When the Boston Celtics selected Terry Rozier with the 16th overall selection in the 2015 draft, people immediately began scratching their heads. Don’t the Celtics already have a surplus of combo guards? Does Rozier really fill a need?
Boston then proceeded to select swingman R.J. Hunter at No. 28.
That pick was met with much less resistance, as Hunter profiled as a potential Kevin Martin-type who could light it up from long range.
Well, both Rozier and Hunter might get their chances now, as Marcus Smart has been shelved for “at least a couple of weeks” with a bone bruise in his left knee, per A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.
Just the way the timetable was phrased is a concern. “At least a couple of weeks” could end up being two months. Of course, you hope for the best-case scenario, but you also have to be prepared for the worst.
Thankfully for the C’s, their backcourt depth can be utilized in Smart’s absence.
Rozier has only played in seven of the Celtics’ 13 games this season (averaging 7.9 minutes), spending some time down in the D-League to hone his skills.
The Louisville product has drawn comparisons to Eric Bledsoe due to his strong body and aggressive style of play, and while he certainly won’t be putting up Bledsoe numbers anytime soon (if at all), he has a chance to grow over this next stretch of games.
Hunter has seen a bit more action on the NBA level, playing in eight contests and averaging 11 minutes. He has flashed his smooth stroke from the perimeter and has also demonstrated his defensive ability, using his long arms to create some issues for opponents.
Brad Stevens would be remiss if he didn’t give these two rookies more of a look in the coming weeks.
Yes, the objective is to win games, and Boston, for all intents and purposes, is aiming to make the playoffs this season, but you would also like to give your youngsters some burn and see what they are made of.
After all, how else are they going to get experience?
Now, this doesn’t mean that Stevens should throw Rozier and Hunter to the wolves and play them 20-25 minutes a night. Something like 10-15 minutes every game would suffice, and that number would be flexible depending on how well/poorly the two guards are playing.
Just because the C’s are in the playoff hunt does not mean they should ignore the fact that they are in Year Three of their rebuild, and Rozier and Hunter are a part of that process.
For example, does it really make a whole lot of sense to prioritize Evan Turner over the two rooks? Turner is obviously more polished seeing as how he has five-plus years of NBA experience under his belt, but at the age of 27, he probably isn’t going to get much better than he is right now (which isn’t very good, anyway).It would not be too harmful to cut into Turner’s minutes and give some to Rozier and Hunter, and it would actually be beneficial for the future.
Let’s also keep this in mind: the Celtics are starving for three-point shooting this year, ranking just 24th in the league in three-point percentage coming into play on Nov. 23. Hunter would provide a perimeter threat for Boston and would greatly assist in floor spacing.
So, if you want to look it from a present-day point of view, playing Hunter heavier minutes could actually help the C’s in their quest for making the playoffs this season.
Still, that’s not what this is about.
This is about getting Rozier and Hunter’s feet wet with some legitimate minutes.
Doing so will not only serve to develop them for next season and beyond, but to showcase them and increase their potential trade value. Rozier and Hunter are two guys that could represent viable trade pieces next summer, so it would be a wise move to play them now.
Again, Hunter can spread the floor, and Rozier has the speed, quickness and athleticism to fit seamlessly into the Celtics’ fast-paced offense. Boston loves to run, and getting Rozier out in transition with the likes of Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder sounds tantalizing.
Of course, Rozier and Hunter not only have to contend with Turner for minutes but Bradley and Isaiah Thomas, as well. It’s completely understood that there may not be a whole lot of minutes available.
However, with Smart sidelined, the door has absolutely been opened for Stevens to turn to Rozier and Hunter, and developing those youngsters is much more important than making a run at a potential first-round playoff exit.
Play the kids, Brad.