Boston Celtics bench unit could be the difference maker this season

Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s been well established by now that the Boston Celtics are the hottest team in the NBA right now. The C’s have transformed their record, which once sat at 18-21, to 36-26 over their previous 23 games. For those keeping track, that’s an impressive 18-5 run during that time.

This run has catapulted the Celtics up the Eastern Conference standings. They now find themselves in a tight race among the top six teams in the East, where despite sitting in sixth place, they are just four games behind the current number one seed, the Miami Heat. A win later today against the Indiana Pacers would put them into a tie for the fifth seed with the Milwaukee Bucks.

It’s been a whirlwind past couple of months for Boston and their Celtics to say the least. This season has been flipped on it’s head for the C’s, and there’s hope that a deep playoff run could be in store for this team. With Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown leading the pack, and a suddenly deep rotation playing behind them, it looks like the Boston Celtics can hang with any team in the league.

While Tatum and Brown have been great this season, it’s safe to say this run would not be possible without help from the rest of their rotation. The starting five (when healthy) has been great all season long, but the bench has also started to step up as of late and leave their mark on some of these victories. The starting five will continue to star for the rest of the season, but if the bench unit can keep up their solid play, the Celtics might just be the team to beat in the East.

The Boston Celtics bench is going to have to continue to step up this season

The Boston Celtics ideal starting five sees Tatum and Brown paired up with Marcus Smart, Al Horford, and Rob Williams. This starting group is a tight defensive unit that can put the clamps down on any opponent, and the more time they spend on the court together, the better they get.

Head coach Ime Udoka has pretty much settled in on an eight man rotation that sees Derrick White, Payton Pritchard, and Grant Williams be the three guys coming off the bench. Occasionally Daniel Theis or Aaron Nesmith will get thrown into the action from time to time, but assuming the game is close, these are probably the eight guys head coach Ime Udoka is going to battle with.

These three guys, or whoever else can muscle their way into the rotation, are going to be crucial. The more help that can be given to Tatum and Brown, the better. They finally have gotten some help from their supporting cast, and it’s led to the best stretch of basketball this season for the team.

The most important piece off the bench is going to be White. Picked up at the trade deadline, White has pretty much been everything the C’s envisioned he would be when they handed over a pretty big package for him. White makes quick, smart decisions with the ball, is generally good for 10+ points off the bench every night, and plays fantastic perimeter defense at the guard position.

With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, White is going to usually be the guy that finds himself replacing Horford on the court. This gives Boston a more natural two guards/two forwards/one center lineup to help combat opposing teams top five players. This is going to be crucial in the playoffs, when most of the top teams the Celtics are competing with have a pair of dangerous guards that can take games over. Having White helps ensure that won’t happen.

The other guard Udoka has chosen to include in the rotation is Pritchard. After sitting on the bench for long stretches of the season, the trade of Dennis Schroder has opened up more minutes for Pritchard, and he’s done his best to keep them. He’s a bit of a liability on defense, but he’s a solid scorer and distributor on offense, and when he gets going like he did yesterday against the Detroit Pistons (19 PTS, 6 AST) he can be a real contributor off the bench.

In terms of big man depth, Grant Williams is basically the jack-of-all-trades. He can do pretty much anything you need him to defensively, although his lack of size can be a bit of a detriment at times. Offensively, Williams has turned himself into a knockdown three point shooter, and with more consistent playing time, he’s turned himself into a double-digit scorer off the bench if he gets a couple of his threes to fall.

There will be times where Boston needs more height, which is where Theis will probably chip in, but these are going to be the three guys that make up the bench unit for the most part. They offer a unique blend of scoring, defense, and playmaking, and recently, they have been just what the Celtics have needed.

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If the bench can keep supporting the starting five like they have recently, the Boston Celtics are going to be a very dangerous team come playoff time. With White, Williams, and Pritchard they have a solid eight man group that Udoka can mix and match to take advantage of the matchups he likes. The Celtics have been one of the best teams in basketball as of late, and if the bench keeps playing well, don’t be surprised to see Boston playing basketball well into the postseason.