After Opening Night | How The Celts Can Move Forward
by Jarvis Mahogany Scores & Statson
The NBA's opening night is in the books and with it the Celtics lofty preseason expectations took a major hit. Gordon Hayward suffered a horrific injury to his left ankle 6 minutes into his Celtics debut. He came down awkwardly going for an alley-oop and was left with an injury that made even the most stoic flinch.
It's a long season in the NBA, and the Celtics will have to quickly figure out how to move forward without Hayward after we found out he was done for the season.
The option most believe is the most logical is to have Jayson Tatum sliding in the starting lineup in Hayward's spot. This would leave the Celtics with a starting lineup on most nights that goes Irving, Brown, Tatum, Horford, and power forward Marcus Morris, when he returns from injury. This allows Marcus Smart to remain in his role as 6th man, which is what Stevens prefers.
Watch when Gordon Hayward addressed his home crowd thanking them for their support.
Outside of Smart (4th season in the NBA), the options get really young and inexperienced in the Celtics wing rotation. Jaylen Brown started against the Warriors on opening night and received 40 minutes scoring 25 points on 11-23 shooting with 6 rebounds. Brown is in his 2nd year in the league while Tatum, Abdel Nader, and Semi Ojeleye are all rookies. Ojeleye looks to at least get a short-term minutes bump while the Celtics are continuing to figure things out.
If Hayward is ruled out for the season then Boston will be eligible to apply for a rarely used disabled player exception worth $8.4 million. This exception can be used to sign a free agent to a one-year contract or acquire a player on an expiring contract via trade or waivers.
If the Celtics decide a trade is a route they want to go, their best trade asset may be Marcus Smart. The Celtics combo guard failed to come to an agreement on an extension and therefore becomes a restricted free agent next summer. It seems the Boston Celtics are having a hard time justifying paying Smart the kind of money he wants in this current overinflated contract period the NBA currently is experiencing. Smarts defensive skills are elite, but he has not really gotten any better on the offensive side of the ball since he joined the league. Will Barton of the Denver Nuggets would be an obvious candidate to initially explore.
Free agency is another potential possibility, but the market for wing players looks pretty thin. Matt Barnes and Alan Anderson lead a relatively uninspiring group of option available via the wire. You may be able to find a role player in this batch but looking for anything more than a few meaningful minutes is going to be tough to find here.
The Celtics should be able to manage the regular season in a watered down Eastern Conference with what they have now, but many will doubt their postseason ability without Hayward. Cleveland was the odds-on favorite before the injury and those odds only continued to rise in the aftermath. Boston hosts the Milwaukee Bucks tonight as a -3 point favorite after opening as a -7.5 point favorite before the injury extent was known.