When the Celtics left for their West Coast trip, there was going to be an opportunity for Neemias Queta to earn minutes. With Kristaps Porzingis, Al Horford, and Luke Kornet all bound to miss some time, it was just a question of whether Queta would grab the opportunity. Looking back, it’s safe to say he did.
Here are Queta’s splits from the four games in California:
- Golden State Warriors: 10 points (5-8 shooting), 10 rebounds in 21 minutes.
- Sacramento Kings: 6 points (3-8 shooting), 8 rebounds in 19 minutes.
- LA Clippers: 14 points (4-7 shooting), 12 rebounds in 23 minutes.
- LA Lakers: 0 points, 1 rebound in seven minutes.
Starting with minutes against Golden State, Queta showed fight and determination on the offensive end. Boston isn’t going to run regular plays for Queta so it’s up to him to find ways to get baskets and make an impact on the floor. Queta is always in the paint fighting for offensive rebounds and tip-ins, which is one area Boston can improve.
In the above clip, Queta gets good positioning on Trayce Jackson-Davis and goes straight up for the score.
Queta has a quick second jump and with his size and length, he’s able to win a ton of offensive rebounds. Ideally, you’d want him to finish more consistently around the rim, but he’s getting his share of points through second efforts.
Despite his motor on offense, his perimeter defense has been the biggest talking point. At the start of the trip, Queta consistently dropped when his man set a pick leaving the other team with open jump shots.
In both instances, Queta leaves way too much space for Chris Paul to get an open shot.
Even in this clip, it’s hard to know if there was a lack of communication, but Queta switched onto Paul and drops to the paint giving CP3 the midrange jumper.
With young big men who like to block shots , there is a tendency for them to jump at every shot fake. It took Robert Williams a few seasons to break the habit and eventually, he became one of the better shot blockers in the league.
The hope for Queta is that he can learn that he doesn’t need to block everything when he’s on the perimeter. In the next clip, he bites on the fake but does well to contest the shot.
Despite his defensive deficiencies, head coach Joe Mazzulla praised Queta’s “defensive IQ.”
Joe Mazzulla says he’s seen significant strides from Neemias Queta over the past week: “The progression of his defensive IQ has improved and it’s going to continue to do so.”— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 29, 2023
Lastly, Queta has been exceptional at screening and creating space for Boston’s ball handlers to get open looks. The Portuguese man is currently behind only Porzingis in screen assists and screen assist points, albeit in fewer minutes and games.
Here Queta sets a good screen to free Jayson Tatum up for the jump shot. However, instead of just watching the shot, Queta crashes the glass, picks up the offensive rebound, and finds Pritchard open in the corner. These are the little things that Queta does that earn him minutes, giving Boston something they don’t already have in their group.
Queta and Kornet have been battling to be the team’s third center and both bring different skills to the Celtics. There will be nights where the game suits Kornet better and others Queta. According to Kornet, they are both supportive of each other.
#Celtics center Luke Kornet says he and Neemias Queta are rooting for each other, which doesn't always happen when two players are competing for minutes. He says it reflects what happens when a locker room is all in on one goal.— Bobby Krivitsky (@BobbyKrivitsky) December 30, 2023
The west coast road trip was a success for the Celtics, but maybe more importantly, it was a success for Queta who has a role with the team and might be close to earning a standard contract.