I've always been extremely high on Theis (see here
) - also due to national bias - but even I did not foresee his development this year. What impressed me the most in the past weeks: He is starting to figure out how to play against big beefy centers, something he has struggled with in the past. He simply smothered Embiid and Adams in their recent encounters. Is this a flash in the pan? Possible, but if he can really bang with the big boys, this would be huge.
The Athletic had a piece on him recently. I am not a fan of posting articles from this platform for free on the internet because quality journalism deserves to be paid for, but I'll make a bit of an exception and post some blurbs here because it may be interesting for you guys:
“People always doubt our bigs whether it’s Enes (Kanter) or Theis or anyone,” Grant Williams said. “I just kind of give him credit because he’s a rim presence, he knocks down not only 3s but midrange, and then he does a good job of communicating. Theis is a good vocal leader out there. He doesn’t get the respect he deserves at his position.”
“I don’t show up on the stat sheets,” Theis said. “If I get my teammates open and we win the game, I’m happy.”
When Theis is happy, teammates get roasted. He regularly calls 30-year-old Brad Wanamaker old. He will tease Williams about his shooting, his excessive fouling or just about anything else.
“There’s a lot of stuff that Theis does,” Williams said. “Theis is a goofball. He’ll just say something random, you’ll be like, ‘Shut up, Theis, such a bully.’ He’ll tease Enes all the time. Oh, my goodness. He’ll just tease Enes consistently. The stuff he says to Enes …”
“He’s been great,” Stevens said. “Really reliable. He gives you a good scoring threat, at the rim, and seams on rolls, can pop and shoot it a little bit. Then, defensively, he’s great with his ball pressure. There’s always going to be some bigs in there that are tough because of the rebounding and post-ups, one of the things that keys our ball pressure is him. He’s out there picking up bigs that teams try to play through in the five-out look and he’s been putting guys on their heels and that’s been a big part of our team.”
During conversations throughout his restricted free agency this past summer, Theis said the Boston front office stressed an appreciation for everything he brought to the team over his first two NBA seasons. What went unsaid was that the Celtics would need Theis more than ever during his third campaign. After the team traded Baynes and lost Horford to free agency this summer, Theis knew he would be able to compete for a bigger role this season. That mattered to him. As much as he valued the apprenticeship under Horford and Baynes, it would be hard for Theis to come to some games not knowing whether he would play. He saw the opportunity for more minutes — and, like any player would, he wanted them.
“It was easy for me to come back,” Theis said.
The Celtics needed to change. After losing so much size, they emphasized the importance of their speed and activity from the first day of training camp. Since they aren’t built to find success lying back at the rim, their goal has been to cut off penetration before it begins. Theis said the coaching staff delivered a mandate during the preseason: “Big men need to pressure the ball every time. If you’re tired, the next guy gets in.”
It’s not easy to defend like the Celtics do. Theis says the style can be exhausting. The results suggest the effort has been worthwhile. Boston — widely expected to experience a substantial dip after losing Horford and Baynes — has actually improved from sixth to fourth in defensive rating. Despite lacking in size, the Celtics surrender fewer points in the paint than each team except the Bucks and Raptors.
Theis has the numbers of a more traditional big man. He ranks seventh leaguewide in block percentage and 17th in offensive rebound rate. The Celtics’ defensive rebound rate is the equivalent of seventh best with him on the court but dips a bit when Theis hits the bench — even though one of the league’s best rebounders serves as his backup. Boston forces turnovers at an elite rate with Theis on the court. His mobility gives them options like late switching and hard trapping.
Celtics players still swear they have enough in the frontcourt. Wanamaker, who also played with Theis in Germany, said he used to tell his teammate he would make the NBA one day. Even back then, Wanamaker could see all the traits that should translate against top competition: Theis’ ability to stretch the court or play in the seams, to defend on the perimeter or inside.
“A lot of people look at the numbers,” Wanamaker said. “But his impact goes way beyond the numbers.”
All credit to Jay King
. Article is from Jan 31, 2020.