When you think of the most versatile position in basketball, you almost have to say small forward. It’s a crucial part of this league to have wings that can serve multiple purposes and fulfill different roles as assigned by their coaches.
With that being said, there are quite a few teams that have yet to find a wing to consistently keep in the rotation, so without further ado, here are the best small forwards in this summer’s upcoming free agent pool.
Kevin Durant – Player Option
The Warriors are going to have some serious decisions to make this summer.
With half of its dynamic core four and many major role players entering free agency in the 2017 offseason, Golden State’s top priority will certainly be retaining both Durant and the sure to be heavily-sought-after Stephen Curry.
There are two ways this can happen for Bob Myers and company:
A) Durant opts into his player option, makes $27.7 million next season, and becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2018.
B) Durant opts out of his player option and enters the free agent pool as a 10-year veteran for the first time in his career, where he can ask for a maximum contract valued at $36 million. The Warriors would have to open up cap space in order to make things work because they do not have his Bird rights.
Regardless of how it happens, all signs point to Durant staying in the bay area next season along with Curry. When it’s all said and done, the two teammates could be the highest paid duo in the history of the league.
Though the Warriors will lose some key pieces, it will be well worth it when it comes to Durant. Before the unfortunate knee injury he suffered in Washington, the 28-year-old superstar was flourishing for Steve Kerr.
In 59 games, Durant has the highest true shooting percentage among his teammates and is shooting the highest field goal percentage of his career thus far.
Gordon Hayward – Player Option
Could a Butler reunion be in the works between Hayward and his former college coach Brad Stevens?
The Celtics’ interest in the 26-year-old has been well known for a number of years. Going into this summer, it’s likely that they, as well as a ton of other teams, will make a huge run after him.
In his first All-Star season, Hayward has really taken the load on Quin Snyder’s offense. Across the board in points, rebounds, free throw percentage and both field goals made and attempted, he is averaging career bests in his seventh season as a pro. He’s also taken a major step forward defensively, acting as a primary wing stopper for a top-five defense.
Hayward is likely to opt out and will certainly be offered a max contract by somebody, but the Jazz would be able to match any offer and pay him more money than any other team. Hayward has stated his singular desire to play in the location that gives him the best shot at winning a ring.
Otto Porter Jr. – Restricted Free Agent
Gradual improvement has been the theme of Porter’s career, but this season has turned into a real breakout for him. In fact, if it wasn’t for Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ridiculous All-Star year, the former Georgetown Hoya could’ve been the frontrunner for Most Improved Player.
It’s all started with the confidence in his jump shot. Among those who attempt at least four threes per game, Porter’s 44.8 percent clip is tied for the best in the NBA with veteran gunner Kyle Korver. Going a step further with his offensive game, Porter leads the entire league in effective field goal percentage (61.5%) with a minimum of 10 attempts per game.
John Wall and Bradley Beal are the catalysts behind the Wizards’ climb up the Eastern Conference ranks, but the impact Porter’s had as that tertiary scoring option has really pushed them to the next level.
If how he’s played in the regular season is any indication of how he’ll perform in the playoffs, Porter will get a lot of shine and teams needing a reliable wing will be lining up to sign him to an offer sheet.
Whether Washington will match those potential offers will depend on who comes after him and how much money teams would be willing to give up. If a max contract offer ($25.8 million) comes around for Porter, there could be a tough choice to make for Ernie Grunfeld.
Danilo Gallinari – Player Option
Over the last three seasons, it’s been a chore to stay healthy for Gallinari. What’s even worse is that over the span of his nine-year career, only twice has he eclipsed 70 games in a single season.
That being said, any team that lacks versatility and needs someone to score points in bunches should look no further than Gallinari. In today’s NBA, versatility between positions is a necessity. At 6-foot-10, the veteran swingman can occupy the frontcourt in multiple roles while also being a real threat on the perimeter.
Averaging 17.7 points in over 33 minutes of action per game, Gallinari’s proved to be a great fit in a high-octane offense that gets up and down the floor.
His defensive deficiencies may shy some executives away from going all in with a max deal, but with a league headed towards more and more offense it may not matter. Gallinari could make up to $30.1 million per year if that turns out to be the case.
Considering that his player option would yield him just $16 million next season, as well as an abundance of forwards on the Nuggets’ roster, the logical decision would be to opt out.
Rudy Gay – Player Option
Similar to Gallinari, the 11-year veteran has made a living in the league as an aggressive go-to scorer, and a lot of teams could use an experienced presence like Gay. Going into this season with the Kings, Gay’s mind was already made up. He was betting on himself, opting out of his current deal and hitting the market as an unrestricted free agent.
Then, a freak accident happened. On January 18 in Indiana, Gay ruptured his left Achilles on a non-contact play. He had been battling knick-knack injuries before that point, but this one was season ending.
Needless to say, that threw a wrench into the 30-year-old’s plans for the summer, as he now stands undecided on his player option with Sacramento.
If he were to opt in, Gay would earn $14.2 million next year and become a free agent in 2018. Assuming he doesn’t, though, he still could have plenty of suitors despite the bad break. It really depends on what his agent believes regarding how much his market value will take a hit.
Andre Roberson – Restricted Free Agent
As an already-elite defensive talent at such a young age, Roberson could be the league’s best on-ball defender in the near future. He might already be, depending on who you talk to.
Though his offensive game leaves a lot to be desired, Roberson will come along as long he keeps getting shots up. This season, he’s attempting two more shots per game than the previous year.
Roberson hasn’t been as successful from deep as most, but he makes up for it by contributing to other areas of the game. There are only 15 players in the NBA that average at least one steal, one block and five rebounds per game, and he is a part of that group.
A true defensive stopper has become a rarity in this league, so teams will take that into consideration when deciding their offer sheets for Roberson.
P.J. Tucker – Unrestricted Free Agent
Tucker arrived in Toronto to start the second half of the season after being traded by the rebuilding Suns.
Since coming back to “The North” where he was originally drafted, Tucker’s presence has been felt in every game already. The Raptors’ defensive rating is 94.5 with him on the court and 112.1 with him on the bench.
Add in the fact that he’s got the ability to knock down the occasional corner three, and Tucker is a solid piece to any team, especially a championship contender.
Bojan Bogdanovic – Restricted Free Agent
Another deadline acquisition, Bogdanovic is a sharpshooter who has fit in beautifully off of the Wizards’ bench. He’s a guy that comes in and shoots the lights out.
Following the move to Washington from Brooklyn, the Bosnian sniper is knocking down 43 percent of his triples. He’s not shy about letting it go, either, averaging at least five three attempts per game in only 25 minutes of action.
Bogdanovic is a confident player who would be a welcome addition to many organizations out there, but knowing where the Wizards were before adding him, Washington would be wise to match what he’s offered.
C.J. Miles – Player Option
Still in his prime at 29 years old, Miles has 12 years of experience under his belt between three teams in his career.
With the Pacers this season, he’s taken his knack for shooting threes to another level of success. On five-and-a-half attempts per game, Miles is hitting nearly 42 percent. It’s the best he’s performed in his career so far and his confidence is sky high.
A player who once was a gamble in free agency because of inconsistency has matured into one of the most dependable shooters in the league.
Andre Iguodala – Unrestricted Free Agent
With the potential two max deals on the table between Curry and Durant, it’s probable that Iguodala won’t be a part of the Warriors next season for the first time in four years.
As a savvy veteran, Iguodala can provide any young team with leadership, as well as any contender with a key piece on the court. This can be scoring, defending or whatever is asked of him. He’s been known to be outspoken at times in the press, but on the court, Iguodala has been a consummate professional throughout his 13-year career and is well respected league-wide.
Robert Covington – Team Option
With an up and coming roster full of young talent, the Sixers could decline their team option on Covington.
For another team, though, Covington would be able to contribute as a defender and a scorer if need be. In the past three seasons, he’s consistently averaged 13 points per game. He’ll also get you steals and some boards.
Joe Ingles – Restricted Free Agent
Ingles is one of those players whose numbers aren’t telling of his true meaning to the team. Sure, he’s fifth in the league in three-point percentage among those attempting at least three per game, but the real story is his unselfishness and willingness to make the right plays for the benefit of the Jazz.
Tony Snell – Restricted Free Agent
With each season, Snell’s role has increased year-by-year, but nowhere near to what it’s been for Jason Kidd and the Bucks. As a starter for the entire season, Snell has taken more shots and improved his offensive game dramatically. The market will decide his value, but Milwaukee would be wise to match if a team offers him a reasonable deal.
Justin Holiday – Unrestricted Free Agent
In his fourth season in the league, Holiday’s been on five different teams and it’s been a real journey for him to display his talents. But in the opportunities he’s gotten this season with the Knicks, the 27-year-old has shown his professionalism and has proven he can deliver when his number is called upon.
Other Notable Upcoming Free Agents:
Unrestricted: Jeff Green, Matt Barnes, Michael Beasley
Player Option: Luc Mbah a Moute, Dante Cunningham
Team Option: Jerami Grant
NBA Daily: Biggest Disappointments — Southeast Division
Chad Smith breaks down the Southeast Division in the latest installment of Basketball Insiders’ Biggest Disappointments series.
Over the last few weeks, Basketball Insiders has highlighted the biggest surprises of the young NBA season. And, breaking down each division, there seemed to be a fantastic story about to unfold around every corner.
But, now, has reality finally started to settle in?
The pleasant surprises throughout the season are always welcome, but there have been plenty that aren’t so spectacular. Whether expectations were just too high, or unforeseen circumstance led to an awkward shift, some players or teams just haven’t had the greatest time to start the 2019-20 season.
It’s important to remember that the season is but weeks old, November its first full month. And things can change very quickly in the NBA. Still, there are a few situations of note to keep an eye on. That said, here are three of the Southeast division’s biggest disappointments so far this season.
Orlando’s Not So Magical Offense
After they were the darling team of the Eastern Conference last season, the 2019-20 iteration of the Orlando Magic have struggled to find that same consistency.
Orlando has proven especially bad on offense, as they currently rank 30th in total offense, 30th in field goal percentage and 30th in three-point shooting. The fact that they are dead last in every category is even more baffling when you consider the fact that they returned largely the same roster from a year ago.
The Magic were the last team to score 100 points in a game this season and, as of this writing, they average a league-worst 99 points per game. Terrence Ross and Evan Fournier have struggled to find a groove, while DJ Augustin has dropped back into a reserve role. Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic have looked mediocre-at-best.
Case-and-point, it isn’t difficult to pinpoint why the Magic have struggled to a 5-7 record to start the season, no matter how disappointing it may be. There is hope, however; Orlando has put forth a strong defensive effort, while their schedule is expected to lighten up after contests against the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors, among others.
They also have some nice young pieces that have thus far yielded positive results: Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac.
After such a fun postseason run, it’s incredibly disappointing to see Orlando’s 5th ranked offense from a season ago stumble to such depths. We can’t say for sure whether it’ll turn up at some point but, fortunately for the Magic, they have another 70 games to figure it out.
John Collins Suspension
The 2019-20 season has been a roller-coaster for the Atlanta Hawks. Trae Young has looked like a star, but missed time due to an ankle injury. And, despite their 4-7 record, the team has, at times, looked strong on both ends of the court.
But, now, they face a 25-game stretch without John Collins, lost to suspension.
Collins is a remarkable talent, and it’s easy to see how his absence has hurt Atlanta on the court. In the midst of a road trip, Atlanta has struggled against the Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers, teams with solid options at the five-spot Collins used to occupy.
As spectacular as he is, it’s unfair to expect Young to carry the day for the team on his own. And, like other teams — see Aron Baynes behind Deandre Ayton in Phoenix — the Hawks just don’t have the depth at the position persevere through the loss of Collins.
If they’re to turn it around, Atlanta will need Jabari Parker, Cameron Reddish, De’Andre Hunter and others to step up and make a big impact. Unfortunately, given their lack of experience (or, in Parker’s case, the fact that he’s a known commodity) it’s hard to imagine that that’ll be the case.
At the very least, it’ll take some time for those players to grow into their game and help turn the season around, time the Hawks may not have given such poor start
Where’s Miles Bridges’ Breakout?
On the whole, things have actually been better than expected in Charlotte, as the team has carried a 5-7 record through 12 after many expected them to be one of the worst in the NBA. But, after a rookie season where he flashed, the 2019-20 regular season was set to be Miles Bridges’ introduction to the national NBA audience.
With Kemba Walker gone, and veterans like Nic Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams populating the roster, Bridges was supposed to establish himself as the Charlotte Hornets’ best player and lead the team into the next phase of their rebuild.
And, to be fair, Bridges hasn’t been horrible this season. He just hasn’t been what many had hoped for or expected.
Through Charlotte’s 12 games, Bridges has averaged 12.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. His shooting percentages — 47.6 percent from the floor, 39.2 percent from three — are good as well. But Bridges has yet to really take the bull by the horns and assert himself as the Hornets’ top-dog. Of course, there is plenty of time for him to change that, but the fact that he hasn’t already is disappointing nonetheless.
Bridges is vocal on the floor and can communicate with others on Charlotte’s roster, both the veterans and the up-and-comers. He could prove exactly the leader this team needs as they transition into the post-Walker phase of their franchise.
Again, the season is young, and these disappointments could quickly flip on their heads and become surprises. But not every team can be so lucky, and these teams may just have to accept them and adjust.
NBA Daily: Aron Baynes’ Three-Point Revolution
Aron Baynes took just six three-pointers over the first five years of his career. But he’s an elite floor-stretcher now, though, a development that’s changed everything for both him and the Phoenix Suns.
Aron Baynes attempted a grand total of six three-pointers over his first five years in the NBA.
When he first ventured beyond the arc in 2017-18 — during his debut campaign with the Boston Celtics — Baynes’ newfound stretch seemed more like a novelty than a development that could significantly alter the course of his career. He took just 21 triples, but 13 of them came from the corners — a spot at which more and more players experimented with the long ball as the league’s emphasis on space reached a new zenith.
The evolution that initially pushed Baynes and other non-shooters like him to the perimeter is ongoing. Thirteen teams are taking at least 35 percent of their shots from deep, up from nine last season, while the number of teams with a three-point rate above 30 percent has jumped from 23 to 27, per Cleaning the Glass.
The NBA’s three-point revolution, obviously, is still in its heyday. But more frequently and easily identified with that reality is a player like James Harden — an annual MVP-worthy candidate — whose three-point rate has risen to a ridiculous 57.2 percent. Or, take Andrew Wiggins, who has revitalized his career by launching 6.7 triples per game – a number that would have ranked among the league’s the top-10 as recently as 2015-16, but currently sits outside its top-20.
Still, it would be foolish to overlook the influence of role players that continue pushing their personal boundaries as long-range shooters, a group for which Baynes has become the poster boy.
Any chance that the three-ball would be a more complementary aspect of his game as opposed to a driving force behind it vanished last season. Baynes shot a solid 34.4 percent from three-point range, just below league average and nearly double his accuracy from the previous season. But his shot chart hinted at even further growth to come as 50 of Baynes’ 61 three-point tries were from above the break. He wasn’t just a stationary safety valve to make opponents pay for ignoring him in the corner — but a shooter with numbers indicated that needed to be guarded all over the floor.
Baynes’ red-hot start to 2019-20 has ensured that defenses must treat him with the respect he deserves, and the Phoenix Suns are taking full advantage.
It’s safe to say Baynes won’t shoot 46.8 percent on three-pointers all season long. Danny Green and Joe Harris were the only players in basketball to connect on even 45 percent of those attempts last season, and it’s not like Baynes has been shy getting them up, allowing for the possibility of a small sample size to artificially inflate his numbers. He’s launching 4.3 triples in only 23.8 minutes per game, hunting them with the vigor of a veteran frontcourt marksman.
Baynes doesn’t care where he is, how quickly he needs to set his feet or how much time is on the shot clock. Only three of his long-range efforts last season came as a defender was within six feet of him. Less than a month into 2019-20, Baynes has doubled that total, even taking three shots from deep when being closely defended, per NBA.com.
He doesn’t just get his shots in pick-and-pop or scramble situations, either. The Suns believe so much in Baynes’ viability as a three-point shooter that they sometimes run a baseline out-of-bounds play to get him an open look from the wing.
Baynes has been one of the best screeners in basketball for years. He’s massively built with broad shoulders and a thick chest, thus allowing him to make contact with defenders trying to avoid a pick when most bigs couldn’t. His keen understanding of angles and timing regularly provides unencumbered runways for ball handlers that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
Even so, Baynes is far more dynamic as a screener now that he’s an imminently-dangerous three-point shooter. He mixes in a steady diet of dives to the rim with more frequent pops to the arc, and Phoenix ball handlers have increasingly made a habit out of drawing two defenders by creasing the paint, only to kick back out to Baynes for an open triple. The result is Baynes averaging 1.56 points per possession as a roll man, fourth-best in the league, on the strength a 77.8 effective field goal percentage, per NBA.com.
Monty Williams hasn’t just empowered Baynes as a three-point shooter, either. The Suns’ head coach consistently takes advantage of the mere threat of Baynes’ presence, too, producing easy scoring opportunities elsewhere on the floor. Phoenix loves clearing the lane for quick Booker post-ups at the charge circle against overmatched defenders and Baynes, an underrated passer, routinely finds others with backdoor dimes when the defense overplays dribble hand-offs.
The Los Angeles Lakers, sporting the league’s best defense, were eventually so spooked last week by Baynes, Dario Saric and Frank Kaminsky raining threes that they resorted to switching across five positions. While Los Angeles hung on for a hard-fought win in a delightfully hostile environment, it still speaks volumes about the Suns’ offensive attack that a defense led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis felt the need to junk-up its scheme.
Baynes isn’t a high-usage post player and never will be. But when defenses feel compelled to switch to combat the long-range shooting of he and other bigs, the Suns should remember that he was able to exploit James on the block with ease.
Baynes is no star, even if there’s data suggesting otherwise. Phoenix’s offensive rating is almost 15 points better with him on the court, but that number aligns closely with that of other starters. His presence makes almost no affect on the Suns’ team-wide shot chart, either. But any sweet-shooting, screen-setting, backdoor-passing big man would be an abject offensive plus, and it’s telling that Phoenix’s effective field goal percentage ticks up 6.3 percent with Baynes in the game, according to Cleaning The Glass.
Deandre Ayton will take Baynes’ place in the starting lineup upon his suspension ending and rightfully so. But if the Suns take a step back offensively with Ayton active, don’t be surprised.
Baynes isn’t quite the engine behind the league’s third-best offense, but he’s certainly a crucial cog – and his rapid growth as a shooter is the reason why.
NBA Daily: Biggest Disappointments — Atlantic Division
Basketball Insiders’ Biggest Disappointments series continues with Drew Maresca examining the Atlantic Division’s start to the 2019-20 season.
The NBA season is still very young, but some disappointing starts are just that – disappointing. Meaning that they can exist on their own without knowing the end result. Certain players and teams around the league surprised us with their unexpectedly strong play, and others have left us scratching our heads and wondering what’s went wrong.
And with that being said, let’s continue our series on early-season disappointments, shifting our attention to the Atlantic Division. The Atlantic is always home to controversy thanks to its large media markets and (mostly) historic franchises. So let’s examine who has underachieved thus far and how they can turn it around.
Nets Surprising Defensive Struggles
Defense is presenting early problems for the new-look Brooklyn Nets; they’re 4-7 after entering the season with fairly high expectations. Now, this writer was burned last season after forecasting a Nets’ demise following a poor start, so we won’t be making any kind of long-term predictions. But it’s been problematic enough to get Kenny Atkinson’s attention in recent postgame press conferences.
Sometimes their defense has lapses in the final minutes of close games (e.g., a five-point loss to the Jazz this past Tuesday), and other times it fails them earlier in the game (e.g., a blowout loss against the Suns on last Sunday).
But one way or the other, the Nets have to improve defensively. They are allowing 119.5 points per game, which is good for 27th in the Association. And sure, they’re averaging the seventh-most points per game in the league (116.8), but they’ve posted the sixth-worst defensive rating in the league so far and a -2.4 net rating. That’s not going to cut it for a team with aspirations of making a deep postseason run.
The bright side is that it’s never surprising when a team struggles to find continuity on defense after an offseason of turnover. The Nets returned only seven players from 2018-19, and each of their three most frequently used lineups features multiple new players. There is plenty of time left for the Nets to build synergy and improve their defense. And Atkinson is an incredible motivator, so there is little reason to worry about long-term implications. But as far as this season is concerned, they should get to it quickly because every win (and loss) affects their seeding and/or chances of making the playoffs.
Knicks Offensive Woes
The Knicks’ lack of success is well-documented. And despite the team signing a number of established veterans who many felt would propel them to respectability, the losing has continued.
And much of the reason for their continued disappointments is their offensive struggles. NBA teams are getting more shot attempts and scoring more points than ever before. The Knicks never received that memo. Through 11 games (not including their game Thursday night vs. the Mavericks), the Knicks are one of only two teams averaging less than 100 points per game, and they rank dead last in points per 100 possessions. And what’s worse — they are tied for the third-least assists per game (20.3) and their coach recently kind of, sort of defended their isolation-heavy offense by mentioning the Houston Rockets proclivity to play isolation-heavy basketball (although he later acknowledged that the Knicks don’t have the same level as do the Rockets and that they must move the ball to succeed).
Looking ahead, someone is going to pay for this. Franchise owner James Dolan recently met with the team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry to articulate his frustrations. That prompted an unexpected press conference from the two to discuss their dissatisfaction with the early failures. Ultimately, this is going to fall on Fizdale, whose coaching seat has become white-hot. But Perry, and maybe even Mills. could both be looking for work, too. Dolan is rumored to be smitten with the idea of luring Masai Ujiri to New York, again — potentially with the goal of signing Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021.
But regardless of what happens in the future, it looks like there’s no way out of the current mess this season. But one thing the Knicks can do to soften the blow is move the ball. Too often, the Knicks settle – or prefer – to isolate with their opponent while the four other Knicks stand idly by and watch. They must move without the ball and screen away from it. More pick-and-roll action would benefit them, too. Getting back to the basics is the best recipe for a team that has appeared to lack an offensive system, or at least an understanding of it.
The Struggles of Dennis Smith Jr.
Since a midseason trade from the Dallas Mavericks last year, Smith Jr. has had a difficult time adjusting to New York, at least on a consistent basis. And before going into this, experiencing a personal tragedy such as what he just went through takes a strong person to push on.
Strictly from an on-court perspective, however, beginning with his first three games of the season, Smith Jr. totaled only three points and three assists on 0-for-3 shooting from beyond the arc in 26:12 of play.
Now, he tweaked his back sometime prior to the beginning of the preseason, which caused him to miss preseason games, a number of practices and – in turn – threw off his timing and conditioning. It’s understandable how that affects a player. It’s also understandable that his mental state could’ve been significantly affected by personal matters. Why was Smith Jr. playing, then? Was it out of fear of losing his place in the rotation? Was it pressure from the team? Was it his own stubbornness?
On the bright side, Smith Jr. looked more like his old self last night in a victory over the Mavericks. Smith Jr. posted 13 points and 8 assists on 5-for-12 shooting in 29:58 minutes of action. While Smith Jr. has been far-less effective through the Knicks’ first 12 games than they’d hoped he would be, they can take some solace in his most recent performance.
But more importantly, they must demand that he rehab fully so he can demonstrate exactly what he’s capable of doing; Smith Jr. could be seen occasionally limping around the court as recently as last game. Otherwise, the Knicks are not only hurting Smith Jr. and his future earning potential, but they’re also hurting themselves by not getting a clean look at a talented young player. Sure, they exercised his fourth-year option for 2020-21, so they have next season to evaluate, too; but every game is important in assessing a young player’s potential output, and you’d prefer to do so by examining healthy performances.
Celtics’ Continuous Injury Bug
This one hasn’t necessarily affected the team’s play since the Celtics entered Thursday night with the league’s best record (9-1). But still, the Celtics – and more specifically, Gordon Hayward – have had some bad luck as far as injuries are concerned in recent seasons.
Hayward suffered a devastating foot injury two seasons ago. He spent the entirety of last year getting back his confidence and rhythm. He came out this season and looked dangerously close to his old self, averaging 18.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists in eight games.
And then, the unthinkable happened – Hayward suffered another injury that would ultimately require surgery.
Fortunately for Hayward and the Celtics, the broken hand — which required surgery — shouldn’t be season-ending. Also fortunate is the fact that Boston maintained its depth at the wing this offseason, opting to hang on to Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.
Still, it must be incredibly frustrating for Hayward, the Celtics and their fans to see the team’s fourth-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder miss extended time – again – to another injury. Hopefully, this is the last major injury Hayward suffers, and hopefully the Celtics’ entire roster can remain relatively healthy for the foreseeable future – because no one wants to see seasons decided by injuries.
We are only slightly more than 10 percent of the way through the 2019-20 season, so every team and player mentioned above has a chance at redemption. Still, each of the above disappointing starts is a cause for concern. And every player and team should begin preparing countermeasures to combat the possibility that the above-mentioned disappointing trends linger longer than expected.
But one thing’s for sure: When we’re talking about teams from the Atlantic Division, each and every aforementioned storyline will play out as loudly as possible.