Rather than classifying players with the traditional 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 positional tags, we’re taking a page out of President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens’ book by placing each athlete into one of the following categories:
- Ball handlers – Typically played by the 1.
- Wings – A hybrid between the 2, 3 and 4.
- Bigs – A hybrid between the 4 and the 5.
Two days ago, we tipped off our Roster Breakdown Series with Boston’s bigs. Today, we present their perimeter-based teammates – the wings.
Wings are typically the most versatile players on the floor and are relied upon to take on a heavy scoring load. Defensively, they’ll often be tasked with suppressing elite scorers on opposing teams. Depending on their skill set, they may also be assigned ball-handling duties or they may slide into the frontcourt to take on opposing bigs.
Here are the seven players who will be sharing that job listed in order of minutes played per game last season:
Perhaps the most well-rounded wing league-wide resides in Boston, and his name is Jayson Tatum. He can score from anywhere on the floor, he can defend any position, he can rebound, he can make plays for himself and for others, and the list only goes on from there.
Tatum is coming off a historic season during which he became the first player in Celtics history to log a 30-point-per-game season, and he did so while also leading the league in total points. On top of that, he paced the team in rebounds, 3-point makes and free throws, and was second in assists and steals.
This season, JT will look to continue to lead the way in those areas, while also potentially taking on more ball-handling duties and leadership responsibilities now that Marcus Smart is gone.
In the last couple of seasons, Tatum has risen as an MVP candidate while also coming so close to his first NBA championship. If he can continue to improve just as he has in each of his previous six years, maybe lucky No. 7 will be his year to be a league MVP and a champion.
Having two All-NBA players in the same position group on the same team is almost unheard of, but that’s exactly what the Celtics have in Tatum and his wingmate, Jaylen Brown. JB is also coming off a career year during which he averaged 26.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 49.1 percent from the field, earning him All-NBA Second Team honors.
Combined, those two averaged 56.7 PPG, while no other duo in the league (minimum 65 games played together) even reached 50.0 PPG. The scary part is they are both just entering their prime playing years.
Entering year eight, Brown now holds the distinction of being Boston’s longest-tenured player, and he, too, will be relied upon to help lead this team. The soon-to-be 27-year-old has a little extra incentive this season now that he has a nice new contract extension in hand, and he’s all-in on helping the C’s achieve their championship goals.
We shift from the longest-tenured player to the newest member of the team. Signed just a week before the start of training camp, Lamar Stevens has an opportunity to prove himself a viable backup for the Jays.
Stevens is a totally different type of player compared to Brown and Tatum in the sense that he is more of a defensive dog than a high-volume scorer. But every team needs those defensive dogs.
Stevens played his first three seasons in Cleveland after going undrafted in 2020, and he saw his role increase year over year. His hustle on the defensive end earned him 25 starts last season for a 51-win Cavs squad.
The Celtics recently got a taste of Stevens’ impact during a March 6 matchup in Cleveland where he grabbed six offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter and overtime, and also made a go-ahead and a game-winning basket down the stretch in overtime, during a 118-114 Cavs victory.
It’ll be nice to have him on Boston’s side now.
OK, so we’re doubling up here because Oshae Brissett is somewhat of a special case. He’s not a typical wing, and he’s also not a traditional big (we also listed him as one in our Bigs Breakdown), but he plays a little bit of both.
Brissett is a slashing 4, so he’s not the type of wing who will be consistently camping out beyond the arc. On the other end, he’s an exceptionally versatile defender, so he can guard guys on the perimeter and in the paint.
The 25-year-old Toronto native spent his last three seasons in Indiana, where he averaged 8.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in 153 appearances, including 43 starts. He has a strong rebounding presence on both ends and his 5.4 offensive rebound percentage last season ranked in the 83rd percentile.
Brissett should be a solid addition to the frontcourt and his versatility will allow him to play somewhat of a hybrid big/wing role.
While Brissett and Stevens can provide defensive depth at the wing position, Sam Hauser will be aiming to provide a scoring punch.
Hauser broke into the rotation last season and gave the Celtics 6.4 points per game off the bench while averaging 16.1 minutes in 80 appearances. He made 140 3-pointers at an impressive 41.8 percent clip and made 40 of his 61 attempts from inside the arc.
Hauser also played an underrated role on the defensive end. Teams often underestimated him and targeted him in individual matchups, but that approach generally didn’t pay off, as Hauser led the league with a 106.4 defensive rating.
When given substantial minutes, Hauser was a major scoring contributor. He averaged 15.5 points per game during his eight starts, which ranked third on the team behind Tatum and Brown among players with at least five starts. That included back-to-back, career-high, 26-point efforts to close out the regular season. So he’ll look to pick up where he left off.
The C’s added another sharpshooter in early September by signing five-year veteran Svi Mykhailiuk. The Ukrainian wing spent last season split between New York and Charlotte and shot 42.4 percent from long range combined for both clubs.
Like Hauser, Mykhailiuk also put up big numbers when given an increased role. He started the last seven games for the Hornets, during which he averaged 17.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.4 steals per game.
Those are all nice numbers, but the most important one he put up all season was his 50.0 percent clip on open 3-point attempts, which ranked second in the NBA behind Luke Kennard’s mark of 51.9%. A shooter like that should thrive on a team with elite spacing such as the Celtics.
Most Jordan Walsh draft talk centered around the 19-year-old’s NBA-ready defensive skill set. However, the second-round pick may have more to offer than just that, as indicated by his Summer League performance.
Walsh led the Summer League squad with 18.0 points per game, which included a 25-point outburst against the Lakers. He was also the most prolific 3-point shooter on the team, knocking down 11-of-27 from deep for a 40.7 percent clip – a vast improvement from the 27.8 percent clip he logged during his lone year in college.
It will take more than a special summer for Walsh to crack Boston’s rotation, but he is certainly an option for Joe Mazzulla to call upon.
Jay Scrubb also had a stellar summer for the Celtics – good enough to earn him a two-way contract with the organization. He was the most consistent scorer on the team in July, logging between 15 and 18 points during each of their first four games in Las Vegas.
Scrubb had the eighth-highest scoring average in the G League last season at 22.3 points per game and was also one of six players to earn at least 100 trips to the free-throw line. He also has an intriguing story, being one of the few Junior College players to ever be drafted and play in an NBA game.
The 23-year-old Louisville native will split his time this coming season between Boston and Maine.