Forsberg: Has decision already been made on Celtics' starting five?


After the Boston Celtics traded for Malcolm Brogdon this offseason, some wondered if the veteran guard would slot in a starting role given both his talent and bloated salary number.

Brogdon was quick to suggest he’ll do whatever the team asks when introduced in July and president of basketball operations Brad Stevens suggested again Tuesday that the team will enter training camp with the expectation of keeping their starting five intact.

"So we had a conversation before we traded for Brogdon and, hey, we’re bringing back the best starting lineup, by the numbers, in the league, right?” Stevens said during an interview with WEEI. “So we want to add to our team and Brogdon gives us the ability to do that. And it's better to do that with him coming off the bench.

"Now, he's a guy that was able to say, 'OK, this is something that, at my age and stage, I have done a lot to impact [winning], I've ... made a lot of money, and I'm excited to be a part of it.’ And so for him to come and say this is what I'm excited to do, that's helpful because that also sets a tone for the appropriate sacrifice you need to be a good team."

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Boston’s starting five of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford posted a plus-24.6 net rating over 443 regular-season minutes together last season. Among the 34 five-man pairings with at least 200 minutes played, no other team was particularly close. (Philadelphia had a five-man group at plus-20.2 in 323 minutes together but the next closest was Utah at plus-16.9).

The Celtics were 27-7 with their preferred starting five. The backline combo of Williams and Horford helped that starting group maintain a defensive rating of 94.2. Boston led the NBA overall in defensive rating at 106.2.

The Celtics have a bit more versatility with lineups after the additions of Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari this offseason. Despite the success of Boston’s starting five last year, there could certainly be tweaks during the 2022-23 season. Ime Udoka will have to gauge his best groups starting in training camp.

Boston must tread cautiously with minutes given Horford’s age and Williams’ injury history, along with an overall desire to keep the Jays fresh after Tatum admitted recently that he ran out of gas at the end of the Finals last year.

But heading to camp, it appears the Celtics will try to maintain the chemistry and cohesion the starting five had last season.

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