2017-18 Roster Breakdown: The Bigs

BOSTON – With all the versatility on the Boston Celtics roster, it’s not easy placing positional labels on the players.

However, Brad Stevens does his best seeing as he doesn’t classify his guys with the traditional 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 positional tags. Instead, the Celtics coach sings to his own tune with a set of hybrid roles to fit the multitalented nature of his athletes.

In the book of Stevens, players generally fall into one of the three following categories:

  1. Ball handlers – Typically played by the 1.
  2. Wings – A hybrid between the 2, 3 and 4.
  3. Bigs – A hybrid between the 4 and the 5.

The C’s begin training camp in a few days, 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 2017-18 season. Boston currently has 14 guaranteed contracts, meaning it could add one more player by the end of the preseason. Regardless, this should give a solid indication of each member’s projected role with the squad.

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 banging bodies around in the post and protecting the rim.

Here are the four players that will likely be sharing that job for the Celtics this season.

The Bigs

Al Horford

When Al Horford came to the Celtics two summers ago, his goal was to make others around him better. And that’s exactly what he did during his first season in green and white.

Former Celtics starters Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder all had career years last season, and that was no coincidence. It all tied into Horford’s playmaking ability and exceptional basketball IQ from his frontcourt position.

Horford may not put up traditional big man statistics in the rebounding department, but his strong combination of shooting, passing, screen setting, decision-making and leadership was a major reason why Boston improved so much last season. He was particularly impressive in the postseason, when he averaged 15.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game, while shooting 58.4 percent from the field, including an exceptional clip of 51.0 percent from 3-point range.

Horford will be the only returnee to the starting lineup this season. He will play a major role in integrating the new pieces into the starting rotation. It will be a great challenge, but with the help of his calming presence and wise veteran leadership, the newcomers should be able to acclimate themselves in no time.

Aron Baynes

The Celtics needed to pick up a traditional big man this offseason, so they went out and signed Australian center Aron Baynes. The 6-foot-10, 260-pound veteran has five NBA seasons under his belt, including an NBA title-winning campaign with the 2013-14 Spurs.

Baynes most recently played in Detroit, where he built the reputation of being a fearless, gritty body-banger – qualities which the Celtics could certainly benefit from.

The 30-year-old will likely be taking Amir Johnson’s reps, after Johnson left for Philadelphia via free agency. Baynes could even claim Johnson’s starting role, as Brad Stevens showed last year that he preferred having a traditional big start alongside Horford.

Daniel Theis

The Celtics made a number of marquee moves this summer, but one that may have flown under the radar was the acquisition of Daniel Theis. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound big man spent seven years playing professionally in his home country of Germany. During that span, he was a four-time German League All-Star, a three-time German League champion, a 2017 German Cup winner, and was named the 2017 German League Best Defender.

Theis averaged 9.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last season with Brose Bamberg, which competes in the highly-competitive EuroLeague. The 25-year-old shot 59.8 percent from the field, 41.0 percent from 3-point range, while playing an average of 19.7 minutes per contest.

Theis’ defense in the frontcourt could be of great aid for the Celtics this season, and his under-the-radar signing could end up being looked back upon as one of the most beneficial moves of the offseason.

Guerschon Yabusele

Guerschon Yabusele in an interesting case in our Roster Breakdown Series because it’s difficult to predict what type of role he will have this season. That’s mostly due to his unique combination of size and agility, which makes him an incredibly versatile asset.

Boston’s 16th overall pick from the 2016 NBA Draft has the body of an offensive lineman, but is as light on his feet as a slot receiver. It’s no wonder he’s earned the nickname “The Dancing Bear.”

At 6-foot-8, 260 pounds, Yabusele has the physique to battle down low with 4s and 5s, though he’s also quick enough to defend guards on the perimeter. Jaylen Brown said it best last season when he told ESPN, “That kid is a freak of nature that I had never seen, somebody so big and so mobile.”

Yabusele had an impressive campaign overseas last season with the Shanghai Sharks, as he averaged 20.9 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks, while earning a Chinese Basketball Association All-Star nod.

The 21-year-old rookie had surgery in May to remove bone spurs from his ankles. When he’s ready to go, we’ll likely see him play at the 3 and the 4, though his size could also come in handy against opposing bigs.


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