With just over a minute remaining in the third quarter of Friday’s preseason game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Aron Baynes did something Celtics fans haven’t seen from their big men in quite some time now: absolutely pummel somebody.
The victim? Richaun Holmes, who tried not once but twice to score over All of Australia.
The first time wasn’t so bad. Baynes went vertical to meet the Sixers’ big man at the rim, made some contact with the body and got a piece of the ball to deflect it away. When the ball ended up back in Holmes’ hands, though, he went up a second time and again was met by Baynes, who promptly put his counterpart on the ground, almost as if to say, “Really, mate?”
Though not known as a shot-blocker by any means (0.4 per game for his career), Baynes has made himself a deterrent near the rim with his physicality. Last season opponents shot just 43.8% around the rim on non post-up shots when defended by Baynes, putting him in the 86th percentile of all players, according to Synergy. He was even better defending post-ups, limiting the opposition to a 40.9% clip on those plays, placing him in the 70th percentile.
The Celtics haven’t had an enforcer under the rim since Kendrick Perkins was patrolling the paint at TD Garden so having Baynes rough people up around the basket is definitely a welcome sight. A common mistake we make is thinking the only way to effectively protect the rim in this league is to have a springy center that can send shots into the fifth row two to three times a night.
Baynes is the antithesis of that line of thinking and after the Celtics allowed opponents to shoot 57.2% around the basket on non post-ups, which Synergy deems as average, as well as 42.3% on post up plays, which, to be fair, Synergy considers excellent, Boston’s new big man should do his part in shoring up the defense down low.