Pregame Post-Ups: The First Starting Five

Monday, Oct. 2 - Hornets at Celtics

Pregame – The First Starting Five

BOSTON – With a combined nine All-Star appearances among them, there is no doubt that Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and Kyrie Irving will be starting for the Boston Celtics on a nightly basis this season. The biggest question mark entering the campaign is, who will be occupying the other two spots in the starting rotation?

At least for tonight, in Boston’s preseason opener against the Charlotte Hornets, those two spots will be taken by Jaylen Brown at the 2 and Aron Baynes at the 5.

So, now the question is, how much should fans read into this decision?

“I guess you could read into whatever you want,” Brad Stevens answered ahead of the 7:30 p.m. tip-off. “I’ve had discussions with a couple of different guys. I’ve told Baynes he could be starting against certain matchups and he could be coming off the bench. I told Marcus Smart the same thing. I told Jaylen the same thing.”

The battle for the starting 2 spot is one of the most prominent storylines heading into the season. There was some speculation that Smart, who now has three seasons under his belt and is the longest-tenured member of the team, had the best chance at earning that role. But the athletically-gifted Brown has made a strong case for the role as well.

“It’s not one of those things where it’s a competition; it’s who fits best with who and when,” said Stevens. “Marcus’ experience and Marcus’ impact I think are really going to be needed, at least right now, off the bench with what’s otherwise a pretty young unit. So that’s where we are right now, but that could change Friday.”

As Stevens indicated, the starting center role will also likely be matchup-based. Baynes’ rim protection and physicality will be needed tonight against an elite big man in Dwight Howard. However, the C’s could go small with Horford at the 5 on nights when they face off against a smaller center.

With this being just the first game of the preseason, it’s hard to put much stock into starting roles outside of Hayward, Horford and Irving. Stevens’ comments, however, signal that Baynes, Brown and Smart will all likely have opportunities to start this season, and for now those decisions will be matchup-based.

- Taylor C. Snow