Boston Celtics bench players rising to solid gold standard

Dec 25, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics point guard Malcolm Brogdon (13) dribbles the ball against Milwaukee Bucks point guard Jevon Carter (5) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 25, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics point guard Malcolm Brogdon (13) dribbles the ball against Milwaukee Bucks point guard Jevon Carter (5) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports /

Heading into the 2022-23 NBA season, the Boston Celtics were primed to have the deepest roster the franchise has had in years.

Safe to say, heading into the new year, the expectation has proven to be true.

An injury to Danilo Gallinari threw an initial wrench into plans. But the Celtics had time to adapt and adjust and currently have the league’s best record at 24-10.

The dynamic duo of Jayson Tatum (30.9 ppg) and Jaylen Brown (26.6 ppg) deserve a lot of the credit. They’ve upped their game even more this season and remain the focus of the Boston offense. Being helped out by versatile bench players, allowing interchangeable lineups to play at their best, is a strong force driving the Celtics this season.

Bench rising for Boston Celtics

A few seasons back, the starting lineup for the Celtics was basically set in stone and carried the brunt of the workload. Fingers were crossed a player or two off the bench would step up, especially if a starter had an off night.

The bench aspect improved beginning in January of last season and has been even better in this season’s first 34 games.

Versatility on both ends of the court has allowed this bench to flourish. A nice mix of scorers and playmakers are thriving, with a contributing roster down through the 12th-man. Defensively, too, this roster has been built to maximize talent and skill. Many on the bench, like those players in the starting lineup, can efficiently guard multiple positions.

And that begins with Malcolm Brogdon.  Saw a lot of his versatility on defense in the victory on Christmas Day. Brogdon guarded Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo on occasion, forcing him into some difficult shots. As stars do, Antetokounmpo knocked down a few against Brogdon but he had to earn it.

Brogdon has slid right into his role on this Boston team. His 13.6 points per game are third on the team and tops off the bench. Brogdon is bringing consistency, knocking down 43.7 percent from deep and 48.1 percent from the floor.

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Playing in 29 games this season, Brogdon has reached point totals in double figures 19 times. Five of these games were 20 or more, with a season-high 25 in a victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Brogdon has not reached 20 in a game in December and has only scored a combined 15 points in Boston’s last two games. Brogdon is also in a bit of a slump from the 3-point range, connecting on only 3 of his last 13.

He’s received good help from bench mate Grant Williams, with Sam Hauser, Blake Griffin, Noah Vonleh and the rest finding moments this season to contribute.

An added aspect is the return of Robert Williams III. Williams has appeared in four games since his return, averaging just under 18 minutes per game. It will be interesting to see if he’s inserted back into the lineup — or how soon — or if he ends up being a key player off the bench.

That’s because Derrick White is a nice, steady force in the lineup. White proved that last season, coming off the bench or starting as needed. Whether Williams gets back into the lineup, with perhaps even Al Horford transitioning to a bench role, White will continue to play an integral part.

Boston Celtics spotlight: Derrick White

White is one of two Celtics to play in all 34 games this season, the other being Hauser, and has transitioned back-and-forth between bench and starter nicely.

White was a great addition last season in Boston’s NBA Finals run. He’s been just as good this season, providing a solid foundation for this team. Even if he ultimately slides back to the bench, White is one of the best assets on this team.

Out of the 34 games, White has started 27 times. He’s averaging 9.9 points but, like many of the Celtics throughout the month of December, has had his struggles. After closing out November by scoring in double figures in 10 of 11 games, including a 26-point, 10-assist game in a victory over New Orleans.

After scoring in double digits only twice in the month’s first 10 games, White has returned to form in the last two, totaling 30 points. This is to along with eight rebounds and eight assists.

White, during Boston’s three-game losing streak, was a collective 2-19 from the field with only 13 points.

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White and Brogdon are at the forefront of a supporting cast behind the top duo and Marcus Smart, who is averaging a career-best 7.4 assists per game. The individuals on this roster have assumed their roles with grace, stepping up when the minutes appear. A healthy, productive bench will also help ease the minutes for the starters, keeping the team winning and making a desirable run to another Finals appearance.