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Amid the frontcourt makeover that the Boston Celtics underwent this offseason following the departures of Al Horford and Aron Baynes, the re-signing of Daniel Theis flew quietly under the radar.
The addition of “Plan A” big man Enes Kanter, the importation of French big man Vincent Poirier, and the progress of second-year rim-rocker Robert Williams drew most of the headlines. Theis, who quietly re-signed to a two-year, $10 million deal, was a bit of an afterthought.
But it was Theis who played the most consistent two-way ball of the preseason, positioning himself to be a potential starter even if coach Brad Stevens elects to mix and match his bigs based on matchups.
It’s a successful season for Theis if…
… Stevens leans on the German's versatility. One of the few bigs capable of both rim running and popping beyond the 3-point line, Theis can complement mosts players he’s paired with. Theis shot 38.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc last season and, further removed from the meniscus injury that ended his rookie campaign, he seems springier when lobs come his way. Now in his third season in Boston, Theis has a head start on the rest of the big-man stable and might just parlay that into a workload that exceeds the 900 minutes he’s played each of his first two seasons.
It’s a disappointing season for Theis if…
… he doesn’t make the sort of strides that allow Stevens to play him against the beefier bigs like Joel Embiid, who often bullied Theis last season. Theis is a solid positional defender but he can’t allow himself to get pushed around near the hoop. Ultimately, that defensive consistency might just dictate his playing time.
It’s Theis, Theis, baby. His defensive rating last season was similar to Baynes in comparable minutes. Even as Stevens toys with the idea of playing his bigs in short bursts, Theis will have an opportunity to assert his claim to a much bigger role this season. It’s easy to forget how good he was playing before the meniscus injury in 2018. But he won’t be overlooked this season with the Celtics eager to find a consistent two-way option at the big-man spot.
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