Season Refresh Chapter: Daniel Theis
BOSTON – Should a poll be cast asking the basketball world who the unsung hero of the Boston Celtics season is, there would be an overwhelmingly consistent answer: Daniel Theis.
Theis, in his third NBA campaign, slid into Boston’s starting lineup at the center position this season and hasn’t looked back. He has started 57 of the 58 games in which he has appeared and been the perfect complementary piece to Boston’s core-four starters of Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward each and every night.
Brad Stevens has leaned on Theis to be a versatile defensive weapon at the center position who can rebound, run the floor, roll to the rim and pose as a threat from long distance. Theis has fulfilled that role to the highest of degree.
The German big man leads the team by a wide margin in blocked shots with 75 on the season, well ahead of Jayson Tatum’s 53, which rank second. Theis also has the fourth-best defensive rating on the team and his 35 steals are tops among Boston’s interior players, plus a few perimeter players.
The key to Theis’ defensive impact is his versatility. Boston can walk into any matchup knowing that he can switch onto any opposing player and comfortably defend him. That ability is a critical component to the team’s defensive philosophy that hinges on switchability.
In the rebounding department, Theis is having a career year with an average of 6.6 rebounds per game. His previous high in that category was 4.3 per game. Theis ranks second on the team in rebounding percentage among players who have appeared in 24 or more game, behind only Enes Kanter, with a percentage of 13.1.
The athleticism Theis brings to the table allows him to impact the game at both ends of the court for Boston. We’ve already covered the defensive side, and on offense, he serves as an athletic target in transition as well as an outstanding alley-oop target.
Theis has finished 14 alley-oops this season, which trails only Rob Williams’ 15 for the team lead. He also trails only Williams in field goal percentage inside of five feet, where he has made 151 of his 219 attempts, good for 68.9 percent. Lastly, he is a threat from long distance, where he has made 32.1 percent of his shots – not a great percentage, but certainly one which draws respect from opponents.
The entire package Theis brings to the table for Boston provides the team with a reliable starting center who can contribute in many different ways. Rarely will Theis log an eye-popping stat line, but he plugs in solid numbers in multiple categories almost nightly.
Through 58 appearances this season, the big man has tallied 27 games of double-digit scoring, 26 games with at least seven rebounds, 26 games with at least one steal, and 20 games with at least two blocks.
Of all of these performances, his Feb. 21 effort on the road against Minnesota shined the brightest. That’s the night Theis set new career highs in not one, but two different categories while logging only 28 minutes of action.
Theis dominated the Timberwolves while racking up 25 points and 16 rebounds to set new career highs. He made nine of his 14 shots, including one of his two 3-point attempts, and also blocked a shot during the game.
Boston upended the Timberwolves 127-117 during this game while making history in the process. Four Celtics, the least expected of whom was Theis, logged at least 25 points during that game, marking the first such instance in franchise history since Jan. 20, 1960.
Outside of that performance, Theis has logged one other game of at least 20 points, and six of at least 16 points. He has also tallied double-digit rebounds during eight other games.
Other players on the Celtics will garner far more attention from the media on a nightly basis, but Theis is just fine with that. He has bought into his role as a complementary starter and excelled within that role throughout the season.
There’s no question about it: Theis is the unsung hero of this team.