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Third year’s the charm: Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis look to solidify roles in rotation

After riding the bench for much of last year, two Celtics are primed to be contributors this season.

Cleveland Cavaliers Vs Boston Celtics At TD Garden Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Which third year player is a Celtic after the trade deadline: Semi Ojeleye or Daniel Theis?

Jeremy Stevens: This is tough because both are towards the end of the rotation, but not completely out of it. They also both play log-jammed positions without a clear hierarchy. I think Ojeleye stays since he’s on a cheaper deal and he’s one of our own draft picks. Theis is good trade bait on a 2-year, $10 million deal with a team option for the second year.

Simon Pollock: You make a good point about Theis’ trade value, but with the changes Boston’s undergone with their traditional bigs and Theis’ ability to score diving to the hoop (and willingness to stretch the floor), does his offensive potential and overall energy outweigh Ojeleye’s defensive prowess?

Jeremy Stevens: Theis is 100% the better player right now. No question. And he’s a reasonable backup big on a competitive playoff team, which is why I think he’s more likely to be traded. So much of making trades work is figuring out the salaries and talent has generally come second. Theis gives a bit of both. Ojeleye gives a little potential and almost no salary. Obviously, he could be a throw-in but that’s hard to predict.

I say this as a huge, huge believer in Semi’s talent on both ends of the floor.

Simon Pollock: I have shares in the Ojeleye Factory as well and...I’m worried about his ability to hit threes from the corner. Currently, I’ve talked myself into believing that he just needs a couple more catch-and-shoot opportunities in games, but even then, I’m wary.

I’d feel better about that issue if he showed more potential to finish at the rim. You’d think, given his strength, that he’d be better there, too.

Jeremy Stevens: His numbers are good at the rim. Last year, that is. 72% within 3 feet, only 48% as a rookie.

Greg Cassoli-Brueck: At the risk of sounding boring, I’d suggest that both might be likely to be on the team. I don’t see the Celtics making a big move at the deadline, and I’m not sure that either Ojeleye or Theis is good enough to fetch something intriguing as the centerpiece of a trade.

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Simon Pollock: Maybe this is a separate topic, but Greg makes a good point. Neither is good enough to be a trade centerpiece. Put your Trader Danny hat on for a minute: do you move one or both of them for a chance at flier?

Jeremy Stevens: I’m not moving either unless another team is selling low on somebody.

Greg Cassoli-Brueck: If I’m trading either of those two, it’s probably to get a known commodity to help make a postseason push. I think Theis might be that kind of player already which makes me think Ojeleye is more likely to get traded in a swap for a veteran from a team that thinks Semi has some unrealized upside. A future-oriented trade would be strange from my perspective. You’d probably be looking at getting a second rounder, which you then hope turns into a player like Theis or Ojeleye anyway, right?

Jeremy Stevens: I’ve been beating the “Theis is underrated” drum for a while and I think he’ll play plenty of minutes at center until we see more from Timelord and Vinny P. Obviously, Kanter is a lock for 20ish minutes at minimum. It’s hard to make room for Ojeleye among Jaylen, Jayson, Hayward, and Grant Williams.

Greg Cassoli-Brueck: I’m inclined to agree with Jeremy here with the slightest of hesitation. Rookie year Theis was kind of a perfect rotation big, but he looked a step slow and an inch too low in his jumps last year. If he’s back to full strength a full year out from his knee injury, I think Theis brings a lot of value. If that’s his new normal, perhaps less so.

Simon Pollock: I think that subtly makes the case for Theis as the player more likely to be a Celtic after the deadline, Greg. Since this whole thing is a hypothetical, we could guess that tremendous showing from Williams would put the heat on Ojeleye to start performing at a higher level on the offensive end, since there’s such a logjam at the wings.

Greg Cassoli-Brueck: I’m very in on Williams after Summer League. That guy just knows how to hoop. He might put pressure on both these guys given his potential versatility. The question I think this discussion is really highlighting for me is will the Celtics be buyers or sellers at the deadline? What do you two think?

Jeremy Stevens: Do we have anything to sell? Have we ever been sellers at a deadline? It’s usually a summer thing.

Greg Cassoli-Brueck: Probably one to be determined for another day, but if Theis is getting traded, I’d imagine that makes Boston sellers. In the early Stevens days, the Celtics were sellers at the deadline, but recently they’ve just held pat.

Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Three Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

simon.pollock: I’m in Camp Curious about what we’ve got with this draft class. This season is a chance for another batch of young guys who are 100% bought in, particularly Theis and Ojeleye, to get more minutes and grow in the Stevens system and culture.

Side note: what do we think Ojeleye’s ceiling is?

Jeremy Stevens: Maybe Jae Crowder.

Simon Pollock: Mmmm, that’d mean running plays for Semi to get catch and shoot threes, right? I’m here for trying it.

Greg Cassoli-Brueck: Maybe like 2nd year Jimmy Butler.

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