BOSTON – If you swung by the Celtics’ practice facility early in the morning recently, there was a good chance you would have found Al Horford and Aron Baynes already there having worked up a good sweat.
The two oldest Celtics (Horford is 32, Baynes 31) are often the first in the gym which only reinforces a Teflon-strong bond that began to take shape last season, their first as teammates.
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And while that familiarity will certainly help going forward, they embark upon a new season with greater expectations than ever.
So, what should fans expect from a Horford-Baynes tandem this season?
For a team whose foundation lies in their play defensively, Boston could not have two better pillars at that end of the floor than Horford and Baynes. According to NBA.com/stats, they played together 13.3 minutes per game last season. Among Boston’s two-man units, the Horford-Baynes combo had the best defensive rating (95.0) for those tandems that shared the floor for at least 10 minutes. Their importance to this team defensively is undeniable.
Al Horford has shown tremendous growth in his 3-point shooting in recent years, and Aron Baynes exploded in the postseason from 3-point range as well. But the true mark of their presence on the floor when it comes to 3-point shooting, comes in the form of how the team fares. And when these two are on the floor, Boston has been pretty damn good from 3-point range. In fact, the Celtics shot 44.4 percent on three-pointers when these two were on the floor last season which is second to none of the team’s other two-man units.
It’s one thing to be a big man who is a willing passer. It’s another matter entirely when you have two bigs on the floor with that similar mindset. Boston has that in Horford and Baynes. As a tandem, assists tend to come at a really good clip with Boston’s assists ratio (the number of assists per 100 possessions of play) being 18.5 which according to NBA.com/stats, ranked second on the team last season.
As Boston’s two oldest players, that brings about a certain amount of leadership responsibilities. But with Horford and Baynes, that leadership is shown in their actions both on and off the court as well. Horford’s leadership skills have been known for years, dating back to his days at Florida when he helped lead the Gators to back-to-back national championships. And Baynes has been an ideal complement to Horford’s leadership. His game is rooted in strong play defensively and expects that level of effort from those around him. In addition, he’s the only player outside of Kyrie Irving to have been part of an NBA championship team. And when you see him never grumble or gripe about playing time even when he plays well, it becomes much easier for players to buy into the team-first mindset that he adopted many years ago. Between the two of them, a lack of leadership will not be an issue for this team.
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