Each week since we rebooted the Celtics Mailbag, it’s been brimming with queries from readers wondering how Boston can acquire the sort of impact big man that could make them a true championship contender.
While we fully acknowledge that both Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter have their limitations, it’s time to give the duo their due, particularly as they’ve shouldered the big-man load with Boston’s center depth thinned by injuries. They’re far from perfect but they’ve embraced their roles and helped Boston build the third-best record in the NBA.
Thirty-one games into the 2019-20 season, Kanter leads the Celtics in net rating, the team outscoring opponents by 15.7 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court. For all the jokes about his pick-and-roll defense — and certainly, it’s an issue, as Toronto exposed this past weekend — the Celtics have posted a defensive rating of 98.7 during Kanter’s 424 minutes of floor time.
On Tuesday against the Hornets, Kanter posted a career-high six blocks while adding 13 points and 14 rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench. Kanter was a team-best plus-15 (same as Jayson Tatum) while connecting on six of his seven shots attempts.
Kanter has held his own when tasked with jousting with Embiid. He’s perfectly content to rebound, run the floor, and finish a tough layup when the ball zips his way. Maybe most importantly, he’s brought some much-needed levity to the Celtics’ locker room, making outrageous claims to his fellow reserves — like he’s one of the five fastest bigs in the NBA -- then brashly celebrating when he makes a highlight hustle play.
“New year, new me, baby,” Kanter joked after Tuesday’s New Year's Eve win in Charlotte. We’re just waiting for him to make a social media post stumping for Defensive Player of the Year. (The Celtics, via Elias Sports Bureau, noted he was the first Celtic to produce a stat line of 13+ points, 14+ rebounds, and 6+ blocked shots).
Sure, in a perfect world the Celtics would have an All-Defense-caliber big capable of slowing Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo the way that Al Horford and Al Baynes once did. But Kanter is ready for the challenge, Theis has helped Boston’s first 5 thrive, and Boston’s big situation could get a boost whenever Robert Williams is healthy again.
So go ahead and brace the Kanter Experience. (Shameless plug alert: Listen to The Enes Kanter Show, too!) There will be maddening moments but it can be a fun roller coaster, too.
OK, now let’s sift through the rest of your trade demands:
I’m thinking no move at the trade deadline for the C’s. what do you think? — @bri.marie.d
I’d lean no move as far as finding an upgrade at the big-man spot. I just don’t see a path to a deal that doesn’t involve moving one of the team’s “best 5” guys and it’s probably best to see what the buyout market turns up. I could see the Celtics tinkering with their bench if they can package depth pieces with their late first-rounders to add a proven role player. But, even then, the salary match could be tricky and the boost might not be worth the cost of messing with team chemistry.
What moves does Danny Ainge make to position this team to move deep into the playoffs? Is the Memphis pick in play, and if so, for who potentially? — @cgessner
Memphis entered the day tied for the 11th-worst record in basketball. That’s somewhat deceiving though. The Grizzlies are only two games ahead of the teams with the fourth-worst record. Still, ESPN’s Basketball Power Index currently gives the pick a 61.1 percent chance of landing outside the top 6 and conveying to Boston. Which means the Celtics have to at least consider the possibility of using it as a trade chip, at least depending on how enamored they are with what they could fetch in the late lottery if it does convey. The Kings' pick should be a reminder that, as tantalizing as it might be to think about what that pick could become, if there’s a deal to be made for a proven talent that can help the team now and further out, it’s worth considering. Still, Boston’s salary confinements make it tricky in-season. As for what the Celtics need beyond a beefy 5, maybe some additional bench shooting, especially if it was a versatile 4 who could add some size to a team brimming with perimeter talent.
Is Dewayne Dedmon worth pursuing, or maybe as a buyout? I could see him as injury insurance especially if Time Lord/Kanter can't stay on the floor, but hard to see if he's really an upgrade otherwise. -- @MarvelousMarks
For what it’s worth, Joel Embiid put up 16 points on 4-of-8 shooting while drawing two shooting fouls against Dedmon earlier this season. Embiid put up 14 points on 3-of-4 shooting while drawing three shooting fouling against Dedmon in two meetings last year. All of which is to say that Dedmon’s probably not the big-man upgrade the team is seeking, though he is big.
Because people just can’t get enough of Tacko…
Thoughts on Tacko Fall going forward? Red claws most of the year?? — @CHRISplanteLMT
The Celtics can carry Fall on the parent roster for 45 days during the G-League season and they burnt a handful of days this month while their big-man depth was thinned. With a busy stretch ahead, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Fall pop in occasionally until Robert Williams and Vincent Poirier are healthy. He could give the Garden a nice jolt of energy on nights the team is sluggish during the January doldrums. But those game reps in Maine are extremely valuable to his development.
How can Tacko Fall help the patriots offense? — @BigYarrett8
He can literally get you 2.5 yards just falling forward. And don’t tell me Tom Brady couldn’t use a target with that size in the red zone.
Chris, what were the worst Celtics alternate uniforms of the decade? — @TopherJames5
The Adidas gray-sleeved shirtsies circa 2014 (see above) were the worst and it’s not even close. I’m 94 percent sure those jerseys gave Marcus Smart his eye infection. On the opposite end of the spectrum, wish the NBA would bring back some of the Christmas Day alternates, which were always pretty solid in the pre-Nike era.
Will Jaylen Brown squeeze into the All-Star game with Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum? — @robgreeneeeee
I think it all hinges on whether Walker is voted a starter. Then there’s at least a chance that East coaches could vote both of Boston’s wings in as reserves. But if Boston doesn’t land a starter, it gets a lot murkier and there’s even a chance that Tatum/Brown split the vote. We broke it all down HERE.
How can we prevent our guys from getting sick? Flu shots? — @flyfishsalt
Sometimes an NBA locker room is no different than every elementary school in New England in December. People are going to get sick.
I emailed you my Kemba tribute song but you didn’t reply. — @JimTom3000
Surely, I wouldn’t delete such a thing (but I don’t see it in my inbox). Send it again and remind me next week to include a chunk in the mailbag.
Why didn't the Celtics do more to draft Tyler Herro? Instead, they let the Heat swoop in and get him. Obvious blunder. — @agreatcall
While I do wonder what the Celtics would have done if Herro was still on the board at 14, it’s waaaaaay too easy to sit here six months after the draft, with the benefit of watching 30 games and start nitpicking selections. What’s more, Danny Ainge seems quite excited about what Langford could potentially become.
Will Langford see steady minutes even with Marcus Smart back? — @p.kels5
As the past two games showed, it might be tough, especially as Smart’s minutes ramp up. His next chance is only an injury away — and that never seems far for Boston. We’re certainly eager to see more of Langford given the encouraging moments he’s had on both ends of the floor after working through all the maladies at the start of his pro career.
Will Timelord improve our defense in any way? — @dk1ng1287
The Celtics sure could have used him in that Toronto loss. He just brings a different look than Theis and Kanter, a nice third option that Stevens can lean on to run the floor and provide rim protection when the top options are struggling. And we remain convinced that, with a run of good health, Robert Williams could distinguish himself as more than just the team’s third big.
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