Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.
BOSTON – Considering all the different storylines that developed among the Celtics at the end of last season and this summer, it’s easy to forget that Jonas Jerebko was in the starting lineup.
With sporadic minutes in the regular season, Boston found itself trailing the Atlanta Hawks 2-0 in their best-of-seven playoff series.
So what did coach Brad Stevens do?
He shook up the starting lineup by inserting Jerebko. who helped Boston even up the series at two games apiece before the Hawks bounced back and ended the Celtics season after six games.
Those last four games against the Hawks – the only games Jerebko started all season - served as a reminder to many that the 29-year-old could still be an impact performer.
It was the kind of run to close out the season that Jerebko will certainly be focused on trying to build upon this season.
The ceiling for Jerebko: Starter
While he will likely begin the season as a reserve, Jerebko will certainly come into camp with a little more bounce in his step courtesy of a strong showing in the playoffs.
After averaging just 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 15.1 minutes in the regular season a year ago, Jerebko became a major force in the playoffs for Boston.
In his first game as a starter, Jerebko had a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds as Boston won Game 3, 111-103.
He was even more impactful 48 hours later with another a second straight double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) in yet another Celtics victory.
The Hawks made some adjustments in Games 5 and 6 to close out the series, but it wasn’t before Jerebko had put together the best postseason stretch of his career.
Compared to the regular season, Jerebko more than doubled his playing time in those final four games by averaging 31.3 minutes to go with 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.
Jerebko will be hard-pressed to return to that role at the start of this season.
Boston signed Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract, so you know he’s starting.
And Amir Johnson’s defense and ability to run the floor so effectively will likely result in him resuming a starting role, too.
That leaves Jerebko joining what looks to be a very talented and deep Celtics bench.
Even though he’s unlikely to start, Jerebko will get his share of opportunities to play.
At 6-foot-10, Jerebko has the size to play both power forward and center. And depending on the opposing team’s lineup, Jerebko has the potential play some small forward as well.
It was that versatility that made Stevens turn to Jerebko in the playoffs last season to replace Jared Sullinger, who signed with the Toronto Raptors in the offseason.
And while the idea of Jerebko as a starter seems a bit far-fetched at this point, he is yet another Celtics reserve who has proven himself to be ready to play and play well when given an opportunity to step on the floor regardless of what that role may be.
The floor for Jerebko: Seldom-used reserve
Despite a strong finish last season, Jerebko will once again have to fight and claw for any minutes on the floor. While the Celtics certainly were aided by his versatility, this season’s roster has a number of players who, like Jerebko, can play multiple positions at both ends of the floor.
NBA veteran Gerald Green is 6-8 and will play shooting guard and small forward. But depending on the lineup, it’s not a stretch to envision him playing some power forward. Ditto for rookie Jaylen Brown and starting small forward Jae Crowder sliding up one position.
Beginning the season on the rotation fringes is nothing new to Jerebko, whose role was very much up in the air when the Celtics traded Tayshaun Prince to Detroit prior to the 2015 trade deadline for Jerebko and Gigi Datome.
Gradually, Jerebko earned his minutes and proved he was indeed a valuable piece of what Stevens and the Celtics were trying to build here in Boston.
And now, with a season-plus of time with the Celtics under his belt, Jerebko finds himself once again being challenged to show that he’s more than just a body on the roster.