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Last season, Celtics starters Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Robert Williams, and Al Horford boasted the league's highest net rating among lineups that shared the court for at least 25 games, per

But with Daniel Theis now in Indiana and Boston's lone center off the bench, Luke Kornet, yet to prove he can fill that void, might Ime Udoka move Al Horford to the second unit for Malcolm Brogdon and an easier time managing his center rotation?

While there might be games where this happens, and Horford, a consummate professional, can handle coming off the bench without issue, last season's starting unit will likely take the floor for tip-off most of the time.


What the Celtics will probably do is short-shift Horford and Williams. That's what they do with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to keep one of their stars on the court at all times.

For example, Horford can start the game, sub out at about the six-minute mark, and return with around two minutes left in the first frame, replacing Williams.

Brogdon's ability to close games also makes it easier for Udoka to manage the minutes of the Timelord and Horford in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter.

Along with the acquisition of Brogdon, Boston upgraded its rotation by signing six-foot-ten Danilo Gallinari. His addition also has the Celtics better equipped to downsize from their starting lineup, featuring two big men, than they were a season ago.


There will be shifts where Udoka deploys the 13-year veteran as a small-ball center. At this stage of his career, the 34-year-old Gallinari might prove best suited to play the pivot defensively.

Another option Udoka has in his back pocket is a small-ball lineup featuring Tatum at the five. While it would challenge him physically and from communication, rim-protecting, and rebounding standpoints, Tatum would likely prove up to the task. At the other end of the floor, between his offensive talents and the potential impact of a lineup featuring Derrick White or Payton Pritchard alongside Smart, Brogdon, Brown, and Tatum would probably produce a net positive rating.

Still, unleashing Tatum at center seems like an option that will rarely get exercised as Boston aims to avoid making his minutes more strenuous.

Lastly, when it comes to Kornet, at the introductory press conference for Brogdon and Gallinari, Celtics president of basketball operations, Brad Stevens, made it a point to mention the confidence the team has in him.

"We'll probably add one more person that can play in that area, but we're really believing in Luke as not only depth to fill out the roster but also be ready to help us."

Having Kornet as an added layer of depth will help Boston get through the grind of the 82-game regular season.


In summary, short-shifting Horford and Williams covers a lot of ground for the Celtics while keeping last-season's league-leading lineup intact and on the floor at the start of most games. But being able to slide Horford to the bench or play Gallinari at center are appealing options that will help Udoka manage minutes at the five. Beyond that, he can get more creative or utilize a player further down the depth chart.

So, while it's certainly worth exploring Boston's external options at center, as constructed, the Celtics can feel good about navigating their way through a game and the season at-large with who they have to play the pivot.

Further Reading

Brad Stevens on Jaylen Brown Trade Rumors: 'Since the Brogdon trade, we felt really good about our team'

Nets Now Tied for Third-Best Championship Odds, Celtics Remain Betting Favorite

Kevin Durant Returning to Nets, Officially Putting Jaylen Brown Trade Rumors to Rest

Denzel Valentine Joins the Open Competition for Spot at Back End of Celtics Roster

Jayson Tatum Addresses Workout Photos with Kevin Durant, Sheds Light on Previously Undisclosed Injury

[Watch] Jaylen Brown Pushes Himself to the Limit in Offseason Workout

[Video] Jayson Tatum Shows Out at CrawsOver Pro-Am

Here's What Stands Out About the Celtics' Schedule