Gordon Hayward Out Four Weeks for Boston Celtics
Gordon Hayward will miss approximately four weeks of action after suffering a grade three ankle sprain, as reported by the Boston Celtics. The star forward left game one of the Eastern Conference’s first round of the playoffs late in the fourth quarter with the injury. With Boston down a dynamic wing, the Celtics will look to their bench to survive this stretch.
Gordon Hayward Injured
#NEBHInjuryReport Celtics forward @gordonhayward suffered a Grade III sprain of his right ankle during the fourth quarter of last night’s game against Philadelphia. He is expected to miss approximately four weeks.
Further updates will be provided as appropriate.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) August 18, 2020
Gordon Hayward injured. A phrase Boston, and just NBA fans for that matter, shudder to hear. After an inspiring return from his devastating 2017 ankle injury, Hayward fought through a rough 2018-19 season to return to form for the new decade. However, the injury bug continues to be a plague on his Celtics career. What seem to be freak accident after freak accident, the Celtics have been put in a tough position without their playmaking wing.
Frankly, the timing could not be worse for Boston. Even without Ben Simmons, their round one matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers is tough. They play hard defense and nothing comes easy against them, so, as cliché as it sounds, it’s imperative to play good players against them. Guys who can get their own shots. Down Hayward, the Celtics are left with just three of those guys. Outside of Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum, their most reliable offensive player is Marcus Smart. Smart is a great player, but leaning any more heavily on him for offense than they already do could be a disaster for Boston.
Losing Hayward doesn’t just mean you lose a scorer. A do-it-all player, Boston loses a little bit of everything when he’s not out there. A valuable playmaker, Hayward excels as a secondary passer on the wing or a point forward when the Celtics go big. In addition to his playmaking, his size and defense add an extra layer to what makes the Celtics such a difficult matchup for most teams. Like Brown and Tatum, his 6″7′ frame allows him to freely switch 1-5, playing a major role in a smothering Boston defense.
Brad Stevens on Gordon Hayward: "Really tough for him and tough for us. He's played great. I feel for him more than anything else. It's our job to make up for all the great things he does by committee and we'll attempt to do so."
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) August 18, 2020
Looking to the Bench
After scoring whopping eight points in game one of the playoffs, Boston’s league second-worst scoring bench will have to step up to the plate in Hayward’s stead. With an interesting mix of guards and forwards to plug in absorb some of Haywards minutes, Brad Stevens will have to replace Hayward’s productivity by committee. Here are the best options for Boston.
Perhaps the obvious answer, Smart is as good as an all-around player a sixth man can be. After playing 32 minutes in game one, right in line with his season average of 32 per game, Smart should be fine with the extra time on the floor. He also started 40 games this season, sixth-best on the team. All this to say, Smart has just as much experience playing big minutes with the best players on the floor as anyone else on the roster. He’s the best defender on a team with a bevy of defenders. He’s also the best offensive player the Celtics have on the bench. Shooting 34.7% from downtown this season on 6.6 looks per game, Smart’s capability and willingness to shoot will only stretch the floor for Walker, Tatum, and Brown.
However, it’s for these reasons precisely, that the Celtics should be hesitant to bring him into the starting lineup. Without him, there is no bench. No reliable player to bring in. Smart may be the best option, but without him on the bench, there is no safety net. Sure, ramp up Smart’s minutes with Hayward out. But it may behoove the team to look elsewhere to plug into that last spot in the starting lineup.
Perhaps the second-best scorer on the bench, the high flying Javonte Green could fit in nicely with the starting lineup. After shining in some garbage time minutes, Green was the go-to guy in the Celtics last seeding game against the Washington Wizards. Posting 23 points while going 8 for 17 from the field, Green could be relied on to shoot the open three and play defense. A freak athlete, he can, in theory, replace Hayward’s value in the transition game and add a cutting threat to the half-court offense. He won’t wow anyone with tremendous play, but his athleticism could create a nice fit with Boston’s starting five.
After struggling all season to find a spot in the rotation, this may be one of the best matchups to play rookie Grant Williams. A hard-nosed, yet undersized big, Grant Williams does the dirty work. He fights for loose balls. He plays aggressive, physical defense in the post. A two-time SEC player of the year in college, Grant uses his physicality and basketball IQ to impact the game on both ends. Grant is exactly the type of player that could pester Joel Embiid effectively for a whole series. Strong enough to not get bullied, smart enough to not consistently get into foul trouble. Without the quick wings/forwards to expose Grant’s lack of speed, Philly could really be bothered by his general defensive IQ. He won’t add much offense, but Grant’s physicality could help in a bruising series against Philly’s size.
This is nothing new for Semi Ojeyele. New year, a new situation where injury thrust him into action. He’s made his bones a defensive stopper in the playoffs. Back in 2018, when the hospital Celtics took the LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers seven games, Ojeyele was a major reason for their success. Ojeyele has the right combination of size, strength, a quickness to be an impact player. Unfortunately, he hasn’t really made much of an impact as of late and has failed to establish himself as a consistent rotation piece. However, Brad Stevens knows what he has in Semi. He’s reliable and has stepped up to the occasion before. The ceiling may be higher with the other players, but Semi may prove to be the safer choice. Don’t be surprised if you see Semi Ojeyele out during the opening tip for game 2.