The Boston Celtics currently have numerous players on their roster who could realistically start at center during the 2019 season. Below, we take a closer look at all of them!
After a flurry of events that kicked off this year’s NBA Free Agency period, the Boston Celtics went through a haphazard retooling. Sure, they still have their prized young duo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum as well as defensive stalwart Marcus Smart. Still, even with this continuity, the overall makeup of the team has changed significantly.
Boston has managed to swoop in and immediately fill the void left by Kyrie Irving’s ugly departure with the acquisition of Kemba Walker on a 4-year, $141 million deal. Even still, despite the excellent move by General Manager Danny Ainge, the Celtics still were left bruised by Al Horford’s departure.
In response to their void down low, the Celtics signed Turkish big man Enes Kanter fresh off a solid postseason run with the Portland Trailblazers. The team also managed to retain Daniel Theis and sign Euroleague center Vincent Poirier.
As much as these acquisitions help their immediate depth, it’s still not clear how all of these pieces fit together. When you consider how much of the defensive schemes depended on Al Horford’s ability to switch and guard multiple positions, the question of “who will start at center ” gets even murkier.
In terms of rebounding, Kanter is the best Boston has had in quite some time. For the 2018-19 season, Kanter ranked 6th for total offensive rebounds, 42nd in defensive rebounds and 22nd in total rebounds. The last time the Celtics had a big man in the top 10 for offensive boards was in 2013-14 (Jared Sullinger). In terms of percentages, Kanter ranked 16th for total Reb rate out of all players/positions; in relation to Al Horford, the big man didn’t even crack the top 100 (ranked 133rd).
However, outside of rebounding, things start to go downhill for the 27-year-old. In terms of Real Plus Minus ratings for centers, Al Horford ranked 5th (4.43), whereas Kanter ranked 58th (-1.78). By comparison, Aaron Baynes ranked 31st with an RPM of 0.62, Daniel Theis ranked 12th out of all power forwards with a 1.77, and Semi Ojeleye ranked 54th with a -1.10. In comparing Net Rating for centers, Horford ranked 14th (6.1) and Kanter ranked 75th (-6.7).
In terms of what this means for Boston, it appears Enes Kanter is not a viable option to start at center in this defensive scheme, or at least in the scheme that was tailor-made for a big like Horford to thrive in. Brad Stevens will have the task of masking the veteran’s defensive liabilities, and maybe even changing the defensive system when it comes to switching off screens and pick and rolls.
Outside of Kanter, there are a great deal of unknown variables at play. Poirier might be the closest in terms of competition for the starting spot, after leaving Euroleague club Baskonia with no intent to be a bench player in the NBA. Poirier is a bouncy seven footer with the ability to control the glass and run the floor, leading the Euroleague in every rebounding statistic.
He initially went un-drafted in 2015, playing in the Summer League for the Magic and Nets over the course of two years, and then played extensively in Europe. He also was rumored to have left money on the table in Europe to join up with Boston.
Poirier will have to see if he can adjust to both NBA minutes and the intensity that comes with it. However, 25-years-old, he’s followed a similar path to the league as fellow Euro-big and Celtic Daniel Theis.
Theis has carved out a solid rotational spot in Boston with his defensive versatility at the 4, and in terms of the physical build and skillset, Poirier seems to fit the bill. There’s also Robert Williams III, who seems poised to prove himself after some promising flashes in Las Vegas earlier this summer. Expectations have been high for the former 2018 first round pick, and after working on his conditioning, Williams looks to seize the opportunity that comes with Horford now in Philadelphia.
The Boston Celtics will have their work cut out for them as they try to figure out rotations, especially with so many fresh faces joining the squad. It’s very possible that the C’s will look outside of the team for a solution to their problem at center. However, for now, it seems they’re throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks.
Let’s see how preseason goes!