What will the Celtics’ playoff rotation look like? Examining five early trends

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Maximizing the Celtics roster is something Brad Stevens has been focused on all year long but it’s probably going to be his biggest question mark heading into the seeding games Friday. A healthy roster has been tough to come by for the Celtics all year long with just 17 total games the team has had with its full complement of starters available.

While Kemba Walker may not yet be 100 percent from a minutes standpoint by the end of this week, the team is trending towards having everyone ready to go as they finish off eight regular-season games. The results of the first two scrimmages the C’s have played mean nothing in the big picture, but the way the Celtics are trying to play is worth noting. Figuring out the lineups the C’s are trying to mix and match with is crucial now since it should allow the team to find a comfort level and continuity heading into the postseason.

There should be plenty of tinkering in the days to come but I went back and dove through the first two scrimmages to find some trends that are worth noting when the Celtics were playing all of their regulars in the first half of each game.

Non-Kemba lineups vs. OKC (first half)

10 minutes of Smart/Brown/Hayward/Tatum/Theis (-5)
2 minutes Wanamaker/Brown/Hayward/Ojeleye/Kanter (+1)
3 minutes Wanamaker/Smart/Tatum/Ojeleye/Kanter (0)
1 minute Wanamaker/Smart/Tatum/Ojeleye/Theis (+3)
6 minutes Smart/Hayward/Brown/Tatum/Theis (-4)

Celtics lineups vs. PHX (first half)

5 minutes of Kemba/Brown/Hayward/Tatum/Theis (-1)
5 minutes of Wanamaker/Smart/(Hayward or Tatum)/Brown/Kanter (-2)
4 minutes Walker/Smart/Tatum/Ojeleye/Theis (+5)
5 minutes (Smart or Wanamaker)/Brown/Hayward/Tatum/G Williams (+7)

A few observations based on these combinations

1. Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward are getting extended early run together (+6.6 net rating): This isn’t one of the best two-man duos on the team when it comes to net rating but they are complementing each other a lot better than last year, particularly on the offensive end. The C’s score 114 points per 100 possessions when the pair is on the floor and both are able to be featured more on the offensive end when Tatum/Kemba are getting an early rest. Brad Stevens seems to be focused on putting complementary pieces around them which brings us to our next observation.

2. Enes Kanter and Brad Wanamaker are the first two players off the bench together after Marcus Smart: Two of Boston’s regular reserves all year long have been paired up together both times they’ve entered the game in Orlando. The data indicates this is the right call since the Celtics are outscoring opponents by 8.3 points per 100 possessions with both on the court together. When paired with three starters, both guys won’t be stealing shots from the core offensive weapons. Instead, Kanter just rolls to the hoop and crashed the offensive glass when available. Wanamaker serves as a catch-and-shoot threat when Smart is running the point on top of being another capable ballhandler. Neither guy is flashy but these two should get the first crack at minutes together off the bench, except on nights when opposing benches go small at center (which could keep Kanter on bench). Tuesday's matchup against the Rockets will be telling in how Stevens handles that potential mismatch.

3. Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker are being paired to carry the bench offense together in the second quarter: This could change again when Walker gets a fuller minutes load but the Celtics offense has reached