Editors note: This is part two of a three part series focusing on the Boston Celtics current depth chart heading into the 2019-20 season.
With the exception of 29-year-old Gordon Hayward, every ‘forward’ on the Celtics’ current roster is 24 years old or younger.
They have length, they have athleticism, and they have a pair of blossoming young guns in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown ready for their breakthrough campaigns.
Mix in a couple of promising rookies, and it appears on paper that Boston has one of the most talented frontcourts in the Eastern Conference.
Here’s how it’ll all shake out.
SMALL FORWARDS: Gordon Hayward, Romeo Langford, Semi Ojeleye
Gruesome leg injury aside, Gordon Hayward disappointed last season. He had his moments in the regular season, but was never able to string together a strong stretch — and he wasn’t much help in the playoffs. I firmly believe much of that was mental, and there’s still hope that a fully healthy, still only 29-year-old Hayward can return to form in 2020. The talent is still there; it’s just a matter of trusting his body and not holding back on the court.
Many scoffed at the Cs’ most recent first-round draft choice in Romeo Langford. Taken with the 14th pick, Langford was selected before the likes of Nassir Little, Ty Jerome and, of course, Bol Bol. But a deeper look into Langford’s scouting report reveals many qualities that made Boston eager to select the 19-year-old out of Indiana. At 6-foot-6 with a 6-11 wingspan, Langford’s sheer length — coupled with next-level athleticism — is a problem defensively. He’s built for the pros and could certainly be a useful piece off the bench. If he can improve his questionable jumper (although much of his shooting woes last season can be attributed to a thumb injury), to become more of a two-way scoring threat, Langford could blossom sooner rather than later.
At one point last season, coach Brad Stevens was quoted saying that Semi Ojeleye was quite possibly the most improved player on the roster. In the past, he’s often been a guy who can eat up minutes when injuries or rest situations pop up. But never has he been a reliable, nightly rotation player, and it’s been hard to see his potential in such limited minutes. The 2020 season will likely bring about similar challenges for Ojeleye as he battles for minutes, and an increased role in the lineup is far from guaranteed.
POWER FORWARDS: Jayson Tatum, Robert Williams III, Grant Williams
Expectations surrounding the second-year standout Jayson Tatum were extremely high entering last fall. While he was certainly solid all season, it’s safe to say he didn’t make quite the leap we thought he would. Tatum averaged 15.7 points a night (up from 13.9 ppg as a rookie) but shot worse from the field (45 percent compared to 47.5 in Year 1) and 3-point range (37.3 percent compared to 43.4). He became too shot-happy in isolation situations.
But with Kyrie Irving out of the mix, Tatum should have more room to operate offensively and feel more comfortable. If this isn’t the year he breaks out at or near all-star status, I’ll be as surprised as everyone else.
Time Lord, AKA second-year man Robert Williams III, didn’t get much of a chance to contribute as a rookie. But he’s still only 21 and his 6-10, 241-pound frame can definitely be of use. He showed some of his natural athleticism during Summer League and has already proven to be an elite shot blocker. Boston might require Williams’ services in the post sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, the Cs’ other first round draft pick in 2019, Grant Williams, is another young player who’ll be fighting for minutes early. The Tennessee product is undersized at 6-7, but he’s strong (240 pounds) and can stretch the floor with his 3-point shooting. Williams will likely see some burn this year, but don’t expect him to burst onto the NBA scene just yet.