The Celtics have had to rely on their depth more than expected early this season. Players who, in all honesty, shouldn’t even be seeing the floor, are getting extended minutes. So far it’s working. The Celtics own the league’s best record at 10-2, and are currently riding a 10-game winning streak. Would you like to know why? It’s not Kyrie or Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown, although they all have been spectacular thus far. The Celtics are winning because of their rugged group of big men.
The depth of Boston’s front court, and their ability to contribute, has been a huge factor over the first 12 games. The play of Al Horford has been well documented, but the contributions of Aron Baynes, Marcus Morris, and Daniel Theis have gone somewhat unnoticed. This group of bigs are one of the more diverse in the league, and each player knows his role. They complement each other well, and impact the offense and defense equally. Lets dive in and break down what makes them so impactful.
Aron Baynes is the Perfect Celtic
Baynes embodies knowing your role. There will almost never be an offensive play called for him. He willingly crashes the boards, and has no problem battling with opposing bigs that may give Horford problems. Baynes is a perfect foil for bigs like Horford and Morris. While Horford and Morris excel on the offensive end, Baynes holds down the defense and takes his shots whenever they come. He never forces anything, and plays whatever role Brad Stevens asks of him. He protects the rim, gives the Celtics a physical presence in the middle of the floor, and has no problem starting or coming off the bench. Baynes is a matchup player. Traditional bigs like Greg Monroe and Jonas Valanciunas are his specialty. When the game calls for it, Baynes can even carry the offense:
Aron Baynes' 21 points matches his career high (21, 3/19/16 vs. BKN). This is the third time Baynes has scored at least 20 points in his NBA career (307 games)
— Celtics Stats (@Celtics_Stats) November 9, 2017
Marcus “Mook” Morris is the Celtics’ X-Factor
Morris has only played three games this season, but he is already showing what his capabilities. With a polished offensive game, Morris is a rare power forward who can get his own shot. So far, he hasn’t shown the ability to grab a lot of rebounds or get others involved, but he can score the ball. Let me remind you that he is still working his way back into game shape, and still scored 18 points against the Lakers, in just his third game this year.
Morris’ versatility fits nicely alongside many of Boston’s other bigs. Slide him in next to Horford, when an opposing team is going small, and he can guard anyone from a quick shooting guard, to a bruising power forward. If Stevens decides Baynes is the best matchup to start, Morris can head to the bench and become the number one offensive option with the second unit. We can now expect the offense to come from people like Kyrie, Horford, Tatum, and Brown. If Morris can become a good spot up shooter, and be a plus defender against opposing wings, he can make this Celtics team special.
Theis, Theis Baby!
Theis is quickly becoming a Celtics cult hero. He has proven to not only be a spark off the bench, but a reliable backup big man who can give the starters a break without giving up a lead. The 25-year old rookie has years of experience playing professionally in Germany, and it shows. His basketball IQ is through the roof, and for a backup big man, he plays solid defense. While his stats won’t wow you, Theis has been one of the more consistent players when given minutes. Theis is shooting 53.8 percent from the floor, and is averaging 1.7 offensive rebounds per game. He’s an energy player that can crash the glass, block shots, and has already created a great chemistry with bench guards, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier.
The top four Celtics’ front court players are currently responsible for 39.6 points and 23 rebounds per game. This may not seem like a lot, compared to stacked front courts like New Orleans and Minnesota, but the improvement from last season is undeniable. With the injury to Gordon Hayward, every player will need to do more. So far, the Boston bigs have been helping to carry the load.