Last season down the stretch, Boston went small more and more often, using Jae Crowder as a four. Small ball works (see the NBA champs) and the league is trending that way.
But Brad Stevens may have his Celtics working against the grain this season. Or at least he’s going to explore it.
With the additions of Amir Johnson and David Lee to go with Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk, Stevens has options. He told Jay King of MassLive.com that he’s going to experiment a little.
This is the smart move to make — you have to adjust your system to the players, not go Mike D’Antoni and try to jam square pegs into round holes. (He eventually adjusted some with the Lakers, but not until it was too late.)
Plus, going against the grain can often be successful.
Small ball works — if you have the right players to execute it. Golden State went small but thanks to Draymond Green their defense didn’t suffer. Miami’s defense was quite good with Bosh as a center when they were winning. But those two teams have elite talent, and teams that do it and don’t have the talent can be exposed.
Meanwhile, guys like Lee, Jared Sullinger, Zeller, Olynyk, and crew could feast on small lineups. Stevens is smart enough to figure out what works best.
There are high hopes for the Canadian national team at FIBA Americas, which is a qualifying event for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Canada has qualified for just one of the last six Olympics (they finished seventh in 2000), but with an improved roster that includes Andrew Wiggins, Nik Stauskas, and six other NBA players, they are a team on the rise. And hope north of the border is rising with them.
One of those NBA guys is the Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk, but he tweaked his knee against Argentina. Olynyk sat out the next game, but the coach said not to worry.
Jay Triano said that again on Wednesday, reports Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun.
FIBA Americas starts Aug. 31; Canada opens the next day against Argentina (which is without Manu Ginobili).
This is good news for the Celtics and Olynyk as well.
Boston is loaded at the four — Jared Sullinger, David Lee, Jordan Mickey, Jonas Jerebko, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder — all can get some run at that slot. Any setback for Olynyk is not good, but this seems to be a minor one.
Kelly Olynyk faces plenty of competition for playing time this season. Jared Sullinger, David Lee, Kelly Olynyk, Jordan Mickey, Jonas Jerebko, Perry Jones III, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder could all see minutes at power forward.
So, even the smallest setback could put Olynyk behind the eight ball with the Celtics.
It seems that’s what Olynyk faces after playing for Canada in an FIBA Americas tuneup against Argentina.
Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun:
Olynyk returning to the bench seems positive, but it’d be reassuring to hear an official diagnosis.
It pays to be a big man in the NBA. Teams are always hungry for size, and if you can harness those physical tools into actual basketball skills, it will pay off big-time when it comes time to negotiate a new contract. A year ago, the idea of Tyler Zeller being a priority for a team to sign to a contract extension seemed absurd. But after a solid first year with the Celtics, it’s becoming more likely that they’ll want to lock him up long-term, or else someone else will.
From CSNNE.com’s A. Sherrod Blakely:
Last month we saw how the Boston Celtics rewarded Jae Crowder for making the most of his opportunity to play significant minutes after being acquired from Dallas in December. They signed the 6-foot-6 Crowder to a five-year, $35 million deal.
Will Tyler Zeller be next?
The 7-foot center is among three Celtics (Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones III) from the 2012 draft class who are in line for a potential extension this fall. But of the trio, Zeller is the most likely to get a deal done prior to the October 31 deadline.
In his first two seasons with the Cavaliers, Zeller seemed on track to be little more than a permanent backup. But he made a jump last season after being traded to the Celtics. He’s mobile for a seven-footer, able to run the floor well and finish around the basket, which proved to be a perfect fit for the offense Brad Stevens ran in Boston.
With the salary cap going up next summer, teams will be motivated to lock in young players to long-term deals now at what will be below market value once the jump takes place. Don’t be surprised if Zeller gets eight figures annually in a new deal. The idea of a four-year, $40 million extension for him seems crazy now, but if he proves to be a long-term starting-caliber center, that looks a lot more reasonable under a cap that’s expected to be closer to $89 million in 2016, when the extension would kick in.
Agreeing to re-signing Jonas Jerebko was step one of the Celtics’ plan to retain its key free agents.
Locking up restricted free agent Jae Crowder is step two.
Shams Charania of RealGM:
This is a nice value signing for Boston, and it will only look better as the salary cap skyrockets.
Crowder’s defensive versatility is key in Brad Stevens’ system. Crowder has the strength and tenacity to defend in the post, and he’s probably more natural covering on the perimeter. He’s more raw offensively, but he can handle the ball and knock down jumpers.
At 24, Crowder has shown plenty of promise and production, and his best days are probably ahead of him. Ideally for the Celtics, he’ll grow into a larger role as their financial commitment to him shrinks relative to the salary cap.
Because Crowder has a cap hold of just the minimum salary, Boston will probably delay officially signing him until using the rest of its cap space.