Win or lose, there’s plenty to be gleaned from a Celtics-Bucks opener

Justin Quinn
·4 min read

There’s a better-than-good chance the Boston Celtics don’t come away from their season opener down one of their best players in point guard Kemba Walker, but that doesn’t mean the contest is unworthy of your eyes.

Even if it may well be a tough watch if the team is still as disorganized as it was in the preseason, the Celtics are treating the early part of their calendar as an evaluatory period to get a better handle on which young players are worth hanging onto long-term, and which the team will need to move on from if it wants to be contending by season’s end.

There are a number of things to that end we should be watching for, chief of which being the players on the court when tipoff begins as much as the players still on the court when the final buzzer is heard.

While it may not be indicative of what the team’s plans are for the short- or long-term rotation, it’ll tell us a lot about what players are trusted — and what ones still have work to do to catch up.

Similarly, the first few substitutions off the bench will tell a similar tale, albeit one tailored more to getting an idea of who’s been doing well in practice, particularly given the press is not able to be in attendance due to the necessary pandemic protocols.

To turn to a finer-grained analysis, the point guard and swing and big rotations in particular stand out — who gets how many minutes in each of these respective rolls may well tell us whether players like Daniel Theis — or Robert Williams III — could be trade fodder sooner than later.

Do players like Semi Ojeleye, Javonte Green and Carsen Edwards get to play against an opponent of this caliber at all? With a short hook for mistakes?

Or do they lean into the mistakes in the hopes that some confidence is all these returning players need to finally start contributing on both ends off the bench?

The rookies drafted in the 2020 NBA draft are also an area we ought to be paying attention — when/do they get subbed in? How long do they play?

What kind of role are they given to start with, and can they hack real elite NBA play with so little time to prepare for it? Can Aaron Nesmith hit close to league average from beyond the arc? Will he stay engaged and responsive if he can’t?

And how will Payton Pritchard fare being swallowed up by a Giannis Antetokounmpo just days after having his soul stolen by Kevin Durant? Can he actually run an offense when the stakes count? Is he big enough to defend well?

And as for the new veterans Tristan Thompson and Jeff Teague, there’s similar questions to be answered — though for age and injury in place of youth and inexperience.

Will the former Cleveland Cavalier be able to play? And will he be effective after a nine-month layoff? Can Teague play like he did in the preseason — or will he look more like he did on the Atlanta Hawks last season when players really dig in on defense?

While the odds may be against starting the season with a win, the Celtics (and their fans) have plenty of potential positives to take from the game — and just hours left to wait for its 7:30 ET start.

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