BROOKLYN — In the first three seasons of the KG era, the Boston Celtics’ starting lineup was constant.
Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins. That’s what you expected to see when you arrived at the arena or turned on your TV to watch the Celtics, and that’s what you got. Over those three seasons, that group started 214 of a possible 304 games and played 4,172 minutes together, which was 1,709 more than any other lineup around the league over that time. And they were very, very good.
Most used lineups, 2007-08 through 2009-10, including postseason
|BOS||Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, Perkins||214||4,172||109.2||95.5||+13.7||+1,063|
|ATL||Bibby, Johnson, Williams, Smith, Horford||161||2,463||105.1||104.7||+0.4||+5|
|OKC||Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Green, Krstic||99||1,674||102.5||105.8||-3.3||-86|
|UTA||Williams, Brewer, Kirilenko, Boozer, Okur||109||1,615||109.9||106.7||+3.2||+100|
|NOH||Paul, Peterson, Stojakovic, West, Chandler||83||1,548||112.9||102.5||+10.4||+325|
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Then Perkins blew out his knee and was eventually traded. Over the last two seasons, the Celtics’ starting lineup wasn’t nearly as consistent, with Glen Davis, Nenad Krstic, Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal and Brandon Bass taking turns as the other big man next to Garnett. And after Bass finally became the starting power forward in the second half of last season, Avery Bradley replaced Allen at the two.
This season, there could be even more flux in the Celtics’ lineup. First of all, Bradley is out to start the season, still recovering from shoulder surgery. But beyond that, it may just be that Doc Rivers decides to mix and match.
Three starters are set in stone. They are, of course, Rondo, Pierce and Garnett. After that, Rivers isn’t sure which way he’s going to go.
Rivers used five different starting lineups in the Celtics’ first five preseason games, but has started Courtney Lee and Jared Sullinger in each of the last two. The coach likes the rookie with the starting group, having previously said that he wants to play Sullinger mostly at the four.
“I don’t know if that’s the way I’m going to go, but I do like that,” Rivers said after Thursday’s win in Brooklyn. “And I like Brandon with the second unit, because it gives us another scorer, a guy who can play.
“Having said that, I don’t know what type of team we have. I’m not sure we’ll have a set lineup this year. I think there will be nights where they have a quick four that we start Brandon. Then there will be nights where they don’t and you start Sullinger. There may be nights when we start Paul and Jeff [Green] at the two and the three. I hope we don’t we have to do that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the way we went.”
Having options is a lot better than the alternative, which is the position the Celtics were in last season. And they seemingly got deeper with the addition of Leandro Barbosa on Thursday, though Rivers says he doesn’t know what kind of shape Barbosa is in.
“We don’t have a back-up point, but we have another ballhandler,” Rivers said. “Our theory is if we throw three ballhandlers out on the floor, someone can bring the ball up. And that’s the way we’ll play with our second unit.”
If everyone stays healthy, the Celtics should be a fascinating statistical study this season, in regard to the quantity and quality of their different lineups.
“My guess is what will happen this year is if we have six combinations that we think right now, three of them will be really good,” Rivers said. “And then the other three will not be as good as we want them to be, because all the combinations aren’t going to work.”