Celtics Mailbag: Payton Pritchard future, Luke Kornet role, starting lineup tweaks

Celtics Mailbag: Payton Pritchard future, Luke Kornet role, starting lineup tweaks

Updated: 5 months, 2 days, 11 hours, 33 minutes, 26 seconds ago

We’re running a weekly mailbag during the Celtics season. If you have questions about the Celtics or NBA, email brobb@masslive.com or tweet @briantrobb

Hello Brian! Do you think they change the starting lineup every game to suit the opposition? How deep will the rotation go during the regular season, does it depend on blowouts vs. Trying to find things that work? How much experimenting will Joe do? — Eddy FB

I think we are going to see them roll with the Derrick White in the starting five until further notice. The team’s strength is in its backcourt depth and I think they like White’s defense and familiarity with that starting group. Malcolm Brogdon is a more valuable offensive weapon coming off the bench at this point and the need for double big lineups with the starter is reduced if the team is playing Al Horford fewer minutes regardless.

As far as the rotation goes, that feels like it will be fluid based on the opponents. Bigger centers like Noah Vonleh and potentially Luke Kornet (more on him later) should get a chance off the bench against true bigs. However against teams that like to stay small, a Grant Williams/Blake Griffin pairing may be the preferred frontcourt for maximized offensive potential. Sam Hauser could push Griffin out of the rotation as well on nights where his defense won’t be targeted. Three games in four nights this weekend should be a good test for Mazzulla as far as how much mixing and matching he’s willing to do since I would be Horford gets the night off in Orlando for rest purposes.

Will the Sixers ever beat the Celtics when it matters? Seems like you have to go back to 1983 with Dr. J as the first and only time it ever happened. — Matt D

It certainly looks like a terrible matchup for the Sixers, who have now started the year 0-2 after a tough loss to the Bucks. Daryl Morey revamped the supporting cast there but they still don’t really have anyone to slow down Boston’s All-Star duo defensively. Throw in a couple guys you can run on in transition (Embiid, Harden) and the Celtics domination of this group in games that matter figures to continue.

What do the two way guys have to do to see minutes this year? — Carl C

JD Davison will be getting plenty of minutes but they will all be coming in Maine when their season starts up in a few weeks. Mfiondu Kabengele looked like he had a chance to play his way into the big man rotation in the preseason on nights Al Horford was resting but that possibility quickly subsided in recent weeks. He may get spot minutes at some point if Noah Vonleh or Luke Kornet struggle but I don’t think we will see him before that situation arises.

Is there a chance Pritchard gets traded at some point soon? It doesn’t seem like he will get any real minutes when the team is healthy.— Ben P

Is it time to put Payton out there and see what you can get for him? He had tons of DNPs last year and this year we’re deeper and in preseason guys like Hauser passed him, while he looked the same, no improvement. He could probably crack a definitive role with a # of other teams.— Boston Arnan

Not a huge surprise to see Pritchard get a DNP-CD in the opener but a pretty tough situation for the third-year guard who was a critical part of Boston’s bench rotation during their run to the NBA Finals. Even with the Celtics playing smaller to start games, Pritchard was the odd man out of the rotation on opening night. The 76ers are a tough matchup for him from a size standpoint so I do think we see more of him this weekend against teams that can pick on him less defensively but it’s clear he is a luxury at this point for Boston’s bench.

As far as trades go involving him, I don’t expect anything to be investigated until much later into the season. However, if Brad Stevens is looking to make an upgrade to the frontcourt or wing depth, dangling Pritchard along with some draft compensation is probably the best value the team will be willing to give up without disrupting the team’s rotation. With that said, I don’t think it’s a slam dunk he gets moved. He’s cheap for at least another season and with Malcolm Brogdon’s injury history, keeping experienced depth there makes sense as insurance and to save him from wear and tear. For now, it will be fascinating to see how often Mazzulla goes deeper into the bench to give him a shot or if he stays largely buried like he did during the first half of last season.

Why isn’t Kornet getting minutes? Would he have been in the starting 5 if he didn’t get injured? — Frank G

Do they really think Noah Vonleh is an acceptable replacement for Robert Williams? If so, they are in trouble. —Rrise

My best guess on Kornet is that he’s still not fully 100 percent after his ankle injury. He’s clearly healthy enough to play but there’s no need to throw him into a matchup against Joel Embiid when he hasn’t gotten regular reps yet and is still working his way back. We should get a better idea next week if Vonleh is actually ahead of him in the rotation since that will give him plenty of time to heal up. Vonleh held his own on opening night but I expect this to be a center by committee situation off the bench for much of the first two months. Even with Rob Williams coming back for the second half of the year, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see the front office adds more proven insurance in that area around the trade deadline so the team isn’t dependent on Vonleh or Kornet at all during the postseason.

Please send any questions about the Celtics or NBA for a future mailbag to brobb@masslive.com or tweet @briantrobb