CelticsBlog Slack mailbag: Grant over Semi, Brooklyn and Boston benches, and what’s going on with Marcus Smart

Once in awhile, the writing staff at CelticsBlog notices a couple of trends with the team, whether that’s on the floor or their perception on social media or in mainstream coverage. Here are a few things that caught our eye his week:

Marcus Smart is going through a brutal January. It feels like he’s doing too much in Jayson Tatum’s absence. Are you seeing something else?

Adam Taylor: It’s definitely been a tough month, not only for Smart, but for multiple Celtics. Statistically speaking, we’ve seen an increase in all the wrong areas. For December, Smart operated in a more defined role, and was excelling on both ends of the floor. Since the turn of the year, we’ve seen Smart’s shooting from deep go cold. In December, the Celtics guard was shooting 44.1% from deep. So far this month, he’s building a small city with a paltry 23.8% conversion rate.

I think defensively, we’re still getting the outlandish effort levels on a nightly basis, and Smart is still facilitating at an above average level. But, the shooting has been a big issue. Against the Sixers, Smart got hot from mid-range, but some of his shots were incredibly difficult looks that you can’t rely on him to make.

Ideally, Smart will re-embrace his tempered role on offense, and continue to be one of the league’s best point-of-attack defenders. But the Celtics will need to address the lack of scoring options behind Tatum, Brown, and Walker if they ever want to get the best out of their pitbull combo-guard.

Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Outside of each team’s Big Three, who has the better supporting cast right now: Brooklyn or Boston?

Bobby Manning: Well how could I have imagined Bill would corner me on Brooklyn one month after my 20-0 start prediction, a day after the Cavs stunned the Nets in their “Big Three” debut and while their depth comes into question.

You’re essentially pitting Payton Pritchard, Boston’s center cast and the two bench wings against Jeff Green, Brooklyn’s “center cast” and Joe Harris. Harris is shooting 50% from three this year and feels like the equivalent spoil of Boston having Gordon Hayward as a fourth option. He’s the best of any role player on either team.

Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen would come next, but they’re gone. I’d take Marcus Smart every Celtics center ahead of Deandre Jordan (minus Grant and Tacko). That’s where this discussion becomes difficult.

Spencer Dinwiddie would come next, he’s hurt, but I believe in Brooklyn’s ability to flip him and his Bird Rights for a significant role player. They also have roster spots and appeal for buyout players so this will change. For now, I would take Marcus Smart, Pritchard, Daniel Theis, Semi Ojeleye, Javonte Green and Robert Williams slightly over Harris, Bruce Brown, Timothe Luwawu, Landry Shamet and Green.

From what you’ve seen over the last few games, why is Grant Williams starting over Semi Ojeleye whenever Stevens opts to play with one traditional big?

Adam Spinella: I can think of a couple of reasons for Grant being in the starting lineup right now instead of Semi. First and foremost, comes the fit next to Kemba Walker. When Kemba is in, and the Celtics run more double high ball screens, they need one of those screeners to be effective shooting above the break. Semi, a better corner C&S guy, doesn’t really jive with that. I think there’s been a concerted effort to keep Grant with Kemba.

But against Orlando, when Kemba was absent, Williams started ahead of Ojeleye. That may have been due to COVID protocols, though there’s something else at work here. I can’t quite put my finger on it. But that’s very much who Grant is. His impact is often not statistically measurable, and as a glue guy those minutes have greater impact when surrounded by starting-caliber players than on the bench. It does feel like Stevens is searching for ways to give the second-year pro a spark.