The Celtics are on a quest to become one of the NBA’s most surprising teams this season (think 2014-15 Hawks). Although they may not be the most talented bunch, the C’s could realistically finish anywhere as high as the No. 4 seed in the cushy Eastern Conference.
There’s one major difference that you’ll notice between this year’s Celtics and last year’s Hawks, though … especially if you’re a DFS player. The Hawks’ success was based off a core of five evenly talented players carrying their team to victory – remember, the entire starting five shared Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors in January last season.
The Celtics are trying to create that same balance, however, they’re going to try to do so by going (at least) 10 players deep all season. Opening Night was the perfect example. Boston handled a far less talented Philly team, 112-95, and Brad Stevens did so using a 10-man rotation in which each player played double-digit minutes.
The scary thing is, Stevens may even use a 12-man rotation on some nights. Both Kelly Olynyk (suspension) and R.J. Hunter (illness) missed Boston’s first game, but project to see decent minutes this season. And even that rotation assumes talented youngsters Terry Rozier, James Young and Jordan Mickey (who all figure to see plenty of time with the Main Red Claws of the D-League) don’t breakout and find their way into the mix.
So is it really worth looking to any Celtics in your DFS lineups? Perhaps not, but that will be the approach of many. So if we can get an idea of what’s going on in Stevens’ head with his rotation, maybe there is something to base a DFS strategy on.
Here are the best three tips I can offer:
1. Monitor injuries – Sure, this is the case with any team. But it will be particularly important with the C’s because they’ll handle each injury in unique fashion. For example, they’re so deep with veteran bigs that if one of the following were to get hurt, the rest would simply receive a few more minutes: Zeller, Lee, Sullinger, Johnson, Olynyk. However, if Isaiah Thomas were to get hurt, it seems obvious that Evan Turner would see a huge bump, while Rozier may find his way into the back of the rotation.
2. The rotation will be based on matchups – Take the 76ers game for example. Tyler Zeller started at center, but played only 10 minutes because he was having trouble with the much bigger Jahlil Okafor. Enter Jared Sullinger – a bigger player that had a solid game. Likewise, David Lee was struggling with Nerlens Noel, so Stevens went to the more athletic Amir Johnson. It might not be obvious right now, but as the season goes on, I think we’ll be able to identify a pattern with Stevens using players based on certain opponents, and maybe even shifting them into the starting lineup.
3. Three players should receive minutes regardless – Those guys are Thomas, Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart. Thomas is hands down the team’s best scorer, so they’re going to need him on a nightly basis to win. He may not replicate his 27-point/7-assist/3-steal game every night, but he should also play more than 29 minutes against better opponents and shoot better than 1-for-6 from deep. Crowder received a big payday over the summer and has become one of the leaders in Boston. He can play both forward positions, and is going to remain on the floor a lot to defend bigger wing players like LeBron or Carmelo. His effort is going to earn him consistent minutes, which will lead to numbers for a well-rounded player like Crowder. Finally, Smart is simply the future of the team. Stevens needs to find out what his ceiling is and let him develop. Smart’s already one of the most hounding defenders in the league, so there’s no reason he shouldn’t lead the Celtics in minutes this season.
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