Count me as a massive Daniel Theis fan.
Earlier this season, CelticsBlog writer Max Carlin detailed the ways in which Theis has unlocked the pick-and-roll ability of Jayson Tatum. Carlin was on the money with Theis, a willing wallflower to the blossoming backcourt in Boston–but far more than one player benefits from his trickery.
Theis is not a high-quantity producer and most of his contributions do not show up in the box score, but he’s a massive part of the Boston Celtics’ title push. Cut from the same cloth as Marcin Gortat, Theis is a physical body who seeks contact and thrives in crowded spaces [insert tasteless social distancing joke here].
That craving for physicality isn’t often rewarded, but a sacrificial battering ram helps break down barriers for others to burst through. Combine that with a solid perimeter shooting touch (he’s at 34 percent for his career from behind the arc) and Theis can roll or pop when he sees fit.
When he pops, he’s a foil to teams that run drop pick-and-roll coverage and rarely have their centers venture outside the lane. The Celtics don’t want Theis popping and shooting every time, so it’s necessary that he impacts the game when he rolls. He’s not a high-flying rim runner, but that’s where the screen-and-seal concept comes into play.
Theis loves to find the opponent big involved in the pick-and-roll and put his butt on his side to clear out space for Tatum, Kemba Walker or any other guard to slither to the rim. Theis is pretty elite at this concept:
The concept may seem simple, but there is a ton of nuance in how Theis operates. He’s subtle enough to get away with hooks and holds, but strong enough to seal off the biggest interior defenders this league has to offer.
For the rest of the season and beyond, countering drop pick-and-roll coverage will be paramount. The Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers are steadfast in their coverages when the 5 is involved in the pick-and-roll. Other playoff teams, like the Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors or Brooklyn Nets, will throw this out there to protect their bigs on occasion. If the Celtics want to advance and maximize their pick-and-roll offense, Theis will be an incredibly important piece in the playoffs.
Moving forward, we’d love to include more film room segments on the minutia of the game and the subtle ways the Celtics game plan. If you have suggestions for topics that you would like to see covered, please use the comments section below!