One ball is enough; Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum will be fine

Historically speaking, a basketball game consists of 48 minutes. Generally, this is enough time to give each player enough opportunity to play. Some people seem to think otherwise about this year's Celtics.

Have the Boston Celtics ever needed more than one ball to win a game? Has any NBA roster ever been too congested with talented players that they were held back from reaching their potential? 

There are two angles to take when trying to predict how next season will go. The first, and most common, is that Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward coming back is going to make a great team even better. The second is an old-as-dirt, oft-recycled narrative about how certain players are going to be unhappy about their minutes, their role, and ultimately their future with the team under the premise that there are simply too many good players for the team to function properly. Time to time, it's almost justifiable to think that a team could be hampered by adding a ball-dominant player to a team that already had one, i.e. Chris Paul teaming up with James Harden. Again, it's almost within reason to think those two couldn't coexist. It's only natural to think of the Kobe/Shaq and Vince Carter/Tracy McGrady situations throughout history and how something had to give; somebody had to leave to make way for the other. Those instances make up the exceptions, not the rule. They also couldn't possibly more different than what's currently going on in Boston. 

Kyrie Irving is certainly a ball-dominant player. Not to a fault, but to an extent that it's very clear the ball should be in his hands more often than not. How many other players like this exist on the Celtics? Zero. When I hear about players not getting enough touches, I have to ask - who is keeping the ball out of their hands, exactly? Irving had the team's highest usage last season, and you know who was second? Greg Monroe. After that? Marcus Morris. Is replacing Greg Monroe with Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving going to sabotage the development of Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum? I'm not buying it. Is a healthy Kyrie Irving going to torpedo the success of Terry Rozier? On paper, it may take him down a notch, but it's not like he'll be a worse basketball player for it.

If Rozier is ever traded to cut costs (a la the Avery Bradley/Marcus Morris trade), it's not like teams around the league were ignoring Rozier's playoff performance. He's an established NBA point guard now. I'm not sure how he would fall into decline because of a bench role. And if I'm wrong, and it's a bad fit, then he's a high-value trade piece. Everybody wins. Failure to make a deal and letting Rozier walk in restricted free agency would be unfortunate but accomplish the same thing: cutting costs. I'm not predicting it'll work out that way - I just want to highlight the specific and unlikely circumstances that would lead the Celtics into a "losing" situation as a byproduct of roster depth. It would take a lot. 

"If you want to win a championship, that's what it's going to take -- sacrifice. ... We're all going to have one goal, and it's going to lead us to the promised land." - via ESPN

Now, let's do the same thought exercise for Tatum. What kind of scenario do we have to build where Tatum is worse off because his teammates are better and healthier? The "Tatum won't enjoy surrendering part of the spotlight" narrative is hogwash. Tatum is much more on the Klay Thompson end of the personality spectrum, which rests at the absolute opposite left-most end of the spectrum, whereas the Dwight "feed me the ball more" Howard is to the far right. It's science. Tatum himself has spoken on the matter, too. 

I'd argue that starting him is better than any alternative, but his willingness to take on any role is reassuring regardless. 

Here's another take: less minutes can be a good thing. Why? Because Tatum played the most minutes of any Celtic last year (2438) and it wasn't close (#2 was Horford with 2277). Of course, the injuries contributed to this, but Tatum still played in 80 games and was rested for the other two. It's inevitable that some minutes will need to be adjusted with the roster in better health anyway, so you might as well start with who got the most and work your way down the list. It's rare that anybody on the Celtics plays more than 40 minutes in any given game, so the distribution will be fairly even. Kyrie Irving aside, the usage rates are pretty even, too, so it's not like adding Hayward will tip the scales so much that Tatum never sees the ball again. The logistics simply don't work out that the Celtics won't be able to use him optimally. 

I've said more than enough to make my point, but let's ice the cake. Brad Stevens - have you heard of him? The guy whose reputation is built on getting the most out of his players? You may be tired of hearing about this, but it can't be emphasized enough: the players have all bought into a system and a culture that Stevens has laid the groundwork for, which was built upon by his opening cast of bulldogs, Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, and Jae Crowder among others. And with only Smart remaining from those days, that culture has only strengthened. There may come a time where the Celtics are forced to make moves for financial reasons, but today is not that day. And for the last time, it's not about the minutes.

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