A MODEST PROPOSAL...
PUT ARON BAYNES BACK ON THE BENCH
The fivesome of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford may not match Golden State in top-shelf talent, but it is the Warriors' equal in versatility. So Brad Stevens shouldn't ruin it by bringing any of those guys off the bench. Steve Kerr had the Death Lineup and he insisted on wasting everyone's time by starting Zaza Pachulia. NBA coaches need to give up on feeling obligated to start a bulky center and go whole hog by trotting out their best five to start the game. I know, it sounds crazy, but play your best players!
That means that Aron Baynes—who started 67 games last year—goes back to the bench, leaving Horford to play center. Baynes certainly has a place; his physicality came in handy in the postseason against Joel Embiid (the occasional posterization aside). He got under the big man's skin and contributed rim protection and a surprising three-point touch.
In addition to his stellar starters, Stevens has almost comical depth: Terry Rozier was a playoff hero, Marcus Smart gives the team its soul, and Marcus Morris could start for plenty of teams. But that depth—Baynes included—should be kept where it belongs: backing up five sublime talents.
COACH BRAD STEVENS
2017--18 RECORD: 55--27
PREDICTION: Lose NBA Finals
PG KYRIE IRVING (17 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])
SF GORDON HAYWARD [INJURED LAST YEAR (2016--17 STATS)] (25 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])
PF JAYSON TATUM (39 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])
C AL HORFORD (16 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])
SG JAYLEN BROWN (47 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])
Brown was one of an NBA-high six Celtics to hit more than 36.0% of his threes, helping Boston finish second in the league in three-point shooting (37.7%).
PG TERRY ROZIER (82 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])
SG MARCUS SMART
PF MARCUS MORRIS
(I) INJURED LAST YEAR (2016--17 STATS)
(#) SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP BOSTON
THEY HAVE to figure out if KYRIE IRVING and GORDON HAYWARD benefit the offense. Kyrie is a selfish player, that's just who he is. He's more scorer than point guard—not that there's anything wrong with it. There's something awesome about having a guy who can go for 50 any night. But with him and Hayward and JAYSON TATUM and JAYLEN BROWN and TERRY ROZIER, will they be able to share the ball? ... They have so many different lineups that they can use. Do you start Tatum and Brown? Do you play small ball like the Warriors, with MARCUS MORRIS as the five? Theirs is as good a five-man lineup as any to combat the Warriors. They have wings to match up with Steph, Klay and KD.... As good a rookie year as Tatum had, he was almost underrated. He has size, he's skilled, can shoot it, play multiple positions and defend. He's really gonna blossom.... Brown came in as sort of a put-your-head-down penetrator, but his game has developed nicely. He's always gonna be a defense-first type guy. Last season his offense took a major jump from his rookie year.... Rozier took advantage of the opportunity in the playoffs when Kyrie went out. It became very clear that there wasn't much of a drop-off. When you look back at Rozier's rookie year, he was barely playing, and when he got in he wasn't making an impact. But fast-forward two years and he's playing at an extremely high level in the playoffs. There were questions about what he was, if he was more of a combo. He's still a scorer at heart, but you're seeing that he's a point guard who rarely turns the ball over.