Let alone who starts…who should the Boston Celtics finish games with at center?
As we all know, new Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations, Brad Stevens, acquired Al Horford in a swap for Kemba Walker this offseason. However, this has brought up the question…
Who should start for the Celtics?
Robert Williams was exceptional as a starter, averaging 8.8 points, eight rebounds, and three assists per game in just 23 minutes of action per night. Per-36 minutes, those splits are 13.5 points, 12.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists a night, extremely impressive for such a young big-man.
Al Horford on the other hand is coming off a year in which he averaged more points per game (14.2) than he has since the 2015 season, in a career low 27.9 minutes per game. All the while maintaining his exceptional positional playmaking ability, and good defensive versatility.
The answer is it doesn’t matter in the slightest who starts for the Boston Celtics.
Both Williams and Horford will see similar minutes regardless. The biggest priority is both of them staying healthy. Robert Williams has played just 113 career regular season games out of a possible 227, meaning half of his career has been spent on a bench or rehabilitating. Horford doesn’t necessarily have any lingering health issues, but shouldn’t be overused at 35 years old. Not everyone is LeBron.
Before we get down to detail, closing games with both should not be an option. Williams is a traditional five, and while Horford does have good floor spacing ability, he has never exactly succeeded as a power forward. They will most likely not see all too many minutes together.
The case for Robert Williams to be the Boston Celtics closing center:
Robert Williams was the Celtics’ most effective and efficient big man, hands down. He was seventh in the NBA in blocks per game, playing an average of 10 minutes less per game than the six in front of him.
He also led the Celtics in both offensive rating (139) and defensive rating (104). All the stats prove that the now 4th year pro is one of the Celts biggest difference makers. You can nearly always count on him to make immediate two-way impact when he’s on the court.
The problem, like alluded to before, is staying on the court.
The Celtics know that he is a spark plug, but his minutes will likely always have to be staggered, and it would be surprising to see him ever play more than 26 to 28 minutes a game. He is well deserving of a starting spot, and should also well be in the consideration for closer.
The case for Al Horford to be the Boston Celtics closing center:
Big Al was a consistent game-changer in his time in Boston. He was playing his most efficient, and most complete brand of basketball that he had ever played, and quickly became a fan favorite.
He quickly adapted to what the Celtics wanted, a floor-spacing, facilitating big man. In his nine seasons in Atlanta, he shot just 34% from deep on 0.6 attempts per game. But in his three years in Boston, shot 38% from deep on over three attempts per game, just exponential improvement, showing even an old dog can learn new tricks.
In his nine seasons with the Hawks, he averaged just 2.7 assists per game, yet in Boston that number skyrocketed to 4.6 assists a night over a three-year span. He became a reliable all-around threat, being able to score from all spots on the floor, be used as a playmaker at the top of the key, and be a versatile defensive threat.
However, the main reason to close games with Horford is the experience that he possesses. Let alone the 700+ regular season game, 27,000 minute advantage Horford has on Williams, the playoff experience is more important. Horford has 124 playoff games played to Williams’ 19. This sort of seniority shows in terms of on court production, regardless of how impactful the Timelord truly is.
Horford doesn’t rely on others to create points, as Williams often relies on alley-oops. Horford can create for himself, whether it’s out of the post, on the perimeter, or in the paint. Horford can also be trusted more as a passer and playmaker, being much less prone to turnover, again where seniority comes into play.
The verdict: Al Horford should close games for the Boston Celtics.
Despite how entertaining Robert Williams is, Al Horford is just too consistent not to end games with. You know he will not make mistakes, and you know he can create more for himself, taking more responsibility off the Jays to make plays for others.
As the title of the article says, this is an excellent problem to have. Debating which high-impact center you should be closing games with is the kind of “issue” teams would love to have. The Celtics really can’t go wrong either way, however Horford seems like the clear answer…