The Boston Celtics’ most efficient player in the overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors wasn’t Derrick White, despite 30 points. Or Jaylen Brown, who contributed 28 points.
Nope. Boston’s most efficient player was Neemias Queta, who in 20:46 dropped 10 points, grabbed 10 boards, and finished with a +10 plus/minus. And it was all done without taking any of the 58 threes the Celtics attempted.
Queta was bested by Trayce Jackson-Davis though, who submitted 10 points, 13 boards and three blocks. It included a block, a dunk and some key rebounds down the stretch while Queta was on the bench since 6:57 left in the fourth quarter. Jackson-Davis finished +25 for the night.
This isn’t to take a shot Celtics’ head coach Joe Mazzulla’s substitutions. These two teams have very different situations. Queta has been a valuable depth player when the team is thin at center. The Warriors will be without Draymond Green until he convinces the NBA he’s given up Kung-fu while on the court.
But if things were a little different, Queta and Jackson-Davis would be on the same team.
If the Boston Celtics drafted Trayce Jackson-Davis before signing Neemias Queta, they would have sufficient depth at center for the rest of the season
Leading up to the 2023 NBA Draft, I profiled four forwards that would be ideal fits for the Celtics. Jackson-Davis was at the top of the list. Jordan Walsh was third.
Boston started the night with the 25th overall selection, thanks to the Marcus Smart for Kristaps Porzingis trade, and 35th overall. But Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens was barely warmed up. Stevens traded down multiple times and made Walsh his only selection.
Stevens at some point had the 31st, 34th and 39th selections in his hands, but dealt them away. As Stevens did his shuffling, Jackson-Davis fell all the way to the penultimate selection, 57th overall, to the Warriors.
Jackson-Davis is a victim of the three-centric NBA. Big men that can’t/don’t shoot threes have very little value in today’s game. Jackson-Davis did go to an ideal situation in Golden State, though. They will value his defense, rebounding and floor vision.
But Boston would had been a great fit for Jackson-Davis as well. The Celtics still need some big man depth. As they say, a team could never have enough big men. Thankfully, the Sacramento Kings felt they had enough bigs within their organization.
Queta was entering his third year after a dominant season in the G League. Being a fan favorite was nice, but not enough to impress the Kings, as they waived Queta before training camp after signing JaVale McGee. Five days later, the Celtics signed Queta to a two-way deal.
Queta was supposed to be a developmental player, but a few dominoes fell around the league, making Jrue Holiday available. It cost Boston Robert Williams to trade for Holiday, but at least the Celtics had a similarly athletic big man still left on the roster.
While not the defensive presence that Williams was for Boston, Queta has been a productive energy player that gladly does the dirty work. Until last night, the Celtics were undefeated when Queta played.
These appearances aren’t just garbage time minutes. His 15:09 against the Atlanta Hawks helped the Celtics to a 10-point win. And in back-to-back games against the Orlando Magic, Queta totaled a +21 rating.
Stevens and the Celtics are in win-now mode, but they also have an eye on the future. Queta and Jackson-Davis would fit into both phases. As we can see, both can play now. And they’re both young, so they can be developed for when Horford retires or when Luke Kornet is playing elsewhere.
Maybe that means one of them, along with Walsh and JD Davison, is making the Maine Celtics a championship-caliber team. It doesn’t matter who.
What matters is if Boston had both Queta and Jackson-Davis, they would be set at the 5 and maybe wouldn’t have an interest in Detroit’s Isaiah Stewart.