Terry Rozier etched his name into playoff folklore last season, providing the jolt that the Boston Celtics needed to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
Entering the 2019-20 season, it was clear that playing time and roles could be difficult for the Celtics to define. The return of Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving highlighted this potential storyline, with the two biggest question marks being Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier.
How would these two handle their new and possibly-decreased roles? With about 30 percent of the season remaining, it’s apparent that Morris’ transition has been much smoother than Rozier’s.
At first glance, the 24-year-old’s current stats aren’t all that different from last season’s numbers. He’s averaging about three less minutes and two less points per game, to go along with lower field goal and three-point percentages. So yeah, if you look at it from a strictly statistical standpoint, it’s not that urgent – Rozier’s numbers don’t scream “bench him”, but a deeper look may suggest a change.
In decreased minutes off the bench, Rozier has pressed to an uncomfortable and inefficient level. On Saturday night against the Chicago Bulls, that problem came to a head. In 15:47 of action in Boston’s latest loss, Rozier put up nine field goal attempts, making just one of them. He was 1/6 from three to go along with an abysmal -52.2 net rating.
That’s tough to do when playing starter’s minutes, let alone just under 16. In fairness, Irving was the only Celtic with a positive net rating on Saturday, but Rozier’s number stuck out by a large margin. That’s become a relatively common theme as of late – he’s shooting just under 29 percent over the last five games.
The Louisville product has shown brief glimpses of the artist formerly known as Scary Terry this year, but the unfortunate majority has been highlighted by poor shot selection and forced play in limited minutes. Most of those positive moments have come when Rozier gets the start in place of an absent Kyrie Irving.
As a starter (30.8 mpg), Rozier is averaging 13.3 points, 5.8 assists, and 5.4 rebounds on 43.9 percent shooting. Coming off the bench (21.5 mpg), his averages fall to 8 points, 2.6 assists, and 3.9 rebounds on 36 percent shooting.
Obviously bench numbers are often times lower than those of starters due to the minute differential, but Rozier’s play completely changes with each role. His play as a starter is much more patient and comfortable than when he comes off the bench. It’s almost as if his limited bench minutes force him into pressing due to less time on the floor.
Whatever the reason may be, his play has been concerning as of late. At some point, Brad Stevens will need to look towards his bench and consider giving some of those minutes to a more consistent contributor.
Some people have suggested giving Brad Wanamaker the nod, which wouldn’t be a bad idea. Come playoff time, it would be surprising if Wanamaker is getting time in place of some Rozier-minutes, but for now, Stevens should give this some thought.
Wanamaker has appeared in 27 games, averaging 3.6 points on 47.2 percent shooting in 9.2 minutes per game. He doesn’t provide the upside that Rozier does, but giving him some extra burn over the next month or might make Rozier re-think his recent shot-selection.
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