Brad, Do Not Start Enes Kanter

Back in 2015 the Celtics got my hopes up by acquiring veteran center David Lee from the champion Warriors. Not too long ago Lee averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds and was an All-Star. Unfortunately, Lee’s best days were behind him. The landscape of the NBA was shaken by the success of small-ball thanks in large part to his usurper Draymond Green. Traditional back to the basket centers like Lee have fallen to the wayside as the game became more athletic and faster.

On opening night the plucky Celtics sent out Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Tyler Zeller and Lee to start. Lee would play 30 games, averaging over 15 minutes per game. Lee posted career lows as a Celtic in true shooting, p.e.r, and win shares per 48. A subplot of his time was how visibly the Celtics played better with Kelly Olynyk. Lee posts a negative net rating of an even 4. The much maligned Olynyk notched a respectable positive 6.8 net rating. Olynyk was far from a leaper. He’s a clumsy, 7 footer. But he could pass and shoot from three. Turns out, that’s all the Celtics needed to turn the season around after a sluggish start. Olynyk’s 40.5 3P% mark was 14th best in the entire league. If he started the entire year the 48-win Celtics possibly win more than 50. Of all the coulda woulda and shouldas that defined these last couple of years, starting Lee over Olynyk haunts me more than any other them.

Today, history seems to be once again on repeat with the acquisition of free agent Enes Kanter after Ainge decided Al Horford was to pricy to keep around for his advanced age. Its debatable if Ainge made the crucial harsh, but correct call not to pay Horford. While he’s the life force of the offense, Horford shown signs of slowing down last year and made it known throughout his career he doesn’t wish to play center. In Philadelphia Horford will get his wish. But the Sixers themselves are presented with a quandary. Is Horford worth having around if you can’t close games with him at the 5? While playing at power forward reserves his energy it drastically alters the spacing and their scoring.

While Horford’s departure signals the closing of the Celtics window of contention, there are avenues for them to return to such status. For now, talk should be how do they stifle the bleeding until then? The answer seems to be Daniel Theis. Solid, dependable, while not flashy or spectacular at any one thing he can defend well enough and shoot reasonably well from deep. An upside to starting Theis is potentially upping his shot attempts from downtown to something like 3.5 will warrant league average or slightly above results.

More than a year removed from an Achilles injury, Theis lost a significant step, but still is strong on his feet and isn’t easily pushed around. His stroke hasn’t suffered either. All and all, Theis was a solid plus-7.4 in net rating and the Celtics are at his mercy.

It would be a mistake to start Kanter opening night. He gave a valiant effort in the playoffs, but we have a large enough sample size to deem his contributions mostly empty calories. On some nights he’ll outright mimicking a turnstile and is bowled over at times despite his impressive stature. Kanter is a tough son of a gun and deserves all the credit for playing in the playoffs on a bad shoulder. His attitude is what I want in a player. His skill set… not so much.

Eventually Stevens will have to learn Kanter doesn’t solve their issues and there is no return to old fashioned basketball. Either take a flier on a leaper like Robert Williams, or start Theis. Whatever you do, don’t start Kanter. That all being said, Brad is starting Kanter.

Author: sailboatstudios

Hack. Amateur. Professional quitter.

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