Why the Boston Celtics can win the title without Kristaps Porzingis

2024 NBA Finals - Game Two
2024 NBA Finals - Game Two / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

30-5. That is the Boston Celtics record without Kristaps Porzingis this season, including the playoffs.

While the potential loss of their star big man to yet another leg injury is not ideal, if the Celtics brass decides his health is more important for next season than risking reinjury for two more wins, multiple players are more than capable of stepping up.

The obvious one is Al Horford, the 39-year-old big man who has thrived in a reduced role off the bench role this season.

What Horford lacks in rim protection, a staple of the seven-foot-three Porzingis's game, he makes up for with relatively equal outside shooting, and even better switchability on the perimeter.

Despite his age, Horford has made life difficult for both Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving when he gets switched onto them, which sometimes can be a weakness for Porzingis, especially if his legs are hurting.

Luke Kornet the emergency option for the Boston Celtics

The more intriguing replacement that could become important for the Cs off the bench is Luke Kornet.

The Celtics will miss the size of Porzingis, but Kornet is one of the few guys in the NBA that comes close to Porzingis in that department. He is also a capable shot blocker and rim-runner, making him a solid backup big man who can play important minutes in a pinch, just as the current situation calls for.

While Kornet would probably get cooked by Doncic and Irving on the perimeter, if Joe Mazulla can come up with a good defensive scheme, Kornet can stick at the rim and deter any shots in the paint for the small amount of time he is in the game.

Jayson Tatum could be a Boston Celtics small-ball option at the 5

The other center option that is intriguing from a lineup construction standpoint is Jayson Tatum.

Tatum is already asked to do so much for the Celtics, so running some center is not out of the question, especially since he is already guarding Mavericks centers Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively a lot.

A lineup of Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Sam Hauser, Derrick White, and Jrue Holiday would be great at spacing the floor and switching everything on defense. That would be a very small lineup, but it would be interesting if Joe Mazulla at least trotted it out for a small stretch.

All-in-all, the Celtics have proven they can win without Porzingis, but the NBA Finals is a big step up in pressure and competition.

If Horford, Kornet, and even Tatum can all step up at the center position, then Porzingis's great production in restricted minutes can be made up for at both ends of the floor.

Other more unexpected guys that could step up are Xavier Tillman, Oshae Brissett, and Neemias Queta. Tillman fits into the Horford mold of switchable big with size, Brissett fits more into the Tatum mold of a wing that can play small-ball big, while Queta would be a different look, being an athletic rim-running big.

While injuries in the playoffs always stink, the real test of an NBA champion is how the replacements step up their game, so missing Porzingis once again in the biggest games of the year will be a true testament to why the Celtics deserve to be champions this season.