Boston Celtics: Gordon Hayward creates lineup flexibility

BOSTON, MA - MAY 10: Head Coach Brad Stevens talks to Jaylen Brown
BOSTON, MA - MAY 10: Head Coach Brad Stevens talks to Jaylen Brown /

The addition of Gordon Hayward doesn’t create a logjam at SF for the Boston Celtics, it gives them flexibility

Gordon Hayward is now part of the Boston Celtics. Shocker. Hayward heading East to reunite with his former collegiate head coach, Brad Stevens, might have been the worst kept NBA secret for months.

Celtic fans everywhere are thrilled with the signing no doubt. Consequently, the elephant in the room now becomes how will coach Stevens play everyone?

The acquisition of Hayward adds to a long list of small forwards already on the Celtics roster. While this may seem like a negative to many, this actually gives Stevens endless lineup possibilities.

The most recent NBA trend is to go small. There are many advantages in doing so, but the two primary reasons are for offensive spacing and defending the pick n’ roll.

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On offense, playing a stretch four at the five position opens up driving and passing lanes. Defensively, it allows teams to switch nearly every pick n’ roll without giving the opposing team a mismatch to exploit.

As recently as the 2017 NBA Finals the Golden State Warriors utilized this strategy. Below are the five players who played the most for the Warriors in the 2017 NBA Finals.

  • Kevin Durant 39.8 mpg
  • Stephen Curry 37.8 mpg
  • Klay Thompson 36.6 mpg
  • Draymond Green 35.4 mpg
  • Andre Igoudala 28.2 mpg

These lineup decisions by the Warriors stretched the Cavs’ defense and created mismatches based on their lineups. One of the reasons this worked is that the Warriors were able to maintain a tremendous amount of length, without playing traditional centers heavy minutes.

Having length in your lineup while maintaining athleticism can create a tremendous advantage. Traditional centers obviously have long wingspans, but many of them can’t run the floor or guard perimeter players. Hence, a team can be exploited in the pick n’ roll.

A young up-and-coming team that NBA fans are fawning over are the Milwaukee Bucks and the main reason is because of their length.

The Bucks have length everywhere. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton and Tony Snell can play almost any position and have enormous wingspans which aids in denying passing lanes and deflecting passes.

Below is the Bucks’ most used lineup last season showing their heights and wingspans.




Matthew Dellavedova



Tony Snell



Jabari Parker



Giannis Antetokounmpo



John Henson



From a length perspective, Stevens may have a similar scenario.

While the Celtics roster is littered with small forwards, Stevens could play many of them at variety of positions. An extreme scenario of this could be playing recent addition Marcus Morris at center and alongside a cast of wing players together.




Jaylen Brown



Jae Crowder



Gordon Hayward



Jayson Tatum



Marcus Morris



In comparison, if the wingspans of each player are totaled, the Celtics’ lineup trails the Bucks’ by less than 10 inches.

While we may never seen this particular Celtics lineup, it shows that the Celtics have a plethora of athletic, long wings that can play multiple positions. Stevens could easily tinker with lineups to maintain athleticism and length, even when he decides to go small.

The way the NBA is trending, I wouldn’t be surprised to see teams utilize lineups that consist of strictly 6’7 – 6’10 guys that can all play on the perimeter. The Warriors are already utilizing this type of lineup with great success.

As for the Boston Celtics, players like Jayson Tatum, Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward all fit that mold. While those players might not be as offensively talented as the Warriors’ players, playing many of them at once could wreak havoc on the majority of the league.

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With the existing pieces the Celtics have, Stevens could follow suit and create a number of matchup problems with creative, positonless lineups. The Boston Celtics’ overflow of small forward type players should be more viewed as a strength, rather than a negative.

*all stats courtesy of and