The signing will be a sigh of relief to those worried about the team’s lack of interior presence. Last season Baynes’s per-36 stats put him at 11.3 ppg and 10.3 rpg, and he shot 84% from the free throw line, which allowed him to close out games over Andre Drummond. On the defensive end, Baynes has shown real promise in limited minutes:
(Stats via Duncan Smith)
Again, I want to emphasize that these were limited minutes and this is most likely the role he’ll play for the Celtics. Whether he’s a starter or coming off the bench, his role will mostly be centered on keeping the minutes at the 5 low for Horford throughout the regular season. Al Horford may very well still finish games at 5, but the Celtics finally have a big that can bang with the likes of Robin Lopez, Marcin Gortat, Andre Drummond, and other bigs who have given the Celtics trouble simply because Boston didn’t have a guy of similar size.
After the acquisitions of Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, and Aron Baynes, the Celtics could realistically be done with accumulating players and head into the season with one of the most versatile and talented rosters in the league. That very well may be the case, but one may expect the Celtics to be active in the vet minimum market as well. Even with Baynes, there’s still an argument that they may still be thin on the frontline. As unwise as it is to make conclusions solely on summer league play, the games give at least some indication of which guys are ready versus not ready, and as of right now Ante Zizic does not look ready to contribute to an NBA roster.
maybe a week from now this sounds dumb, but if Zizic’s summer league play does keep up, it may be in the Celtics’ best interest to call on the services of a player like Andrew Bogut as an insurance policy. However, it should be made clear that the Celtics didn’t lose to the Cavaliers because of rebounding deficits or not having enough bigs—there is an argument to be made that preserving Horford could lead to better results against the Cavaliers when that eventual matchup comes to fruition.
Also, having a true big may work as a deterrent to opposing players who want to attack the rim. That ability may be huge for a team like the Celtics, who employ the smallest star in the league. Baynes helps, but having another option wouldn’t hurt at all.
On the flip side, Boston could just stand pat and run with the roster as constructed. Maybe Zizic comes into camp looking better than he’s looked thus far in summer league and the Celtics trust him with 10-15 minutes a night. In that case, you have to trust a big rotation of Horford-Baynes-Zizic, with Morris, Yabusele, and Semi possibly making cameos to round up the minutes at the 5. This is most likely the route the Celtics may want to take since it involves getting actual developmental minutes for their young players as they contribute to a winning team.
Regardless of their path, the signing of Baynes is a great step in the Celtics’ continued acquisition of transforming their roster from small, finesse, and skilled to big, versatile, and tough. The team is beginning to look more and more in the image of Brad Stevens.