Celtics

Celtics Remain Atop the NBA’s Guard Depth Despite Recent Skid

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When discussing the best guard rotations in the NBA, people usually turn to the ones with the most star power.

The Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns are often thrown around.

Most of these teams, however, lack the depth and balance the Boston Celtics’ guard core has.

Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Malcolm Brogdon and Payton Pritchard have proven to be one of the deepest and most reliable group of players of any team this season. Their versatility and reliability in whatever role is required from them has helped the Celtics remain atop the East’s contenders.

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Role Changes

Despite none being superstars, what truly sets apart the Celtic guards is their commitment to the team and collective success.

The best example of this is White stepping up for the Celtics when the team needed him most. Following an injury to Jaylen Brown, White became the team’s best player for a week, averaging 24.5 points (52% FG, 51.5% 3PT, 90% FT), 4.8 rebounds and 7.5 assists over 38.0 minutes per contest in four unbeaten games.

White’s run as the Celtics’ leader continued its ascension in an overtime bout against the Milwaukee Bucks. Even though they lost the game, the 28-year-old had a 27-point double-double without the help of Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown or Al Horford.

Despite these standout performances, White is not a star or among Boston’s top offensive options. In a normal game, White is known for his defense, ball movement and three-point shooting. Creating for himself or being a lead ball-handler is not expected from him.

That makes White’s ability to step up and become the team’s best player when needed part of the reason why this rotation is among the league’s best.

Boston’s Guards Genuinely Embody Cliché Mentality

White’s career-best week serves as a prime example of Boston’s “next man up” mentality.

In the four games that comprised the week White was recognized for, Smart missed all, Brown missed three and Brogdon missed one. In the win against the Grizzlies, all three were inactive. That did not stop the C’s from adding another tick to the win column, however.

White exploded against Memphis for 23 points and 10 assists while Payton Pritchard added 12. While the team collectively steps up as needed, Boston’s guards serve as the best example of this— especially Pritchard.

Of the four players that comprise the Celtics’ guard core, Pritchard is the one that impacts the most to any extent. This season, he has gone from DNPs and garbage-time minutes to important role player regularly.

During the three weeks Smart was out from the end of January to right before the All-Star break, Pritchard saw the most minutes he has all season, averaging 17.9 minutes per game where he contributed to a positive record that saw the team maintain the first seed.

One game, the 25-year-old didn’t see the floor. The next, Smart got hurt, and Pritchard contributed 12 points (4/7 3PT) in 25 minutes for a win.

Sacrifices Made

Pritchard’s talent would make him a solid bench point guard for most teams in the league.

He might even average over 20 minutes a night on some playoff-caliber rotations. Even though he expressed desire to be traded and have a bigger role in the future, Pritchard has done as the team asks of him. His sacrifice has allowed others to play minutes and roles Pritchard may be worthy of, too.

The team’s best example of a player willing to sacrifice, however, is Malcolm Brogdon.

Brogdon spent the last three seasons as am everyday starter for the Indiana Pacers and was among their lead ball handlers. That changed the moment he arrived in Boston, as he has not started a single game for the Celtics. Despite whatever injury situation plagued the team, he was kept as the first man off the bench.

After proving himself as a starter-quality player who would be doing this for most teams in the league, Brogdon accepted his role. Moreover, his numbers show he should be a starter for a championship-quality team.

The sacrifice these players have made is key for the team’s success. Most of the Celtics’ guards are good enough to play bigger roles than they do, but their willingness for a collective goal is another element to make them stand out even more compared to the rest of the NBA.

Defense, Defense, And More Defense

The Celtics’ identity is predicated on their defense.

While Robert Williams serves as the base of the team’s rim protection, the Celtics’ guards once again prove to be the most-important pieces.

Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart provides the team most of its defensive intensity. His never-back-down mentality when faced with taller and stronger matchups allows the team to play their preferred style of defense.

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Boston’s Feb. 27 game against the Knicks further enlightens what Smart has done for years. By meeting seven-footer Isaiah Hartenstein at the rim, Smart not only stopped the Knicks from scoring, but also allowed the Celtics to convert at the other end.

Smart’s reputation already speaks enough about his impact on this end, however.

Conversely, Derrick White is building a reputation as one of the better defensive players in the league.

White has been a pest against some of the NBA’s top stars. Whether it’s defending one-on-one, switching onto bigger players, blocking shots, picking pockets or reading passing lanes, White has been arguably the Celtics’ best defender this year.

Moreover, White is among the top-three defensive guards in the league to have played at least 1,300 minutes, according to FiveThirtyEight. He is also one of only two guards to be in the top 30 for blocked shots this season.

Most guards focus on scoring and playmaking. The Celtics having plenty of those who also contribute defensively makes their guard rotation that much more terrifying.

Winning is Ultimate Attribute

Putting aside all other attributes, the best one their core-four guards bring is winning, which they hope to return to for their upcoming games against the Blazers and Hawks. It’s worth noting the Hawks’ and other upcoming opponents’ odds are soon to be legally available starting March 10th. If you’re a Celtics fan, take advantage of Massachusetts sportsbook promotions today!

Despite not having any star guard names, Boston has won more games this season than any superstar-guard team. Other factors like star power play a vital part, but Boston’s guard depth has played at such a high level this season that some have noted they could be starters for other teams.

Standing near the top of the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics are looking to make another run at the Finals. Tatum and Brown aside, the team’s depth puts them ahead of most others challenging their position.

About Jesús Feliciano-Batista

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