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Evaluating the Celtics roster for the second half: The depth players

Veteran Blake Griffin has embraced his role as a reserve and been a valuable locker room presence.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

The Celtics’ unusual depth has been a key to their 42-17 start that has pushed them to the top of the NBA. As they prepare to resume play following the All-Star break, here’s a look at where things stand with the bottom half of the roster:

Grant Williams: Williams and the Celtics were unable to agree on a contract extension prior to the October deadline, turning this into a key season for the fourth-year forward. He continues to show his value in various ways, from his strong 3-point shooting (41.4 percent) to his defensive versatility (he defended 76ers big man Joel Embiid for much of the recent matchup).


Williams’s long-range accuracy has made defenses pay closer attention, and he has countered by attacking closeouts urgently and swiftly. His next logical step will be improving as a playmaker, but he’ll be an important part of the playoff rotation.

Sam Hauser: Hauser’s 3-point shooting was a bit of a revelation at the start of the season, more than making up for injured forward Danilo Gallinari’s absence. Then a December/January slump in which he hit just 26 of 88 3-point attempts (29.5 percent) ignited questions about whether president of basketball operations Brad Stevens needed to fortify the team’s wing depth at the trade deadline.

But Stevens added just big man Mike Muscala, showing confidence in Hauser, who has connected on 25 of 50 3-pointers this month. Opponents continue to hunt defensive mismatches against him, but he generally holds his own. His 107.2 defensive rating actually ranks fourth on the team.

For the season, Sam Hauser is hitting 41.5 percent of his 3-point attempts.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Payton Pritchard: In a pair of interviews with the Globe this month, Pritchard essentially said he wanted to be traded, then expressed some disappointment when he remained in Boston after the deadline. He has made it clear that he would prefer to have a regular rotation spot somewhere else rather than sitting and watching the Celtics’ surge from the bench.


After averaging 19.2 minutes per game as a rookie two seasons ago, he is logging 12.8 this season. His shooting percentages have suffered, and he says the inconsistent chances make it difficult to establish a rhythm.

Pritchard is the only regular roster player with a negative net rating (minus-0.3). Still, injuries happen, and Pritchard remains one of the NBA’s better insurance policies. To his credit, he does not let his frustration affect his effort when his number is called.

Luke Kornet: The 7-foot-2-inch center has generated attention with his “Kornet Contest,” in which he attempts to bother a 3-point shooter by simply jumping with his arms extended despite being about 10 feet away. It’s unclear whether this approach is impactful, but Kornet has generally performed admirably as a fill-in big.

He has been disruptive in the paint, with opponents shooting 4.3 percent below their season averages inside 6 feet with Kornet as the primary defender.

He doesn’t operate above the rim like Robert Williams — his teammates sometimes forget this with ambitious lob attempts — but he has been a strong finisher and is shooting a career-best 69.7 percent from the field. The Celtics couldn’t really ask for more from a No. 4 big man.

Luke Kornet, who is in his sixth NBA season, has been contributing on defense.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Blake Griffin: Stevens said it was important to fill the back end of the roster with players who accept that they usually won’t be needed. That required some humility from Griffin, a six-time All-Star, but he has fully embraced his role.


He’s been an excellent locker room presence and has stayed prepared for his chances. He’s 9 for 19 from the 3-point line over his last four games, but his dedication was best exemplified during last week’s win over the Pistons, when he flew headfirst toward Detroit’s bench in pursuit of a loose ball.

Griffin has appeared in just 26 games, but the Celtics have outscored opponents by 9.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, the team’s fourth-best net rating.

Mike Muscala: The 6-10 veteran, who was acquired from the Thunder at the trade deadline, should be a good fit in coach Joe Mazzulla’s offensive system that is built around floor spacing and long-range shooting, The Celtics are attempting 42.2 3-pointers per game, second in the NBA, and Muscala is already embracing the approach.

In three games with Boston, he has attempted 7.7 3-pointers per contest, 2.4 above his career high. This small-sample figure was skewed by his 44-minute performance for the undermanned Celtics in an overtime loss to the Bucks last Tuesday. But he’ll have an important role over the rest of the regular season when the workloads of Robert Williams and Al Horford are limited.

Danilo Gallinari: He continues to rehab following his September surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The veteran forward said last month that he believes he could return during the playoffs, but it’s hard to tell whether that flame remains lit simply to motivate him during his monotonous recovery.


Stevens raised some eyebrows after the trade deadline when he said of Gallinari: “There’s another guy that could probably stand out there and make shots if we really needed him to.”

The guess here is that even if Gallinari is eventually cleared to return, he won’t actually play any meaningful minutes this year.

Mfiondu Kabengele: Kabengele parlayed a strong showing at the Las Vegas summer league into a two-way contract with the Celtics. Unlike last year, when COVID absences created significant opportunities for just about everyone, the big man has not been needed this season.

He has played well for the Maine Celtics, averaging 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per contest, but it would take a rash of injuries for him to get a chance in a game that matters.

J.D. Davison: Unlike Kabengele, who turns 26 this summer, Davison remains a raw project whose upside is still unknown. The 53rd pick of last year’s draft is still just 20 years old and appears to be a few steps from being ready for an NBA opportunity. The speedy guard has shown flashes in the G League, where he is averaging 12.1 points and 8.7 assists.

Tomorrow: starters and top reserves

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him @adamhimmelsbach.