2019-20 Roster Breakdown: The Bigs
BOSTON – The Boston Celtics begin training camp Tuesday, so it’s time we break down the roster and provide an idea of what the team’s depth chart will look like heading into the 2018-19 season.
Rather than classifying the players with the traditional 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 positional tags, we are taking a page out of coach Brad Stevens’ book by placing each athlete into one of the following three roles:
- Ball handlers – Typically played by the 1.
- Wings – A hybrid between the 2, 3 and 4.
- Bigs – A hybrid between the 4 and the 5.
This week, we’ve analyzed the Celtics’ depth at the ball-handling and wing positions. Today, we wrap up our Roster Breakdown series by highlighting Boston’s bigs. As their title indicates, these are the largest players on the floor and they’re responsible for handling the post and protecting the rim.
Here are the players who will likely be sharing that job for the Celtics this season:
Not only did the Celtics pluck one of the top ball-handlers off of the free agent market this summer in signing Kemba Walker, but they also inked one of the NBA’s premier rebounders and interior scorers in Enes Kanter.
The 6-foot-11 Turkish center has been a force on the glass for the past eight seasons. He was particularly menacing against the Celtics, against whom he averaged 12.1 rebounds per game over his last nine matchups.
More specifically, Kanter has excelled on the offensive glass throughout his career. He has finished among the top three in offensive rebounding percentage during each of the past five seasons, while twice owning the No. 1 rate in the league (2015-16, 2017-18). That’s good news for a Celtics franchise that hasn’t seen a player finish among the top three in that department in more than 40 years.
On top of his rebounding, Kanter offers an elite interior offensive skill set. He is a career 54.1 percent shooter from the field, with most of those buckets coming from inside the paint where he uses an arsenal of post moves to beat his defenders. The 27-year-old has also expressed a desire to add a 3-pointer to his game, which would open things up even more for himself and for his teammates.
The Celtics will miss having both Al Horford and Aron Baynes manning their frontcourt this season, but their departures should open up the door for third-year big man Daniel Theis.
Theis has been a solid role player for the C’s over the last two seasons, as he averaged 5.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game, while shooting 54.5 percent from the field. Having played an average of 14.3 minutes per match, those numbers translate to 13.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes.
Last season, Theis shot 54.9 percent from the field, making him Boston’s most efficient shooter among players who appeared in at least half of the team’s regular-season games. He also excelled from the 3-point line, where he connected on 38.8 percent of his attempts.
Theis has also shown the ability to step up when given extended minutes. Take Boston’s Dec. 8 matchup last season in Chicago for example: the 6-foot-9 big man earned a spot-start against the Bulls and produced 22 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four blocks over 32 minutes of turnover-free action. He also had a plus-50 rating during that game, which the Celtics won by a franchise-record 56 points. He had another 20-point game Feb. 7 against the Lakers, during which he shot a career-best 9-of-11 from the field over 23 minutes of play.
Another player who could jump up the depth chart is Robert Williams. The 6-foot-10 center showed promise during his rookie season, as he shot 70.6 percent from the field and blocked 5.1 shots per 36 minutes. His opportunities were slim, however, as he averaged just 8.8 minutes of action over 32 games.
The one place where Williams had a few chances to play extensively was in Maine, where he averaged 15.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game for the G League’s Red Claws, while shooting an astounding 73.3 percent from the field. He also saw solid minutes during the 2019 Summer League in Las Vegas, where he produced a ridiculous 18.1 rebounds per 36 minutes during four appearances.
Coach Brad Stevens noted earlier this month that Williams has had “as good a summer as anybody” for the C’s. With that in mind, this could be a great opportunity for the promising youngster to break out.
Boston could, at times, have an all-Williams frontcourt, as rookie power forward Grant Williams will be vying for playing time as well.
The 22nd overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft joins the C’s with plenty of success and accolades already under his belt, having been a standout three-year player at the University of Tennessee. Williams was named SEC Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons, becoming the first player to do so in 24 years. Last season as a junior, he averaged 18.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. He was named a consensus 2018-19 All-America First Team selection, as well as a finalist for the 2018-19 Wooden Award. He also helped to lead the Volunteers to a stay as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation.
Though Williams is “only” 6-foot-7, his 240-pound, muscular frame gives him enough strength to play the 5, and he’s also skilled enough to play the 3 and the 4. Possessing such versatility should allow him to earn some solid stints throughout the season in various roles.
One dark horse in Boston’s frontcourt could be rookie center Vincent Poirier. Celtics fans may not know much about the French big man yet, but he has the potential to be an athletic rim-runner and rebounder off the bench.
The 25-year-old already has seven professional seasons under his belt, including the last two seasons that he spent with Baskonia of Liga ACB in Spain. During Euroleague play last season, Poirier averaged 11.9 points and a league-leading 8.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 62.1 percent from the field.
If the high-energy 7-footer can bring some of that success across the Atlantic to Boston, he could find himself earning a role with the C’s.