The Celtics are officially back in action and have two scrimmages under their belt as the NBA restart gets under way. These early contests have served as a reminder of the varied skills of Boston’s big men. Whether it’s Daniel Theis fitting in as a starter or Enes Kanter buoying the second unit, they bring different games to the center position, particularly in the pick-and-roll. Theis has the versatility to be a pick-and-pop 5 to stretch out defenses while Kanter rolls to the basket more frequently looking to bang around in the restricted area.
Theis knows how to stretch out defenses to create room for the offense to flow, because the threat of the three-point attempt is always there from Theis. Also, his mobility and athleticism also makes him a capable roll man, slipping screens to finish around the basket with ease.
The versatility in Daniel Theis’s screen-and-roll game keeps defenses on their heels. Here, Theis would screen high making the opposing big make that decision. If the big man sits back, Kemba fires off a three (seen below). If he comes up, there is a high likelihood Kemba blows by that defender.
It is the basics of the pick-and-roll, but it is something that the Celtics can exploit, especially if it looked as good as it did against the Suns on Sunday. Theis gives them that option as a big always looking for a high screen to open up the offense.
Like Theis, Kanter has a high basketball IQ, but a different skill to bring to the table. He jump starts the offense with a high pick too, but he crushes opponents with his screens and would rather root around in the paint rather than stay above the break. In the clip below, it shows Kanter setting the screen then coming and cleaning up Jayson Tatum’s missed shot at the rim.
Early in the restart, Marcus Smart and Enes Kanter have become a deadly pick-and-roll pair. They don’t have the burst of Kemba Walker and reflexes of Theis, but both relish contact and have figured out a way to wrestle points away from opponents in the paint. Everyone knows Smart will take that open shot if he has the chance, but his playmaking has gotten so much better this season, finding the open cutter to the basket.
Another aspect--and maybe one of the most important of Kanter’s game--is his ability to seal out defenders to clear out lanes for drives. Theis has mastered this as well and the re-screen may be one of the most underrated parts of the screen and roll set the Celtics can score from. Below, Smart razzles and dazzles, however it’s Kanter’s grunt work that eventually pays off.
The pick-and-roll set is one of the most common and basic in the NBA. No matter who the ball handler is, the success is very much dependent on the big man doing the popping or the rolling off that initial screen. The screener may be viewed in a sidekick role, but the Celtics are able to exploit defenses because both Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter are more than capable supporting actors.