The Boston Celtics finally have a pair of centers who are both worthy of being starters this season in Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson.
This is a good problem for the Boston Celtics to have.
On one hand, you have a player in Theis who proved to be a strong and capable big man that elevated the core group of players on the team last season. And on the other hand, you have an aggressive player in Thompson who can work the glass well and is a double-double machine.
But which player is going to be the best fit in the starting rotation?
Building off of last season, Theis offers a multitude of different elements to the team on both sides of the court. Offensively, he shot over 56.0 percent from the field last season and had the fifth-highest offensive rating (130.3) in the NBA. He also perfected the seal and expertly made open scoring lanes for Jayson Tatum, who led the Celtics in scoring a season ago. Along with that, Theis averaged 1.7 assists per game for a total of 111 for the year.
Although he connected on 33 percent of his 3-point shot attempts, Theis needs to become more confident in shooting from behind the arc. More often than not he was reluctant to shoot threes in situations where he was left wide open to do so last season. More than anything, thats hard to do when youre on a team with bonafide shooters like Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but thats something the Celtics can work on with him as we move forward to this upcoming season.
On the defensive side, Theis was able to hold his own, but he did get beat up heavily and took a lot of hits underneath the basket as the primary muscle for the Celtics last season. He recorded 84 blocks (18th in the league) with a block percentage of 5.0 (which ranked him ninth in the league) and posted a defensive rating of 105.3 which was good for 17th best in the NBA.
Theis has solidified himself as a worthy starter for this team. He has all of the intangibles that compile to being a perfect fit for this Celtics group. However, one important element that has been limited in Theis overall game from the center position is rebounding and thats where Thompson takes a slight edge in the debate.
Over the last two seasons, Thompson has averaged at least 10 rebounds per game and has ranked in the top 20 in total rebounds six times throughout his career, including last season when he finished 14th in the NBA. Along with his great efforts off the glass, Thompson has averaged a double-double over the last two seasons.
The Celtics have lacked in the rebounding department and second-chance efforts in the Brad Stevens coaching era. Thompsons presence on the court adds immediate value in both of those regards for the Celtics.
Its worth mentioning that the Boston Celtics havent had a center average at least 10 rebounds in a season since Al Jefferson did it back in 2006-07.
Thompson also maneuvers himself around the court well and has great footwork in the paint for a big man. But one of the biggest welcoming benefits of Thompson joining the Celtics is that the team now has two of the best screen assist centers in the NBA.
Both Theis and Thompson finished in the top 15 in total screen assists last season. We saw firsthand how well Theis was able to pave the way for the Celtics scorers last season, but Thompson was doing the same thing in Cleveland. In fact, Thompson has ranked in the top 10 in that category over the last three years.
So now the Celtics have the privilege of having two of the best big men to do it on a team that now has four of the top 20 best pick-and-roll scorers in the league with Tatum, Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, and Jeff Teague.
So now the debate sways from who should be the starting center in Boston to how can the Celtics get both Theis and Thompson on the court together?
For that to happen, Theis would be the obvious player to shift to power forward considering hes a better shooter than Thompson. This move would give the Celtics the opportunity to have two bigs on the floor together which has been a growing trend in the NBA over the last few years.
However, it would be best for the team to have one of Theis or Thompson on the floor with the second unit, and at least for the beginning of the season, that player is Thompson. Its fair for the Celtics to want to examine how well Thompson will mesh with the starting rotation before declaring him the starter over Theis, who has elevated the core group and taken his own game to a new level while doing so.
Both players are capable of being starters and it doesnt seem like the Boston Celtics can really make the wrong decision when it comes to the center position.
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