Chris Forsberg

Has Celtics' bench done enough to change trade deadline calculus?

Does Boston have enough talent in-house, or should Brad Stevens seek reinforcements?

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NBA All-Star reserves will be announced on Thursday evening and we’ll find out just how many of Jayson Tatum’s teammates will join him at the midseason exhibition in Indianapolis.

The Celtics have leaned heavily on the talent-filled starting five of Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kristaps Porzingis, Derrick White, and Jrue Holiday while building the best record in basketball. But Boston needed its depth pieces to navigate a prickly January schedule.

Boston finished 11-5 for the month despite a rigid schedule that crammed games into tight, travel-heavy windows and featured 11 games against teams currently in the playoff picture.

For this week’s Forsberg Four on Celtics Post Up, we decided to put the spotlight on some of Boston’s bench players, who played key roles at various times throughout January. Will their efforts be enough to dissuade president of basketball operations Brad Stevens from maneuvering before the February 8 NBA trade deadline?

We’ll get into that later. But first, the numbers… 

45.8 percent

That was Sam Hauser’s 3-point percentage in January against current playoff-positioned teams.

Over those 11 games, Hauser connected on 22 of 48 3-point attempts. If maintained, that mark would rank among the top three in the NBA. For the season, Hauser is at 41.2 percent, which slots 27th overall but is 17th among all high-volume shooters (200+ 3-point attempts).

While Hauser tends to balk at the term “slump,” he’s had a couple mini funks this season and has been able to right the ship quicker than he did last year. That’s positioned him as the firm No. 7 in the rotation behind Boston’s talented top six (the starters and Al Horford).

The big question with Hauser is whether Hauser can hold up defensively in the playoffs. The defending champion Nuggets were able to target him at times. But, for the month of January, Hauser was solid on the defensive end. Opponents shot 5.3 percent below expected output with Hauser holding them to 42.7 percent shooting overall. That was the best defensive field goal percentage among Boston’s regulars.

In fact, only one bench player was more notable.

37.8 percent

That was what opponents shot in January when defended by backup big man Neemias Queta.

Queta only played 73 total minutes but held opponents to 10.6 percent below expected output, per NBA defensive data tracking. The Celtics had a +18.4 net rating with Queta on the floor in January.

Queta was able to help fill minutes, particularly later in the month when fellow depth big Luke Kornet tweaked a hamstring and Boston found itself shorthanded up front.

On Tuesday night against the Pacers, Queta was a team-best +15 in plus/minus while logging 14 minutes. His night crescendoed with a loud, Shaq-like dunk off a jump ball win in the fourth quarter. Yes, he struggled to rebound the basketball but he made good things happen (even if his first jump ball attempt was comically bad).


That was Payton Pritchard’s team-best plus/minus for the month of January.

Very rarely does anyone top Tatum (+77) or White (+65) in this category over an extended stretch, but Positive P did just that. Over his 350 minutes of floor time, the Celtics posted a +14.7 net rating, the best mark among regulars.

Pritchard continues to prove he doesn’t need to score to make good things happen on the court. He hunts offensive rebounds like someone a foot taller and values the ball on the offensive end. His 3-point shooting dipped slightly from a red-hot December, but Pritchard still chipped in 8.6 points over 21.9 minutes in 16 appearances.


That is our admittedly inflated estimate of cool celebrations that Luke Kornet unveiled in January.

Captain Charisma — he might have pitched that nickname for himself — bookended the month with particularly elite celebrations. It started in Indiana, where, after making a pair of free throws during a stretch in which the Celtics were impossibly cold at the charity stripe, Kornet did an “ice in the veins” celebration. Boston’s bench, including Tatum, loved it and embraced the energy jolt.

On Tuesday night, as the Celtics were trying to hold off a furious rally from the same Pacers at TD Garden, Kornet got caught up in the moment again while celebrating Queta’s jump ball dunk.

Kornet, on the bench and in street clothes due to a hamstring injury, channeled his inner Chazz Reinhold from Wedding Crashers while repeatedly pumping his arms in delight after Queta's dunk (and extended rim hang).

Kornet brought more than just celebrations in January. The 16.4 minutes per game he logged were his most averaged in a full calendar month since January 2020 (a stretch that saw him start 14 straight games for the Bulls before the world shut down due to COVID).

Kornet chipped in 4.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks over 14 January games and provided much-needed consistency with Porzingis and Horford both missing time throughout the month.

So the lingering question is this: Did Boston’s bench brigade -- and you can lump Oshae Brissett in here after he brought good energy each time he got called upon in January -- do enough to make Stevens think twice about splurging assets to add depth before next Thursday’s trade deadline?

Armed with a $6.2 million Grant Williams trade exception, an open roster spot, and a fairly robust collection of draft assets, Stevens has an ability to (rather painlessly) add a body for the stretch run.

But finding a surefire upgrade who fits into the Williams TPE -- and who won’t potentially disrupt the team’s pristine chemistry -- will not be easy. Still, being best team in basketball this far into the season is never promised, so Stevens has to turn over all stones in hopes of finding someone that might help the Celtics in their title quest -- even if that player ultimately doesn’t dent the playoff rotation.

That quest is simply a little less stressful when the guys already in house have performed well in increased opportunities in the ramp to the deadline.

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