The Celtics enter training camp next week with the most wing depth in recent team history, adding to a group that last year contributed as consistently along the perimeter as the team has since Gordon Hayward left. Boston brings more capable players into camp than they did one year ago, but whether they’ll perform better than the mix Joe Mazzulla utilized last year becomes a different question. The Celtics rounded out their active roster additions on Friday by signing Lamar Stevens, a 6-6 defensive specialist who played for the Cavs last season. Keith Smith reported Stevens’ deal is a non-guaranteed Exhibit 9 training camp contract for now.
Stevens joins Malcolm Brogdon and Al Horford along with Payton Pritchard, Sam Hauser, Dalano Banton, Oshae Brissett, Svi Mykhailiuk and rookie Jordan Walsh among the perimeter players likely to come off Boston’s bench. Brogdon, if healthy, moves back to more of a point guard role in Marcus Smart’s absence and opens his two-guard slot on the second unit to Pritchard and Banton, who’ll inevitably compete for a majority of the secondary wing minutes alongside Hauser. Hauser manned most of them a year ago. Horford would play next to a staggered five man, likely Kristaps Porziņģis, leaving Brissett, Stevens and Mykhailiuk to earn minutes initially.
Mazzulla also receives an opportunity to rely less often on Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who both averaged over 35 minutes per game one season ago. He fought for his job as interim coach early last year, and didn’t necessarily have an array of reliable options to rest Brown and Tatum. Boston’s depth players meshed well when called upon later in the season, and Hauser enters this year more of a proven contributor than a tryout wing as he effectively entered camp as one season ago. He averaged 16 minutes per game while Grant Williams logged 25.
While Porziņģis, Derrick White and Robert Williams III will eat up many of the minutes the Celtics lost between Marcus Smart (32.1 MPG) and Grant (25.9 MPG), Brogdon’s 26 MPG and Hauser’s 16 MPG remain up for grabs. Here’s the case for each candidate to assume some of them.
Sam Hauser – 6.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.9 APG, 45.5% FG, 41.8% 3PT, 0.2 FTA/G
Held up well defensively and managed to appear 80 games as the go-to backup wing before falling out of the playoff rotation. He continued his run of shooting over 40% from three across all his college and G-League campaigns leading up to his first full NBA season one year ago.
His rebounding leaves room for improvement, making him an imperfect four man in bench units, but as a two-guard, he’d bring more shooting reliability, size defensively and room to get shots off than Pritchard. He’s the safe bet to log similar minutes as he did a year ago ahead of inconsistent shooters battling behind him.
Matchups and a shooting slump like one he faced through December into January (28% 3PT over 24 games) leave him open to a slight downturn in minutes overall, especially if Mazzulla wants to find an eighth man for the playoff rotation. Hauser received five DNPS and only 6.9 MPG in the postseason last year.
Prediction: 14 MPG
Oshae Brissett (IND) – 6.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 38.6% FG, 31.0% 3PT, 2.2 FTA/G (71.7%)
A 25-year-old slasher at 6-7 who brings more physicality to the four than Hauser can, though significantly less than Grant provided at that spot. Brissett, who signed a two-year veteran minimum deal, also comes off his second consecutive downturn in shooting.
He’ll need to knock down open looks, hitting only 34.4% of his wide open looks each night last season after emerging in 2021 by drilling 45.3% of them. A streaky shooter back to his college days, spurts of success behind the line led to his most successful seasons, but Brissett can diversify Boston’s offense as a cutter.
While he hit 42.3% of his threes in a 21-game stint up from the G-League two years ago, he also created 1.61 PPP as a cutter while finishing 88% of his shots on those plays. His finishing took a step back, finishing only 49.3% of his attempts inside five feet. Opponents shot over 49% against him last year, a mark Hauser beat out (46.3%). Brissett rebounds, averaging 7.2 per 36, but not enough to get him on the floor if he can’t hit shots.
Defensively, he won’t switch as well as Grant did, but should hold up against most fours and some threes. His length (7-0) and history playing zone at Syracuse carries some intrigue. Horford will also need some rest throughout the year.
Prediction: 18 MPG
Lamar Stevens (CLE) – 5.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 44.8% FG, 31.6% 3PT, 0.9 FTA/G (70.2%)
Started 25 games for a Cavaliers team that finished as a home court advantage team. Cleveland won Stevens’ minutes by 1.2 points per 100 possessions, not a great number considering who he played with, but his flashes defensively and on the boards led to those opportunities.
The Celtics probably remember his vital eight points and eight rebounds playing +18 minutes into overtime against Boston, where he scored five of Cleveland’s nine points. He shot 34% from three early in the season, perhaps his ceiling as a shooter, but he’s another fine slasher and transition player who can bring some energy into a game where needed.
That’ll probably become his role to start until shots start falling. Opponents shot 42.2% against him on 8.1 attempts per game, a great number.
Prediction: 10 MPG
Svi Mykhailiuk (NY/CHA) – 6.9 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 44.5% FG, 42.4% 3PT, 1.2 FTA/G (66.7%)
Wouldn’t enter camp with much intrigue if not for his run shooting 40% from deep on nearly five attempts over 19 games to finish the year with Charlotte, flashing some second-side playmaking ability while scoring 10.6 PPG.
Mykhailiuk might enter camp as a worse defender, but better overall offensive player than Hauser with a similar game and pedigree as a shooter. That should push the second-year Hauser to lock down his role early, because Mykhailiuk probably views this camp as his last chance to earn an NBA role at 26.
He’ll pose an intriguing case for how much Mazzulla will and can sacrifice defense for shot-making upside, especially with the team likely to play great help-side defense behind the wings with rim protection. I’d still lean toward Hauser winning this battle.
Prediction: 9 MPG
Dalano Banton (TOR) – 4.6 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 42.3% FG, 29.4% 3PT, 0.8 FTA/G (70.8%)
Hard to see him emerging as a wing without hitting threes, as a career 27.5% shooter from deep, and the back court looks crowded in front of him for now too. He might spend some time up in Maine developing in whatever role the Celtics see him transitioning to long-term, while honing his shooting skills. Banton defended well in spot minutes and brings enormous size and length to the point guard spot at 6-7, the reason he’s sticking around despite limited offensive returns early in his career.
Banton didn’t shoot well on the drive (29% FG) or mid-range (13% FG) either, so consider him the least likely to break through consistently. His experience in some zone looks Nick Nurse played in Toronto does intrigue me slightly though after the Celtics ran some zone in Summer League, which Banton took part in this July.
Prediction: 7 MPG
Jordan Walsh (college) – 7.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 43.3% FG, 27.8% 3PT, 1.8 FTA/G (71.2%)
Am I crazy for not ruling out the 19-year-old rookie from this mix? His stats one year ago didn’t fall far beneath what his competitors at the position produced overall in the NBA, then he showed his shooting progression at Summer League, hitting 11-of-27 from deep (40%) while dishing eight assists to nine turnovers with more ball-handling responsibility.
All that ultimately matters playing next to Brown and Tatum will be the shot-making for Walsh, and he brings the perfect frame to defend a variety of positions. The adjustment to defending stronger, faster opponents rattled Walsh at times in Vegas, but a full training camp and some repetitions could prepare him for some early season chances to show he’s more ready than expected. In Maine, I’d love to see his playmaking grow.
Prediction: 10 MPG
Payton Pritchard – 5.6 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 41.2% FG, 36.4% 3PT, 0.3 FTA/G (75%)
Not looked at as a wing at 6-1, but will technically play off-ball if he appears next to Brogdon in second units. Things change if the Celtics empower him on-ball, or Brogdon doesn’t become part of the picture for whatever reason. For now, he’ll have to challenge bigger players defensively and hit shots, the latter not a problem for a 40% career three-point shooter.
Size will challenge his ability to play every night, but he held opponents to 44% shooting last year in isolation, fared better on a points per possession basis (0.88) than Brogdon (1.11) and managed 13 playoff MPG on a team that went to the Finals the year before. He’ll find some role on this team, especially since the Celtics need to determine whether they’ll extend him by the end of October before his restricted free agency next summer.
Prediction: 18 MPG