wall_glizzy wrote:Watching the last couple of Celtics games, I'm thinking more and more that their approach to the center position might be the way of the future. While I doubt they'd say no to a blue-chip upgrade at the position, it seems like they're getting a ton of production and versatility out of a committee approach based around the whole spectrum of positional archetypes.
I'm just spitballing here, but with even elite centers getting neutralized by playoff game-planning year after year, it seems like their $12 million combination of an efficient scorer/rebounder (Kanter), a skinny but hyper-athletic rim protector (Robert Williams) and an unspectacular but efficient linchpin of the team defensive scheme (Theis) is getting them way more mileage than a single premier option could.
For me, the question of the offseason is not "who is the single best big on the market?," but rather "which 'big' skillsets/player archetypes do we already have on the roster, and which missing ones are we able to find in free agency?" Obviously, the Celtics have done extremely well spreading only $12 million around between these guys: Theis was plucked out of Germany years after going undrafted, and his current cap figure is no doubt influenced by a couple years of bad injury luck; Williams is an obvious bargain because he's still on his rookie contract. But I think the Kanter situation is instructive; his value is depressed not because he's taken a great leap forward this year, but simply because he has (extremely) distinct strengths and weaknesses in different areas of the game. That is, a team can derive surplus value even from contracts negotiated in the free (agency) market, provided that they are able to platoon a position with players who balance out each others (vulner)abilities.
Crazy? Possibly. But let's take a look at who's out there in the FA market this summer.
Efficient buckets and rebounds, questionable defense (Kanter)
We've already got this guy on the roster, as far as I'm concerned, and for the right price. I think Bryant's deal looks pretty good even compared to Kanter's, considering the additional floor spacing he offers. Further, I'm positive that it'll compare favorably to whatever Montrezl Harrell comes away with this offseason.
Hyper-athletic rim-running and shot-blocking (Williams)
Unfortunately, there's not a lot of this on the market this summer (except our old pal Javale!). However, it so happens that it's the very calling card of Onyeka Okongwu, who seems to be about as close to a consensus pick for our #9 as this board's going to get. We can hope...
Nerlens Noel probably belongs here as well, though I initially had him in the next group. I've already talked up Harry Giles plenty, even though his rim protection is more theoretical than actual at the moment.
Steady, bruising defense and low-usage efficiency (Theis)
This seems to be the archetype that you're expecting to get starter minutes from, with the other two being a little more situational (in that both their strengths and their vulnerabilities seem more pronounced). It's hard to tell exactly how the market will break, but I would hope that at least one of Aron Baynes, Jakob Poeltl, Kyle O'Quinn, Mason Plumlee, or Tristan Thompson ends up being a relative bargain. (That's my approximate ranking, by the way, but if we come out of the lottery with a center there's no reason to pay the premium that Baynes/Poeltl/Thompson will command for 20-30 minute roles).
Anyway, maybe I'm overreacting to small sample sizes. It's also worth noting that while this strategy can lead to some positive-value signings like Kanter, it can make it difficult to land even somebody like Noel, given that we're budgeting for a 15-20 minute contributor while other teams might feel like they're paying for 25+ a night.
Thoughts? Can this mindset be applied to other positions? I tend to think not, especially for wings (whose most valuable trait in the current meta seems to be versatility), though maybe there could be interesting applications at the PG/SG spots. Alas, probably not for our current squad.
I think Boston speaks more to coaching skill than roster assembly. I fully expect Brad Stevens' would ascend to EC championship contention if he had a dominant rearline anchor type. Of anyone I bet he could puzzle out the best use of a traditional center. Horford's multiposition adaptability fit him well, but if he had a power Big on the roster he would build a system that pivots around that centerpiece and do well with it. In the mean time with whatever he does as always he utilizes his ability to make chicken salad out of chickenshxt. He has a unique perception of the moment and an ability to adjust on the fly that few other coaches can exhibit. Masterful in substitutions and quickslice interpretation of what is happening on the floor to exploit or create a situational mismatch. He is the head coach equivalent of a Chris Paul.
I'm unconvinced that many other coaches would be as good at that game. Sure roster flexibility is key among role players, and the center position has become an afterthought, but with the increased importance of strong rebounding (in my opinion) I think we are seeing a renaissance of Large Ball. There is no Golden State in the playoffs this year. Houston tries the small ball route, but look around the rest of the league to see who has been playing well. LeLakers run with Bron at point guard. AD commonly plays next to JaVale or Dwight. The Bucks have two Lopez Bros next to the freak.
I think there is an opportunity right now to snatch quality Bigs while they are undervalued and the metagame is catching up. The murmurs that players like Jarret Allen or Rudy Gobert may be dangled by their teams to me looks like opportunity for the Next Next. To me the next phase of the metagame involves getting Smart Bigs. Bigs who pass and defend positionally. The next Horford, Marc Gasol, Draymond. Those are the ones who make both your offense and your defense better. The Bill Russell true Pivot player, who can read the defense from the back line and make adjustments to put your versatile perimeter swingmen in position.
But to quote former poster hands11 (RIP) "I been saying this for years".
I think Boston is an example of just how valuable big talented wings/forwards actually are. Heck, while the Raptors have Gasol and Ibaka, they, too lean more on the likes of Siakam, Anunoby and Powell than their Cs and won the title with Kawhi and Green in that same group last season. The Clippers are a juggernaut with Kawhi, George and Morris.
I think the Bucks hurt themselves more for the playoffs than people wanted to admit when they let Brogdon go because he and Middleton were their talented big perimeter guys who got the non-Giannis playoff stuff done and now they're up against a team loaded with big wings and forwards in Butler, Herro, Robinson and Bam and I'm not convinced they have a lot of answers for that.
All over the league, talented big wings and forwards are the playoff difference makers. You don't need 7 footers so much as you need 6'5" or bigger guys who are super strong and mobile. There is room for a single dynamic scoring guard on any team but it's really just a single guy with the Raptors trying to break that a bit with Lowry, who has everything but height. Basically, the archetype is 5 Lebrons, and while nobody can obviously attain that, the Celtics with Tatum and Brown are really solid there, and all this is with Haywars out. It's not about what they're getting from their Cs. It's about what they're getting from their other guys.
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