Mailbag: Hayward's Ascent, Small Ball, Centers and... Ubuntu?

BOSTON - We called on you, Celtics Nation, to submit your burning questions about the upcoming season. You answered the call, and now we've answered your questions.

Let's jump right into the Mailbag and break down some expectations heading into Training Camp, which begins Oct. 1.

ANSWER: I’d put my money on Brad Wanamaker. He was an excellent third guard last season in spotty minutes. He’ll be even better with a more consistent role. Carsen Edwards will need to earn his minutes; Wanamaker already has. In the meantime, Edwards, can serve as a microwave scorer off the bench during offensive droughts. Think of Isaiah Thomas, but in a much smaller role at the start. Lastly, the true backup point guard might very well be Gordon Hayward. He will have the ball in his hands quite a bit this season, and he’s going to be far more of a playmaker than he was during his first campaign back from injury.

ANSWER: The lineup that has intrigued quite a few people since Summer League has not included Jaylen Brown at center, but instead Grant Williams. Williams would be surrounded by Kemba Walker, Brown, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum. That would be an ultra-small lineup, with no player taller than 6-foot-8, but one with a devastating amount of versatility and skill. I don’t foresee this lineup being used on the regular, but I do believe it will be used every now and then. Also, don’t be surprised if you see some double-big action this season, with Daniel Theis serving as a power forward.

ANSWER: It’s too early to answer this question. It depends on chemistry builds within the guards and the wings. Remember, there’s a lot that goes into the dynamic of Boston’s top four offensive players. Walker is a brand-new addition. Hayward will play differently now that he’s far closer to his old self on the court. Both Brown and Tatum finally have a full-season opportunity to shoulder more of the offense. If I have to give an answer now, though, I’d say Hayward, simply because he’s now used to coming off the bench after last season, and he and Marcus Smart, another likely reserve, complement each other well.

ANSWER: Those indications are accurate. Hayward has been getting after it at the Auerbach Center all summer long. The Celtics are expecting big things from him this season, and surely, he’s expecting big things from himself. He’s likely to be a far more prolific playmaker this season both for himself and for others, particularly in getting to and finishing at the rim. Remember, this guy was super athletic prior to his injury, and he should be closer to that level this season. He’s going to be a focal point in the offense, as compared to last season when he served more as a facilitator and spot-up shooter.

ANSWER: I’d put Enes Kanter at the front of the line, based upon his scoring and rebounding abilities and the force with which the Celtics pursued him as a free agent. But Daniel Theis isn’t far behind. Theis was in past rotations even when Al Horford and Aron Baynes were both healthy. That tells you what Brad Stevens thinks about him. Rounding out this group would be Robert Williams, who showed growth at Summer League and who will challenge for minutes, and Vincent Poirier, who at the start of training camp will be learning a whole new system and style of play in the NBA. Poierier built a reputation in Europe as a high-level defender and rebounder.

ANSWER: You’re going to see both. I can’t see Brad Stevens utilizing the same defensive tactics at all times while Kanter is on the floor. We’re likely to see more of an ‘ice’ position from Kanter, which is him dropping back, as you mentioned. But don’t write Kanter’s ability to “show,” or hedge, off just yet. Give him a chance to be coached in this defensive system. He won’t make an All-Defensive team, but he could wind up surprising some people at that end of the court.

ANSWER: Those are some all-time teams, my friend. But I won’t say no. This version of the Celtics will look far more like the 2018 playoff team than last season's team in this respect, yet with far more firepower. All evidence suggests that this team will bond together like that 2018 playoff team did. The city of Boston will like this team, which is the highest compliment a Boston team can get.

ANSWER: Hmm… both? Yup. Both.

ANSWER: You nailed it with your first suggestion, Danny. It’s free-throw rate. Brown is an elite athlete who should be using that athleticism to put the pressure on his defender at all times. He needs to hit the line more often. Meanwhile, when Tatum was at his best, during the 2018 Playoffs, he was getting to the line an average of 5.1 times per game. In comparison, he took an average of 2.9 free throws per game last season. With a renewed emphasis on shooting mostly 3s or layups, I think he can approach or surpass 6.0 attempts per game this season, while Brown could hover around 4.0 per game.

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