Boston Celtics thin on big men for tonight’s tilt against the New York Knicks

Robert Williams soaring for the dunk | Photo: Adam Richins

The Boston Celtics big men are dropping like flies. The opening night starting center, Enes Kanter, suffered a knee contusion in the opener and will miss at least two games. Daniel Theis got the nod to start in game two but will be sitting out the third game against the New York Knicks after spraining his ankle against the Toronto Raptors on Friday night. There’s no real timeline for returns, but neither injuries seem to be long term.

We did a lot of big man rotation talk throughout the off-season, but we didn’t expect the depth to be tested this early into the season. So, who are the next men up for the Celtics?

Brad Stevens has stated that he plans to play match-ups with his bigs throughout the season, so who knows who the roulette wheel would’ve ended up on tonight anyway. Robert Williams III got the start in the preseason opener, so there’s certainly been some consideration there. Timelord has also played solid basketball in reserve minutes over the first couple of games.

Robert Williams logged 11 minutes in the opener and 15 minutes in game two. Expect those minutes to increase tonight. Mitchell Robinson is a true center for the Knicks who are loaded with power forwards. Robinson and Williams are big time athletes and were viewed as similar players in the 2018 draft. It’d be nice to see our guy have the better game in this match-up.

The other Williams namesake, Grant, actually played more minutes than Robert in the second game of the season. G-Dubs played 7 minutes in the first game and saw his minutes increase all the way up to 22 against the Toronto Raptors. Prior to the game, Brad Stevens told Grant to expect to play center with Enes Kanter being down.

Grant Williams is only 6’6” without his shoes on and is listed as a power forward. That is not the size of your father’s centers in the NBA, but he gets the job done. He is a strong, wide-body that is a crafty defender. Not only will he get an opportunity to play against the Knicks, but this rookie looks like a veteran already.

Brad is not afraid of small ball, as we’ve seen some minutes with Marcus Smart (?!) at center in a lineup with Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward. That lineup isn’t sustainable if the opposition wants to play big, but the ability for Smart and Brown to play “up” a position defensively gives Brad options.

We may also get our first look at Vincent Poirier tonight against the Knicks. Poirier has not seen action in the first two games, but he is a true big that doesn’t mind the dirty work. Brad has mentioned that he’s a little behind in what the Celtics are trying to do - he’s new to the team and played in the FIBA World Championships over the summer.

Tacko Fall will likely be active tonight as well, but don’t expect him to play in the game if its competitive. He’s simply not ready and it seems like Brad has enough to get by. It’d be fun to see Madison Square Garden react to the 7’6” center, though.

Regardless of how the bigs shake out tonight, the Celtics should have the fire power to take down the 0-2 Knicks. Tonight, and throughout the season, the Celtics will be carried by their ball handlers and wings.

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