With Gordon Hayward absent with a hand injury, it’s been the perfect time for other Boston Celtics to step up. Considering the number of young players on the team, it’s perhaps not surprising that 30-year-old guard Brad Wanamaker has been chief among those seeing an increased amount of time on the court. What might be somewhat unexpected for some is how effective he has been in an increased bench role. Wanamaker’s recent performance has probably been impactful enough to justify heavy bench minutes even when the starting lineup is fully healthy.
For example, look at Wanamaker’s numbers in the Celtics’ 112-107 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. In 18 minutes of playing time, second only to de facto sixth man Enes Kanter among the Celtics’ second unit, Wanamaker scored 11 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Wanamaker was a key reason that Boston remained in a game that continually threatened to become a Brooklyn blowout. It was an outlier performance in terms of rebounds, he’s averaging just 2.2 on the season, but otherwise it wasn’t too far off from what he’s given his team during a regular season where he’s averaging 7.4 points on 50% shooting and 2.8 assists in 17.3 minutes per game.
Wanamaker might have solidified his role at the backup point guard position and could end up a better fit that role than the more celebrated Terry Rozier did last season. It’s been quite a journey for the Pittsburgh standout, who plied his craft overseas after going undrafted in the 2011 NBA Draft. The Celtics signed him out of the Euroleague in 2018 but, buried on the depth chart, he ended up playing just 36 games in his first season with the team.
The Celtics, however, saw enough to offer him another one-year contract on July 17. It was an underappreciated move, as the news was buried by the simultaneous re-signing of big man Daniel Theis. Yet with a bench filled with untested rookies, including a lottery pick in shooting guard Romeo Langford that has barely seen any playing time, Stevens has come to reply on the battle-tested Wanamaker as a crucial reserve, particularly with Marcus Smart now filling in for Hayward among the starters.
“You know what you’re getting every day,” Stevens said about Wanamaker, “And he’s been really good. You can play with him with the ball, he can play off of it, he can guard bigger guys because he’s strong, and he’s very smart. So, he makes the other players around him better when he’s in the game.”
These are all reasons that Wanamaker is providing maximum value out of his $1.45 million salary for the 2019-20 season. With so much money tied up to their major free-agent acquisitions of the last few years (Walker, Hayward, Smart), the Celtics barely had any resources left over to go find role players on the open market during the offseason. Having Wanamaker willing to return on a very affordable contract, he’s the 13th highest-paid player on the team, is turning out to be a bargain so far this season. Should he keep it up, the former Euroleague standout should be in for a healthy pay raise next year, wherever he lands.
At the moment, Wanamaker is just looking at the present. “It’s a good group here,” he told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “It’s still early in the season. We’re doing well, we’re bonding well, we just got to keep going the way we’re going.”