This thread is to discuss why I'm pretty confident that the starting lineup will be Kemba + Brown + Hayward + Tatum + Kanter.
People are over-thinking this when they worry about having '3 small forwards' on the floor or "Who will handle the scoring for the bench?
First, let's talk about the bench:
After the first 6 or 7 minutes, Brad will swap out one or two of those guys and play matchup-specific adjustments. I expect the 'bench' will almost always have one of Kemba or Hayward on the floor with them, except in non-critical minutes. And similarly, Tatum and Brown will also overlap with bench minutes. The vast majority of the time there will be at least a couple of starters on the floor with the bench. So that's who will handle the scoring for the bench.
Next, let's talk about what it means to play 3 "threes":
For those who seem overly concerned with playing three guys of such similar size (Brown + Tatum + Hayward) together, I offer the following data to hopefully reassure them:
First off, those three played together in 59 games (386 minutes) last year and posted a Net Rating of +5.8. That's not crazy good, but it's pretty solidly positive.
But it's important to also note that that sample includes the very start of the year, when those three were starting with Kyrie & Al and unfortunately, both Hayward (recovering from missing year and surgery the prior May) and Brown (injured hand) got off to horrendously bad shooting starts. Those first few games really drag this sample down.
If you look at that threesome from Game 15 onward, their Net Rating was a fantastic +11.6. That's around the time Brown's hand got better and he also started being more aggressive at attacking the hoop.
If you look at that threesome from Game 20 onward, their Net Rating was an even more impressive +14.6
. That's around when Gordon also started to play better.
So what is most interesting about this latter sample (219.5 minutes) is that it is almost entirely without Kyrie or Al Horford
(because Jaylen and Gordon had moved to the bench). In fact, this sample is almost exclusively those three guys with Daniel Theis and Terry Rozier as the other two players!!
The point is: These three guys already have a track record of playing very well together. And there are some basic fundamental reasons why this trio should
Not many teams are able to field three defenders who can handle athletic, scoring wings of this size. Against the vast majority of lineups, having all three of Hayward, Brown & Tatum on the floor means that at least one of them is going to have a match up advantage, either because they are guarded by a small guard or because they are guarded by a slow big.
Defensively, they have the advantage of all three being able to switch on everything. And if any one of them gets the 'weak' offensive player from the other team, they can cheat, while still having the length and athleticism to recover. This allows them to show more doubles and help.
Finally, let's look at Brad's offensive philosophy:
I firmly believe that Brad is going to always want to have 2 playmakers on the floor. And further, he really prefers that to be in the form of a 'point guard' and a 'point forward'. Ever since he got here, that's what he's tried to do. Going all the way back to trying to use Jeff Green as a "point forward" with Rondo. He would later use Olynyk and Sully in that role. Al Horford was his dream big man, playing that role with first Isaiah and then Kyrie. Brad loves having a secondary playmaker who can see over the defense and who can get the ball to his scoring guard in motion, and who is also a threat to make a scoring action of his own.
At the moment, the only proven 'point forward' that we have on the roster is Gordon Hayward. Grant Williams has potential but he's just a rookie. Both Jaylen and Jayson in theory have potential to grow these skills way down the road, but they are both really more natural as finishers than playmakers. So again, that really just leaves Hayward as the logical replacement for Al Horford's role in the offense.
So Brad is going to play Kemba and Hayward to start in the two playmaker roles. Beyond those guys, Smart is really our only other experienced playmaker. So it makes a lot of sense to bring him off the bench. He is big enough to act as a 'playmaking wing' opposite Kemba as 'point guard' as well as able to act as a 'point guard' opposite Hayward's 'point forward'. I.E., I expect Brad to try to initially always have these two-man pairings on the floor during critical minutes:
Other playmaker duos such as "Smart+Grant" or "Carson+Grant" and so on are probably only going to be seen during "developmental" minutes for the near term.
So that's my argument for why I think we will start the "3-wing" lineup.