Brad Stevens hints at how he views his big man rotation
Brad Stevens discussing defense with young center Robert Williams III (David Zalubowski/AP Photo)
The five best players on the Boston Celtics for the upcoming season do not include any big men. This is not the end of the world as a lot of teams across the league sport nontraditional small-ball lineups for long stretches in any game, but that does not mean that you want to have zero front court production. Brad Stevens and the Celtics will need to find the best mix of players that include integrating in some of their bigs.
In no particular order, you can make a case for any of these players to be the most important member of the Celtics next year: Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum. This talented five will not get much, if any, on court time together. So how does Brad see it shaking out?
Brad Stevens on how the Celtics will use their big men: "It could be rotating them. It could be that somebody wins it. We'll see how it all works out. But they're all good guys and they've all had good summers."
As you can see, Brad is unsurprisingly noncommittal. He doesn’t have to be either. There is still a full camp and preseason to sort out different match-ups and lineup variations.
Brad also alludes to the fact that whoever starts is a bit overrated. The aforementioned Big Five (Is that a thing?) will all see 30 or more minutes per night. That means there is at least 48 minutes that Brad needs to find production from a big spot.
Brad Stevens: "We're going to have to figure out lineups that work best together, and everybody's going to make a big deal over who's starts, but we all know who the five guys are that are going to play the very most on our team."
The first crack at a starting spot and most big man minutes will likely be Enes Kanter. He took a team-friendly contract to come to Boston with the expectation of solid minutes. His offensive rebounding will be a huge asset for the Celtics. He’s one of the best in the league. Kanter is not known for his defensive prowess, which may cut into his minutes a bit. And don’t be surprised to see some three pointers from him this year either.
Robert Williams III could be a dark horse to push for the most minutes at the center position. He split time between the Maine Red Claws and the Celtics last year. Coming into the league a bit immature, he grew a great deal last season. The rim-running, shot blocking machine impressed in the Summer League as well.
More on @rob_williamsIII really good summer. "(Celtics asst coach) Kara Lawson said something to me in Vegas that really stuck with me. She said I wish everybody communicated like Rob (Williams) does. Last year this time you wouldn’t have said that." - #Celtics Brad Stevens
Daniel Theis is a bit underrated, but I’d be lying if I don’t yell at the screen when Theis is taking too many fouls and not playing well. Truth is, he is what he is. He can effectively stretch the floor as his 38.8% from three from last season proves. He has played well in stretches and bad in stretches during his Celtics tenure. He is gaining that valuable FIBA World Cup experience as he plays for Germany. One thing that I’d like to see next season with Theis is strategically matching him up against smaller bigs. He just doesn’t have the frame to bang, but he is a decent positional defender.
Maybe the biggest unknown of the group is Vincent Poirier, who signed with the Celtics out of Europe over the summer. He was one of the best rebounders in the Euroleague so we’ll find out how that translates. He is currently playing for France in the FIBA World Cup and contributing (7.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in 17 minutes/game). Poirier’s highlights look nice and he’ll get a long look, but nothing is for certain yet.
If you have four big men, do you really have one? None of the guys are surefire NBA starters, but each player compliments the other. They all do different things well, and that is why Brad is noncommittal and may play the match-ups.
Honorable (and worthy) mentions:
Grant Williams comes in as an undersized power forward as a rookie. He will get an opportunity to earn minutes. He can shoot a bit and can bang down low. His defense will be what will determine his minutes though. Unless Brad is going small, expect to see this Williams paired with another big.
Semi Ojeleye may find himself playing some big forward this year. He is a positionless player since he can guard multiple positions. He has slowly developed in his time with the Celtics and suffers from the start wing players ahead of him, but if he can knock down the corner three consistently then we may see more of him next year.
Can we go a week without mentioning Tacko Fall this summer? Short answer: no. He’s no guarantee to make the roster never mind make a significant impact. The hope is that he can stick around to develop for the G-League squad. His height is not something you can teach, so he’ll stick in the league for that alone. If he works hard and develops, then he can earn minutes in years to come.