The center position has been the main weak spot for the Boston Celtics in recent history, but this year we should see some improvement at the five.
The depth chart features a proven veteran, an Australian big man who’s never afraid to sacrifice his body, a surprisingly useful role player, and a hit-or-miss rookie who’s gotten off to a rocky start.
Starter: Al Horford / Projection: 12.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 5.1 APG, 30.0 PER
Since signing a four-year deal worth $113 million with the Celtics in 2016, Al Horford has been one of the most consistent and valuable players for his squad.
While he doesn’t always light up the box score, Horford is the quintessential combo forward. His passing ability is among the best big men in the league, and the capability to shoot threes paired with a methodic post-game is exactly what Brad Stevens is looking for in his offense.
Furthermore, the University of Florida product is a great fit defensively. Horford has proven that he can hold his own versus all five positions, and has an extremely high basketball I.Q.
This combination is why we see him being hailed as a versatile defender, without racking up fouls and costing his team points from the charity stripe.
Backup: Aron Baynes / Projection: 5.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 0.7 APG, 15.2 MPG
After Baynes signed with the Celtics as a free agent last season, he quickly rose to be one of my favorite competitors both on and off the court.
Baynes is one of the few players for Boston that can give them a size advantage, which was especially useful last year with the surplus of injuries. The 6-foot-10 center doesn’t turn to his offensive game often, but it’s fairly effective when he does. In fact, Baynes even developed a deadly shooting ability from the perimeter during last year’s postseason run.
Although there will hopefully be serious health improvements this year, I actually don’t expect Baynes’ numbers to take a serious drop. He will be the primary center off the bench and be surrounded by a plethora of players that he became acclimated to in his first year with the Celtics.
Third off the bench: Daniel Theis / Projection: 4.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.1 APG, 11.9 PER
I think I’m right in saying that Daniel Theis’ overall success last year came as a bit of a pleasant surprise. Theis did exactly what was asked of him, and gelled well with an all-new group.
This was his first season in the NBA, after tearing up the court in his home country of Germany. Theis was one of many Celtics who suffered a significant injury last year, tearing his meniscus in March.
This wound up sidelining Theis for the remainder of the season, but Stevens recently told reporters that he has been in 5-on-5 action and will be fully ready by training camp.
Fourth off the bench: Robert Williams / Projection: 3.2 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.2 APG, 9.8 PER
Robert Williams is the final player in this year’s edition of projections, and for me, he’s also the most difficult.
He demonstrated great skill and athletic ability in his two years with Texas A&M but has been criticised for coming off as unprofessional since being selected with the 27th pick in the 2018 draft.
I could certainly see him rising up the totem pole and getting meaningful minutes, making my projections look embarrassingly bad. On the flip side, he will be joining a star-studded team competing for a championship, where there is no room for a lack of work ethic.