During the All-Star Break, Brad Stevens made it clear that rotation changes would be made to the Boston Celtics lineup to get them back on track. The team found itself with a 6-9 record since returning from the London trip to face the New Orleans Pelicans on Jan. 16.
No one really knew what these would entail; Are Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum going to see less minutes? Will Marcus Morris find his way into the starting lineup some nights over Aron Baynes?
We pondered those thoughts and more over the week break that Boston had from Feb. 15-22. The Celtics returned to play at the Detroit Pistons last Friday night beginning the final stretch of regular season games. Since then, the team has played the New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies. We now have a better idea as to what Coach Stevens was referring to when he said rotation changes would be made.
Or do we?
Because of an injury to one player on the Celtcs, a rotation change has been made. But not in the way we expected.
Let’s take a look and see what the changes entailed and how they have led to a 3-0 record for Boston since the All-Star Break.
Theis Gets Expanded Role
It comes as no surprise that guys like Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris have been on the floor for 20-plus minutes a game this season. Each of them possesses a specific talent that can be used early and often against certain matchups.
But, post-All-Star Break, Stevens has been adding one more man off the bench to the rotation of guys from the second unit that’s getting a large chunk of minutes throughout the game. Though the Knicks game is an outlier here, with the starting-5 getting a bunch of minutes in that one, the Celtics first unit has seen it’s minutes shaved down to help guys like Daniel Theis and Greg Monroe find their way onto the floor more often.
The most notable of these two guys is Theis, who on the season is averaging 14 minutes a game for Boston. Since the All-Star Break, though, he has found himself averaging 21 minutes a game. This increase originally occurred because of Baynes’ injury in the first quarter of the Pistons game. However, even with Baynes’ return Monday night against Memphis, Theis still found himself earning 24 minutes, while his veteran teammate had only 16.
Though Monroe did not play during the game against the Grizzlies, which we will get to, the bench still found itself getting more minutes. Morris played seven more minutes than anyone else on the team (34). This proves Stevens wants the first unit so stay under 30 minutes, keeping them fresh with the playoffs around the corner.
During this three-game stretch since the break, Theis has found himself scoring a career-high 19 points against the Knicks. He is averaging 12 points and seven rebounds since the NBA resumed play. The German rookie has proven to be more of a scoring threat than Baynes and another offensive option off the bench for Boston. Theis took advantage of his minutes uptick in the wake of Baynes’ injury. Now, Stevens has recognized and rewarded him with what looks to be an expanded role for the near future.
Monroe Struggling to Find Spot
It looked like midseason acquisition Greg Monroe was going to smoothly work his way into a crucial role for the Celtics off the bench. Then, Monday night squashed all hopes and dreams of that becoming a reality.
After grabbing 19 minutes against Detroit, and then getting a mere 10 minutes vs. New York, Monroe found himself sitting on the bench for the entire game against the Grizzlies. That makes one wonder if he will be able to find himself a permanent spot on this team down the stretch.
Stevens reassured everyone post-game that it was not because Monroe was doing something wrong. Rather, other guys off the bench were just playing really well. He said he didn’t want to mess with their rhythm. However, there’s something to be said for a guy who came to this team to be a rebounder and low-post threat, who was supposed to earn crucial minutes.
The one thing that the Celtics organization looks for in it’s players is versatility. This is an attribute that Monroe simply does not have. This was blatantly obvious during the first half of the Knicks game. New York continually pushed the Celtics into a switch, exposing Monroe for his inability to guard smaller, more elusive players. That was a main reason for a 12-4 run given up early in the game.
Stevens has made it clear that Monroe will find his way back into the lineup and that Monday was a the flow of the game thing. However, the emergence of Theis as of late may have a serious impact on how often Monroe finds himself on the court.
It will for sure be interesting to how the big men shake out in the rotation come playoff time. It may also impact Boston’s search for someone during the offseason.
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