Daniel Theis Can Outsmart His Way Into the Celtics Starting Lineup
SB Nation (Celtics Blog)
In The Memory Code author Lynne Kelly theorized that Stonehenge was built to help Neolithic Britons remember important times for crop cycles. By that logic, FIBA basketball was created to remind me that it's August and time to write about Celtic role players.
Without further ado, I now present a short piece on Boston big man Daniel Theis, his play against the Czech Republic in the VTG Supercup, and the likelihood that Brad Stevens names him their starting center.
Now, I could pretend that I know what a VTG Supercup is. Or I could copy and paste from VTG.com and tell you that it's a, "preliminary tournament in the run-up to the second phase of the World Cup qualifiers for men's basketball." It also features relevant NBA names like Schroeder, Satoransky and of course, Theis.
What stood out to me when watching Theis was the development of his hoops IQ. In the clip below, Theis realizes that if he can get the center defending him switched onto Schroeder than a mismatch can be had. In fact, he realizes this before Schroeder does. Eventually Schroeder catches on and calls for Theis to drag his defender into the pick and roll, which ultimately leads to Theis using a dribble-handoff to free up a shooter for a triple.
In that instant, Theis knew the game situation better than his point guard. Perhaps his IQ is why Schroeder often calls on him to be a screener. This next example shows Theis feigning a hard screen just to slip to the hoop and roll in for a thunderous slam.
This screening technique is reminiscent of Al Horford, someone who Theis surely spent a lot of time watching. Yet, tugging his defender away from the hoop before cutting for an alley-oop gives serious Horford vibes.
What Brad Stevens may find most impressive about Theis' mental development is his spacing prowess. "Pace and Space" is a Stevens motto and one which may have been branded into this big man's brain. The German national demonstrated veteran patience when standing in a dunker spot for around ten seconds. Some other players, particularly younger ones, may grow uncomfortable doing so and pop out towards the perimeter or elbow. Not Theis. He trusts the play and watches it manifest into a savvy lob dunk.
Theis displayed his knowledge of court spacing in other ways, too. After an outlet pass he wisely laid a high screen before the defense could get set. To keep the lane free he pops instead of rolls. Eventually, he is rewarded with a wide open triple that he sinks easily.
Maybe the play above doesn't wow you. That's okay. But just know that neither Robert Williams nor Enes Kanter can make that play happen. Those two aren't floor spacers (yet.) Theis isn't exactly a sniper but, he made 38.8 percent of his 3-pointers last year and his decent form suggests he could still do well with a slight increase in volume.
Defensively, Williams has the highest upside due to his length and freakish athleticism. Theis is no slouch, though. Despite not being a top tier athlete, he is tough, coachable and bouncy enough. If his international game carries over into the regular season, Stevens may find Theis the safest option to start at center once opening night comes around.