningful minutes off the bench.
That being said, Tremont Waters should get a share of Wanamaker’s minutes in the playoffs. The G League Rookie of the Year would provide an instant spark off the bench for Boston. His scoring and playmaking abilities, combined with his quickness on the defensive end, can provide the Celtics with a bench presence they’ve been looking for all season. Personally, I think Waters should be on the roster next season and should be considered to be the backup PG. Giving him some run during the playoffs can do wonders for his development.
Depending on the matchup, Semi Ojeleye and Grant Williams should see the court as well to round out the rotation. They’ll play meaningful minutes when the Celtics need a strong defensive presence to come off the bench. Ojeleye would see most of his minutes during a series against Milwaukee if they face off. The same can be said about Grant, as well. They won’t see consistent minutes, but they should be ready when Brad calls for them to come in off the bench.
Take away Semi and Grant, and that gives the Celtics 10 players to work with in their rotation. Even players like Enes Kanter and Tremont Waters can just be situational players like those two. Brad Stevens will have plenty of guys to work with once the playoffs start, and I’m confident he’ll choose the right bunch and put this team in the best possible position to make a deep playoff run.
Photo: Michael Dwyer | Credit: AP