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Daniel Theis makes a strong case for bench minutes in debut

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Theis passed, crashed the boards and ran the court in a monstrous 12 point, seven rebound, +9 bench performance in his Celtics preseason debut. More importantly, he did it all in 13 minutes.

NBA: Preseason-Charlotte Hornets at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s unclear if Tommy Heinsohn got a look at Daniel Theis in the shower. A glimpse at his performance Monday night did enough justice anyway. He’s definitely put together.

Long after the starters exited, Brad Stevens gave Theis 13 minutes of run in the second half. He quickly posted 12 points, grabbed seven boards and recorded a block on Jeremy Lamb. He shifted his feet to stay with Lamb’s dribble moves at the top of the key and swatted his pull-up attempt.

Our Keith Smith called Theis a “slightly less athletic Chris (Birdman) Anderson ... who can actually shoot” on the Banners Broadcast. Against Charlotte he played above the rim, ran the floor, boxed out well in the low post area and hit a trailing three-pointer. He even displayed the ability to pass from the perimeter to the low post. Nine of his 12 points came in nine minutes.

A true testament of a great bench player is being able to produce in short spurts of minutes. The regular season won’t feature long stints for any of Boston’s rookies with how much talent is on the top of the roster, efficiency will be a mandate. Theis made things happen quickly, making him a compelling candidate for front court minutes off Boston’s bench.

At 25-years-old Theis has a step on Boston’s younger players. He’s played professionally in Germany since 2009 and spent three seasons in the EuroLeague. The speed of NBA basketball stuck out to him in his debut, but he noted “it was something new, but not so new.”

Stevens popped in on a question before it was even finished post-game, “he was really quick to the rim and we needed that.”

That explosiveness was most evident on his drives from the perimeter. While Theis’ biggest plays were around the rim, he also efficiently charged to the paint with two dribbles all the way from the wing. His drives had the fluidity of a small forward in a power forward’s body.

Kelly Olynyk used to execute the same play often, but his journey to the net was always more long-winding.

That multidimensional skill set helps Boston on both ends. Lamb, who routinely turned Guerschon Yabusele out of square defensive positioning with lateral dribble moves couldn’t do the same to Theis. Opponents are going to force switches routinely the way the game is played now, and he showed solid footwork to not be taken advantage of by a guard.

Theis’ role on the Celts is secondary to that of the starters, who will determine how far the team goes, but last postseason showcased how important having players who can take advantage of opposing second units can be. Olynyk leaves a hole of roughly 10 points-per-game added to Boston’s scoring output, and he won them a Game 7 with nearly 30 points.

With how assertive he approached Monday’s game, Theis may have what it takes to fill that void, or at the very least be a rotational rebounder who brings other skills to the table. The name of the game for Boston has become rotation players who can affect the game in various areas. With his combination of scoring, rebounding, defending, and passing, Theis looks as primed as anybody for more opportunity. Whatever the C’s decide for him, he showed he can make the most of his minutes.