Stevens Faces Tough Call at Power Forward
BOSTON – Brad Stevens is known as a forward thinker, and he’s going to live up to that reputation over the next couple of months.
Odds are that Stevens is going to spend quite a bit of time thinking about forwards – and in particular, power forwards – until opening night on October 30. He has a lot of options at the four spot, but he can choose only one of those options as Boston’s starter.
Brandon Bass is the Celtics’ incumbent starter at power forward. He has started 133 of his 166 games with Boston over the past two seasons, averaging 10.2 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game. He is a deadly pick-and-pop player alongside Rajon Rondo and provides valuable versatility on defense.
This season, however, Bass isn’t the only legitimate option for Boston’s starting power forward spot. Stevens has three other players to consider at the position as well.
Chief among those options is Kris Humphries, who was acquired from the Brooklyn Nets during the offseason. Humphries has excelled as a starter during his career, particularly during the past three seasons.
While playing with Brooklyn/New Jersey from 2010 to 2012, Humphries started 106 of 136 games. His numbers during that timespan were fantastic – 58 double-doubles and averages of 11.9 PPG and 10.7 RPG. The Nets may not have been very good, but Humphries certainly was.
Humphries’ best skill, rebounding, would be a welcome addition to Boston’s starting lineup. It’s no secret that the Celtics have struggled mightily in the rebounding department over the past few seasons. The team has ranked either last or next to last in that department in each of its last four campaigns.
One player who tried to buck that trend last season is Jared Sullinger, who’s likely to give Bass and Humphries a run for their money. In fact, Sullinger started the final two games of his season before going down with a lower back injury.
Sullinger suffered that injury on January 30 and underwent lumbar disc surgery shortly thereafter. He’s now seven months removed from the procedure and is expected to be healthy for the start of the season.
The 6-foot-9 forward has already proven to be worthy of big time minutes. He averaged 10.9 PPG and 10.7 RPG per 36 minutes as a rookie last season. Sullinger also ranked 22nd in the league in rebounding percentage among players who appeared in at least 40 games.
Sullinger and Humphries are undoubtedly the top rebounding options for Stevens, but if the coach wants go to with youth and offense, he could wind up starting rookie Kelly Olynyk.
The Celtics acquired the draft rights to Kelly Olynyk from the Dallas Mavericks, who selected him with the 13th overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Olynyk played with the C’s during the Orlando Pro Summer League and garnered national attention for his polished offensive repertoire. He averaged 18.0 PPG over five contests in the league, which ranked third among players who appeared in at least three games. Stevens, who watched all of Olynyk’s games, raved about the rookie’s basketball IQ and polish. The first-year coach clearly likes Olynyk’s game.
That fact might wind up making Stevens’ decision even more difficult come opening night. He has four legitimate players who are talented enough to hold down the starting role, but only one will be on the floor for tip-off.
Only 52 days remain for Stevens to contemplate this difficult decision. Let the forward thinking begin.