The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat will be facing off in Eastern Conference Finals. Before the series starts, it is time to look at how each team’s starting lineups will matchup against each other.
Kemba Walker > Goran Dragic
Goran Dragic has been exceptional this postseason averaging 21.1 points on 38% from behind the arc. Just as impressive, the Miami Heat are +12.8 per 100 possessions when he is on the court, compared to a -2.9 when he is off. Defensively, Dragic is sub-par, as he has the worst Defensive Box Plus/Minus on the Heat. He also is exceptional in the pick-and-role where he can use his craftiness to score or get an open look for his teammates.
In his first season with the Celtics, Kemba Walker averaged just over 20 points and five assists a game. Standing at only six-feet, Walker is one of the quicker guards in the league, allowing him to get to his spot with ease. He shot 38% from three in the regular season, but has struggled in the playoffs only making 31% of his attempts. Kemba struggled against Toronto, but he should be able to bounce back against Miami.
Both players have similar play styles. They are each exceptionally quick guards who can shoot the ball at a high level and create for others. While Dragic has been sensational for Miami, the 4x all-star from UConn is likely to have the advantage in this matchup.
Marcus Smart > Duncan Robinson/Tyler Herro
The Miami Heat run a two-headed monster at the shooting guard position with rookie Tyler Herro and 2nd year player Duncan Robinson. Both players can be described in one word: flamethrowers. Robinson, more than Herro is strictly a three-point shooter, with 6/7ths of his field goal attempts being threes. Defensively, they are both liabilities as they are not quick or strong enough to guard other players. Robinson has started all nine playoff games but do not be surprised if Herro gets some starts.
Marcus Smart. He is one of those guys, you love him if he is on your team and hate him if he is not. Smart can be inconsistent on the offensive end, but when he is making his shots, Boston is virtually impossible to beat. He makes up for his offensive consistency on the defensive end. Smart was recently named to the all-defensive 1st team for the 2nd straight year. He also provides more heart and hustle than almost any other player in the league, as shown in his clutch game 7 block to beat Toronto.
While Herro and Robinson may produce more offensive firepower, Smarts defense along with intangibles gives him the advantage here.
Jimmy Butler > Jaylen Brown
If you did not respect Jimmy Butler before these playoffs, you sure as hell do now. There is no question that Jimmy Buckets has been the most important player in Miami’s playoff run. Butler has led the Heat to a 8-1 postseason record including gentlemen sweeping the number one seed Milwaukee Bucks. Not only does he produce on the offensive end but he is also a lockdown defender.
Jaylen Brown has burst onto the scene this season, averaging a career high in almost every statistical category. JB has also made his mark as one of the best two-way players the league has to offer. Offensively, Brown is able to use his insane athleticism to finish in and around the paint. Not to mention his ability to knock down the three, as he shot 38% from behind the arc and an impressive 48% on corner threes.
Brown is playing at an all-star level and will only improve as his career progresses, but Butler’s experience, clutchness and will to win is something Jaylen has yet to master.
Jayson Tatum > Jae Crowder
After spending three years in Boston, Jae Crowder has played on four teams in three years but looks to have found a home in Miami. Crowder is the epitome of a three-and-D player and brings verteran experience to this Miami squad. Against the Bucks, Crowder spent significant time on Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokoumpo, where he held them to a combined 24/60 from the field. On the other side of the ball, Crowder takes over 90% of his field goal attempts from behind the arc, shooting it at an impressive 40% mark.
With all due respect to Brown and Walker, who have proven themselves to be all-star caliber players, Jayson Tatum is the Celtics star. Tatum has averaged 25.3 points this playoffs, a team high, while also shooting 42% from behind the arc. He is also elite on the defensive end, as he leads the playoffs in defensive win shares. JT has also proved he is not afraid to get scrappy, as shown when he flew in for the offensive rebound in game 7 against the Raptors.
There is not much of a question here. Jae Crowder is better than people give him credit for, but Jayson Tatum is a superstar.
Bam Adebayo > Daniel Theis
A solid young player with potential at the beginning of the year, Bam Adebayo burst onto the scene this season. Bam is the sixth player in history to average at least 15 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block. He was recently named to the all-defensive second team, and for good reason as he finished top 10 in both defensive win shares and defensive box plus/minus. Although he is short for a center at only six-foot-nine, he makes up for it with his strength, energy and smarts.
Given that the Celtics other four starters play best with the ball in their hands, Daniel Theis fits in perfectly. He does not need or demand the ball and only attempts 6.6 shots per game. All the Celtics ask of him is to rebound, set hard screens and play stelar defense.
Again, this is not a difficult one, considering Theis is merely a role player and Adebayo is an all-star. Look for these two to battle each other on the boards and bring energy on both sides of the ball.