The players expected to handle the role of small forward for the Boston Celtics could arguably be the most exciting aspect of the NBA this year.
This is where folks will see All-Star Gordon Hayward compete in green for his first season, along with rookie prospect Jayson Tatum, who was the third overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Starter: Gordon Hayward / Projection: 22.3 PPG, 3.4 APG, 5.7 RPG, 35.2 PER
Fresh off the heels of a career-year in Utah, new addition Gordon Hayward will be reunited once again with previous college coach Brad Stevens. Their “…unfinished business…” that Hayward addressed in his Thank You, Utah letter published July 4 speaks not only for the two of them, but the entire team.
High expectations remain for all the new faces that will soon represent the winningest team in NBA history, and Hayward along with Tatum should, and will be huge pieces to that puzzle.
Backup: Jayson Tatum / Projection: 12.7 PPG, 1.2 APG, 3.1 RPG, 20.1 PER
Assuming Jayson Tatum begins the season coming off the bench, he should still have a huge impact on games, and whether or not the rookie plays well could be crucial to deciding outcomes.
Head coach Brad Stevens will have to decide between trying to allow Tatum to develop and be the main attraction off the bench, or give him more minutes with starters and get experience while understanding he might not be scoring the most.
Depending on how much the rookie expands, he could also find himself in the starting five, with added minutes and increased stats across the board, which is another factor that makes this specific prediction so complicated.
Third off the bench: Abdel Nader / Projection: 4.0 PPG, 1.3 APG, 1.2 RPG, 8.8 PER
The 2017 NBA G League Rookie of the Year shouldn’t expect to have a large role this year as giving players enough minutes to develop while still wanting to win games using the proven stars has proven multiple times to be a delicate balancing act. While Nader played great in the G League, now he will have to wait and improve slowly with whatever opportunities arise.