People are expecting the Boston Celtics too add anther big man this offseason and help the team rebound better, but they actually don’t need to do that and it wouldn’t help anyway.
Look at the league’s premium team right now in the Golden State Warriors. Starting center Zaza Pachuila averaged just 18.1 minutes per game last season, reserve big men David West and JaVale McGee averaged 12.7 and 9.6 minutes per game respectively. Now it is a lot easier for them to slide a guy like Kevin Durant up to the power forward position, but even when that guy was just Harrison Barnes they still spent most of the game playing “small ball” with Andrew Bogut averaged 20.7 minutes, Festus Ezeli averaging 15.7 and Marreese Speights averaging 10.6.
Boston played “bigger” for the most part last season and had their second and third big men – Kelly Olynyk and Amir Johnson – both averaging over 20 minutes per game during the regular season with Jonas Jerebko averaging 15.8 for himself. The Celtics wound up going even smaller during the postseason when Johnson and Jerebko averaged 10.7 and 10.1 minutes per game respectively and even Olynyk saw a slight dip and only averaged 19.2. Despite these really small lineups they kept tossing out there, Brad Stevens and the gang still advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals where they lost to a team that was simply better no matter what lineups the Celtics threw out there.
Stevens has a number of different starting lineups he can play around with, but a rotation of Horford, Hayward, Crowder, Thomas, Smart, Rozier, Brown, Tatum, Morris and one of international rookies Ante Zizic or Daniel Theis should make for a solid – and deep – group that puts Boston towards the top of the Eastern Conference once again. Will that rotation clean up the boards? No. But tossing in another big man who is there for one reason while taking minutes away from any of their extremely versatile role players might not be the smartest idea in the long run.
Let’s admit it, rebounds are a bit overrated anyway. On an individual level, only one of the league’s top seven rebounders last year – Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz – was on a team that advanced to the second round of the playoffs. At the same time, four players in that top seven – Hassan Whiteside, Andre Drummond, Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis – all completely missed out on the postseason.
But a lot of this is because one singular player doesn’t make too big a dent in a team’s ability to rebound.
Just look at Anthony Davis, a star player that fans are starting to beg Danny Ainge to trade for. He averaged 11.8 RPG last season and that was good for seventh in the league. At the same time, the New Orleans Pelicans were one of three teams that finished with a worse rebounding differential then the Celtics last season. So as great as Davis is on the boards, he still couldn’t elevate his team past 29th in the league.
Fans are now clamoring for a low cost free agent who can rebound like Jonathan Simmons or some other guy who is still on the market, but you’re just putting a Band-Aid over a bullet hole at this point. If an All-NBA talent like Anthony Davis can’t even turn the Pelicans into an average rebounding team, why do you think a guy who still hasn’t been signed could help move the Celtics forward in that area?
It would just be a wasted roster spot that you might as well give back to Tyler Zeller or Jared Sullinger.