Back before the second Boston Celtics preseason game on October 5 against the Toronto Raptors — a game the Cs had a lead but blew late in the fourth quarter and overtime to move to 1-1 on the exhibition slate –, CelticsBlog’s Jeff Clark advocated for Noah Vonleh to make the roster ahead of the 2022-23 season.
The 2014 NBA Draft’s No. 9 overall pick had scored seven points and grabbed nine rebounds against the Charlotte Hornets in just 13 minutes, displaying the energy and athleticism that has gotten him employed by seven previous franchises before Boston came calling this past offseason.
Against the Raptors, he was the only Celtic not to get at least double-digit minutes. Vonleh inexplicably logged three minutes on the hardwood — and even then still scored two points and grabbed three rebounds.
Regardless, Vonleh has put himself into the discussion for early season minutes given the team’s current big man issues. Mfiondu Kabengele is making a case to have his contract converted to a full-time deal from a two-way pact, but to Clark, Vonleh is the guy that should get the nod for the 15th man role:
"“At the moment I think I like the idea of Noah Vonleh the best. He at least fits the mold of a guy we could use for depth and occasional spot minutes. He has length, can hit 3’s, can grab some rebounds. And perhaps most of all, he’s at least shown some ability to succeed at this level in the past. So he seems like the safest bet to me.”"
The Boston Celtics big man problem can use a training camp Band-Aid
Even with Blake Griffin now on board in Boston, the Celtics could still use reinforcements in the frontcourt given the injuries to Robert Williams III and Luke Kornet. Al Horford has promised playing second nights of back-to-backs, but he’s also 36 and could be winding down his career in 2022-23. Grant Williams is a great small-ball answer, but extended stretches with the 6-foot-6 power forward shouldn’t be relied on.
Whether Noah Vonleh is the call or not, the Cs need to sign one of their training camp bigs to get the team through the first half of the season. Vonleh would certainly be a preferable option to Luka Šamanić, but time will tell if Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens feels he’s 15th man material.