So we're not benching a small forward who may not perform back at his previous all star levels for a few games to gauge where he is with two youngsters that may very well be all stars next year because he makes max money? Some sound logic you guys have there, I guess Hondo should have never been a 6th man.
I think it's clear that if Hayward comes back and is obviously a lesser player, then they will make a change. Ainge wants to win a championship, he's not going to let pride get in the way of that. The issue is whether the Celts should consider making Hayward a sixth man from the get go, like was done with Hondo.
I think there is no chance of that, nor do I think it is a good idea. People like to look back at Hondo's hall of fame career and say that he was willing to come off the bench. They conveniently leave out, however, that he came off the bench at the beginning of his career when the Celts were a championship dynasty with hall of famers on the roster. Yes, this went on for a few years, but again, the Celts were already winning championships as constructed, so it was wise not to mess with that.
The current Celts are still trying to construct a championship roster. Offense is still an issue for this team. To me, if Hayward is close to 100% then it is a no-brainer that he should start. He's their second best offensive player, a very good defender, and fits well into the team offense as he does not need to have the ball in his hands to be effective. I acknowledge that it is tough to ask a max player to come off the bench, but that's not the reason I think he should start. He should start because he's arguably the best player on the team. Kyrie is a better scorer, but Hayward is a far better defender and so overall may be their best player.
The only major benefit from bringing him off the bench is adding scoring to the second unit. But this can easily be addressed with the right substitutions. They can easily stagger their lineups so that you almost always have two of Kyrie, Hayward, Brown, Tatum, or Horford on the floor. There simply isn't any reason not to start Hayward.
One last word on Hondo. Yes it worked with him as sixth man. This situation is totally different. It's a different league. It's a different Celtics team. Hayward is the vet, not the young guy. A better analogy for the Hondo situation would be for Tatum to come off the bench, although I don't think that's a good idea either. Put the best five out there. I know that teams don't always do that, but in the Celts situation I think that is the right move.