BOSTON – The Boston Celtics begin training camp later this month, 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.
Last week, we analyzed the Celtics’ depth at the ball-handling position. Today, we continue 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 banging bodies around in the post and protecting the rim.
Here are the five players who will likely be sharing that job for the Celtics this season.
Having the right type of leader can go a long way for a team fighting its way through the NBA Playoffs. Such was the case last season for Celtics, who relied heavily on veteran big man Al Horford to steer their young, inexperienced ship to success.
With All-Stars Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving sidelined for the postseason, Horford was the guy that all of Boston’s young players looked toward for guidance. Coach Brad Stevens called him “the rock” of the team as it battled all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Horford’s role with the Celtics isn’t to rack up huge numbers – he averaged 12.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game last season, while shooting a career-high 42.9 percent from long range – but his communication, court vision and game management on both ends of the floor were what kept the Celtics glued together during times of hardship. Coaches around the league recognized Horford’s expertise in those areas and voted him into the 2018 All-Star Game as a reserve.
The 31-year-old’s leadership on the defensive end is what should be cherished most by Celtics fans. His versatility and rim protection on that end helped to guide Boston to the best defensive rating in the league and earned him a spot on the All-Defensive Second Team.
Hayward and Irving are set to return for the 2018-19 Season, but Horford’s role as a leader should in no way be diminished. He’ll be the rock of the frontcourt, as well as the cool, calm and collected presence that keeps all of his teammates on the same page throughout the upcoming campaign.
Horford was the only Celtic who collected any defensive hardware last season, but his new starting frontcourt mate made just as much of an impact on that end of the floor.
Aron Baynes was the brick wall of Boston’s league-leading defense, fearlessly taking on any opponent and contesting every shot attempted within his vicinity. The 6-foot-10 Australian center often flew under the radar, but his elite vertical awareness, lateral quickness and willingness to do the dirty work down low landed him the best individual defensive rating in the league among players who played at least half of the season.
During his first season in green, Baynes averaged 6.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while playing 18.3 minutes per contest. He was also Boston’s most durable player, seeing action in a team-high 81 games.
Baynes entered free agency this summer knowing that his role would likely decrease if he remained with the Celtics due to the anticipated returns of Hayward and Irving. However, the veteran big man had developed a great sense of Celtic Pride over the past year and couldn’t see himself signing anywhere else.
Baynes told Celtics.com last week that he ultimately wanted to be with a team that could contend for a title. And in Boston, the defensive stalwart should be able to help the C’s do just that.
The Celtics made a plethora of marquee movies during the summer of 2017, but one that went nearly unnoticed was the signing of Daniel Theis. In last year’s roster breakdown, we predicted that it could end up being one of the most beneficial moves the organization made; and sure enough, it was.
Theis made a seamless transition from international hoops to the NBA, sliding into Boston’s rotation with ease. By the fourth game of the season, the 6-foot-9 rookie was already earning significant minutes and Coach Stevens was praising his energy on a near-nightly basis.
The German native would wind up averaging 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, all while shooting a team-high 54.1 percent from the field. Many of his points came by way of dunks, as he often finds himself on the receiving end of an alley-oop pass.
In mid-March, Theis’ campaign came to an abrupt, heartbreaking end, as he tore his left meniscus during the final minute of a game against the Indiana Pacers. The injury called for season-ending surgery, but he is on track to be ready to go by the start of training camp.
It’s hard not to love Guerschon Yabusele. The French-born Dancing Bear has brought an infectious, vibrant attitude to Boston, and his potential on the court is just as bright.
Yabusele saw limited action last season, appearing in just 33 games, but he brought phenomenal energy to Boston’s bench unit whenever he was on the floor.
At 6-foot-8, 260 pounds, the forward boasts an imposing figure, but he’s also surprisingly agile for his size. He runs the floor well, has great strength and even has a solid 3-point shot, which is often followed by a celebratory bow-and-arrow dab.
At just 22 years old, the international big man still has a lot of room for growth, but he’s shown great promise during his short tenure with the Celtics so far.
The Celtics have needed a bona fide shot-blocker for years, and that’s exactly what they hauled in from the 2018 NBA Draft. Boston used its lone draft pick to select 20-year-old Robert Williams, an athletic, defensive specialist who uses his imposing, 7-foot-6 wingspan to wreak havoc around the rim.
Williams spent two seasons at Texas A&M, where he earned back-to-back SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors while averaging 11.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.
The 6-foot-9 big man from Shreveport, Louisiana has been dealing with a case of knee tendonitis since Summer League, but like Theis, he hopes to be ready to go by the start of training camp. Once he’s back to 100 percent health, Williams should have opportunities to showcase his shot-swatting expertise.
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