The Celtics are a good team. They are a very very good team. They have a 38 -16 record, the best in the league. Their success can be attributed to a number of things, but mostly their depth. But depth means nothing if you don’t use it, the Celtics have more guards then they know what to do with. The outrageously talented Payton Pritchard plays behind three starting caliber guards, Smart, Brogdon and White. He hardly gets meaningful playing time and he wants more of a role.
“Obviously after I’m done here, after this year, I’d like to look – be a part of a bigger role a little bit.” (Payton Pritchard speaking on the Point Forward podcast).
The bottom line is the Celtics need another center. That position simply isn’t as rock solid as the rest of their depth chart is. Sure, Robert Williams is everything everyone has ever said about him. An aggressive and fearless rebounder, a tactical defender and freak athlete. Robert Williams is everything. The only issue is he misses lots of games, 189 DNPs for his 4 and a halfish year career.
It’s not outrageous, nothing to lose sleep over. That being said, if the Celtics can rely on Rob playing 61 games a year at best, they really need that quality backup center to at least grab a couple of those rebounds. Boston turn to Luke Kornett far too quickly in the rotation.
But who should it be?
Earlier this season, I tweeted the following list when this problem became clear to me. I picked a few of my favorites to expand upon.
I think that it is extremely unlikely that Naz Reid is still in Minnesota come October. He is on a relatively small contract that expires at the end of this season. In free agency he would most likely find a team that would have more of a role for him. He is kind of like the center version of Payton Prichard.
I love Reid’s game. In the Timberwolves recent win over the Warriors, he had 24 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists. Minnesota was missing both Towns and Gobert, this was probably in their calendar as a scheduled loss. However on the back of Reid, the Wolves hustled their way to a double OT comeback win. He proved himself to me and probably many GMs across the league.
His activity on defense is Time lord-esque. He flies around the court, constantly pressuring passing lanes, but being quick enough to recover and help at the rim. When Reid gets switched onto a guard on the perimeter, he doesn’t look out of place. Quick hands and feet moving.
Offensively, Naz is one of the more well-rounded centers in the league. He has a moderate array of baby hooks and inside the key post shots. But it’s when he’s on the move, when he puts the ball on the floor, that’s when he’s truly dangerous. He can be flashy, but is never out of control. The second-string Jordan McLaughlin-Naz Reid pick and roll makes me very excited to see him next to Malcolm Brogdon for example.
The reason ‘use it or lose it’ is a cliche is because it’s true. Everytime James Wiseman actually suits up for the Warriors it feels like a special occasion. Even if it’s only 4 or 5 minutes. It’s been a tragic career for Wiseman so far, injuries and covid have really gotten in the middle of him living up to expectations. I believe that he’s gotten quite a bit of undeserved scrutiny from Warriors fans, enough to derail anyone mentally. A way to unlock his potential and give him a fresh start is to get him away from that situation. It’s hard to be productive on a team that doesn’t believe in you.
Of course, a raw potential player with little NBA experience seems like a bit of a risk to me. At the same time, a second pick is a second pick. If there’s one person that can extract a prosperous, meaningful NBA career from the withered husk of James Wiseman it’s Brad Stevens and Celtic’s system. By all accounts, Wiseman’s work ethic is impressive. The Warriors seem like they have no use for him in the short term, but maybe Boston is a team where he can thrive and just maybe become the subject of a “draft bust to NBA all star” youtube videos.
Hell yeah, Bring him home. About once a day I think to myself, ‘Daniel Theis was more important to the Celtics than we realized’. He’s certainly not a big name, but I notice when he’s not there. This would be his third stint in Boston, thus he understands the culture and he would already have good chemistry with the big three. He’s one of those players who is better as a Celtic than he could be on another team. Perhaps a little undervalued and easier to acquire.
Through his time in Boston, Theis was an extremely useful role player. He understood the system and knew where he had to be every time up the court. This knowledge led to him having the easiest baskets of his career. This season, the Celtics’ stars have made a leap in their playmaking ability. Theis would be a perfect fit, tried and tested.
The truth of it is, the Celtics really just need a large body to fill in when Rob is unavailable. Why not have it be someone that the players and coaches already have a rapport with?
Gafford is an athlete. He is a shot blocker, a lob catcher and a rim runner. He is a little like a less-gifted Rob Williams. Maybe that’s exactly what the Celtics need in a backup. A pure athlete, a guy who can go after every rebound, throw down impossible dunks and be an intimidating presence at the rim.
Gafford’s trade value has increased significantly since the Wizards put him in the starting lineup and their season promptly turned around. The Celtics may have to jump through a few hoops with their picks to entice a trade. Apparently there was a trade offer last season centered around Gafford that the Celtics declined. That appears to have been a serious fumble, given his performance this season.
If the Celtics fail to make a Payton Pritchard centered move this trade deadline, I would view that as a big mistake on their part. Many Celtics fans are against trading Pritchard, but if they truly loved him they would want to see him happy in a bigger role.