The Boston Celtics Center Conundrum
The Boston Celtics as a team believe that they have a legitimate shot at a championship. Kemba Walker is an All-NBA player who is capable of catching fire and carrying this team to playoff wins. Boston’s three wings: Hayward, Brown, and Tatum are all sharp-shooting shot creators, the type of players that are needed when play slows down in the postseason.
The weak link of this team has been obvious since they arrived at training camp months ago: Boston doesn’t have a reliable center. Daniel Theis, the starter, is probably the most complete of the Celtics’ trio of centers. His solid shot-blocking and rim running makes him serviceable in most matchups. However, his 6’8 frame, underwhelming rebounding numbers, and his lack of outside shooting has and will hold this team back from being as good as possible.
The second big is Enes Kanter, who comes with his own set of skills and deficiencies. Kanter is the best offensive player of the of the three. His back to the basket game is polished, and his rebounding ability gives Boston a dynamic that they haven’t had in a long time. Kanter’s problems lie on the defensive end, he provides no rim protection and his pick and roll defense (or lack thereof) has the potential to make him completely unplayable come playoff time.
Robert Williams is the third center, and he is the one with the most potential. The Timelord, as he’s being called, is the best athlete on Boston’s roster. His leaping ability allows him to be a good rim protector and lob catcher, two skills that are crucial to being a playable center who can’t shoot in the modern era. The only real issue with Williams is that his lack of experience makes him a huge question mark, something a contending team can’t afford on the court in the playoffs when every possession matters.
All three of these bigs have a unique set of skills that could all be valuable in a series, but their limitations could make them liabilities. Many people who have watched the Celtics this season say they need an upgrade at the center if they want to beat the better teams in the playoffs. Is that true? Let’s investigate:
The Eastern Conference has 6 teams that are a legitimate threat to go to the Finals: Boston, Philadelphia, Indiana, Toronto, Miami, and Milwaukee. As of right now, those teams’ starting centers are Daniel Theis, Bam Adebayo, Brook Lopez, Marc Gasol, Myles Turner, and Joel Embiid.
Embiid is the only one of those players who are skilled enough of a post player to make Boston pay for playing the centers on their roster. So what should the Celtics do? Is it a good idea to trade away Hayward or Marcus Smart for a center like Andre Drummond just for Embiid who dominates him just as much as Boston? I don't think so. Boston is a team that is built to have multiple scoring threats, a team that rebounds by committee, and schemes post players out of the game.
This Celtics team has a weakness at center and in an East with only one real threat, their weakness isn't enough to stop the from being great.