With training camp less than a week away, it’s time for us to break down the Celtics' roster to give you an idea of what the team’s depth chart will look like for the 2023-24 season.
Rather than classifying players with the traditional 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 positional tags, we’re taking a page out of President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens’ book by placing each athlete into one of the following categories:
1. Ball handlers – Typically played by the 1.
3. Bigs – A hybrid between the 4 and the 5.
We’ll begin our Roster Breakdown Series by highlighting Boston’s bigs. As their title indicates, these are often the largest players on the floor and are usually responsible for handling the post and protecting the rim.
Here are the players who will be sharing that job listed in order of minutes played per game last season:
Since we’re on the topic of bigs, let’s dive into the biggest acquisition of Boston’s offseason. Kristaps Porzingis brings both immense size and skill to the Celtics’ frontcourt and gives them a third star to place alongside Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
The 7-foot-3 Latvian is fresh off his best NBA season after averaging a career-high 23.2 points to go along with 8.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game. He also shot a career-best 49.8 percent from the field along with a 38.5 percent clip from 3-point range.
Porzingis gives the C’s a third high-volume scoring option, while most other teams have two at best. He’s someone who can score all over the court and should add a new layer of production to Boston’s offensive system with his ability to make shots from the post.
Porzingis should also give the Celtics a boost on the defensive end, where last season he ranked among the top five in pick-and-roll defenders while also being a top-tier shot-blocker.
Although he had a minor offseason hiccup in the form of plantar fasciitis, Porzingis is expected to enter training camp fully healthy and ready to go. And having just turned 28 in August, his best years could be yet to come.
To be entering year 17 in the NBA is a feat in and of itself. But to be entering year 17 potentially in a starting role? That’s superhuman stuff. And that’s where Al Horford finds himself as he embarks on another year with the C’s.
Horford showed little sign of slowing down in year 16. In fact, it was one of the most impressive seasons of his career. Horford fully bought into his role as a 3-point specialist on the offensive end, making a career-high 145 3-pointers (his previous high was 99) at a remarkable 44.6 percent clip, good for the second-best percentage in the league.
On the defensive end, he continued to step up to the challenge by taking on some of the best bigs in the league such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid.
The addition of Porzingis may lessen Horford’s production in some areas, but it should also enhance the 37-year-old’s ability to space the floor if the two of them share the court.
Oshae Brissett is the lone member of this group who could also qualify as a wing, but considering how he played 92 percent of his minutes at the 4 last season and that he brings a similar defensive skill set as Grant Williams, we’re slotting him in with the bigs. At 6-foot-7, 210 pounds, Brissett is the “smallest” member of this group, but he makes up for that with his strength and hustle.
The 25-year-old Toronto native spent his last three seasons in Indiana, where he averaged 8.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in 153 appearances, including 43 starts. His combination of athleticism and length (he has a 7-foot wingspan) allows him to guard multiple positions and be a threat on the glass. His 5.4 offensive rebound percentage last season ranked in the 83rd percentile.
Brissett should be a solid addition to the frontcourt and his versatility will allow him to play somewhat of a hybrid big/wing role.
One of the guys who helped fill in for Rob Williams last season was Luke Kornet, who played an important and underappreciated role. Having a viable backup big is essential, considering how it is the most physically demanding position on the court and Kornet was always available to provide solid minutes.
The 7-foot center strung together some strong outings in November and December, which included a 15-point, eight-rebound, four-block effort Nov. 16 in Atlanta.
Should the Celtics need to give any rest days to Porzingis or Horford, it’s reassuring knowing that they have a dependable backup to turn to in Kornet.
One of the organization’s three two-way roster spots was filled last week by Neemias Queta, a 7-foot center who was runner-up for G League MVP last season. Queta was the best player on the best team, averaging 16.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game while leading the Stockton Kings to a league-leading 25-7 record.
He, too, is an elite rim protector, as he proved at Utah State where he set nearly every shot-blocking program record, was a two-time Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year, and was a national finalist for DPOY.
The first Portugal native in NBA history will split his time this season between Boston and Maine with the hope of providing an energetic boost for both squads.