Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will take the floor together for the first time all season on Wednesday night, giving the Celtics their first chance at putting together a starting lineup at full strength all year.
Just what the lineup will end up looking like is an interesting conundrum. The easy choice against teams like the Spurs who only start one true big (LaMarcus Aldridge) would be to decide on one of Daniel Theis or Tristan Thompson in the middle alongside Walker/Smart/Tatum/Brown. However, against teams with double starting bigs (like the Lakers on Saturday night), the case can be made to stick with the double big lineup duo of Theis/Thompson (+62 net rating in last two games) and shifting Marcus Smart back to the bench as a high usage sixth man. That’s something that hasn’t been lost on Stevens after Boston’s last two wins.
“I thought the guys at the start of the third quarter did a good job, our starting lineup, and it’s been encouraging to see those guys play better as they’ve gotten more reps and everything else. But overall I thought it was a good team win, and a lot of guys did a lot of things,” Stevens said.
While Stevens may try to experiment with little bit of both as he gathers information on the best version of the Celtics in the coming weeks ahead of potential trade deadline decisions, it’s easy to remember the biggest key here: Walker/Tatum/Brown looks like a top-5 trio in the league right now given the consistency of Tatum/Brown and the strong physical return of Walker.
So what exactly does this trio look like in various forms? Let’s examine some of the numbers from last season to get a better sense of what has (and hasn’t worked) when Stevens has had all three players healthy together.
Potential starting five (2019-20 numbers)
+4.6 net rating in 148 minutes
103.3 offensive rating, 98.7 defensive rating
4th most-used lineup
Analysis: This was Brad Stevens’ go-to starting five last year anytime Gordon Hayward was out. It was actually subpar