We don’t appreciate Daniel Theis as much as we should.
So much went right this year. So many players made huge strides forward this year. From the obvious (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown) to the more subtle (Marcus Smart, Brad Wannamaker), to the long awaited (Gordon Hayward).
The center position was supposed to be our big weak spot, and maybe it still is, but only in relative worth to the other spots in the rotation. When you have 4 high level starters that can score, pass, and defend, you mostly just need the center rotation to hold their own.
Theis has done that and then some this year. To the point where the team hasn’t seemed to miss a beat without the formerly indispensable Al Horford and Aron Baynes. Turns out, they passed along a few things to Daniel.
Jay King has a great article on this topic up now at the Athletic. Here’s one quote:
“I learned a lot from Al and Aron over the last two years, especially on the defensive end,” Theis said earlier this season. “Just to be in the right spots in the pick-and-roll… (that) was my emphasis in the preseason, just to take care of those things. Especially on pick-and-roll, I’ll be able to guard the ball, the guy and the big guy.”
King goes on to discuss Theis’ role as a sealer - in particular opening up a part of Jayson Tatum’s game that has allowed him to thrive in the paint.
Our own Max Carlin detailed this effect back in January here.
Theis has his limitations, but he also plays within those limitations and seldom takes away from what his more talented teammates are trying to do on the floor. His steady contributions have also allowed the Celtics to get by with Robert Williams injured for most of the year and Enes Kanter occasionally played off the court due to bad matchups. Finally, Theis is a great value with his $5M salary (partially guaranteed for next season as well - a no-brainer keeper for the Celtics). Hats off to Danny for finding this guy and bringing him in.
Maybe his contributions have flown under the radar somewhat, but that kind of speaks to his quiet demeanor and knack for doing the dirty work necessary. It has been fun seeing him grow as a player and contribute to winning this year. Cheers Daniel.