The Celtics have signed free agent big man Aron Baynes. This signing certainly fills a need left by Amir Johnson’s signing with Philadelphia. And if we’re being honest, a need the team hasn’t filled since Jared Sullinger left via free agency 12 months ago. People seemed to shrug off Sullinger’s departure a year ago, seeing his declining role on the team and fit in the NBA in general.
Brad Stevens had to work twice as hard and be equally as creative with his lineups to scheme for or around rebounding. There was literally no player that he could just plug in during the playoffs to combat opposing teams’ prowess on the boards.
Baynes for his part is an excellent rebounder. Though his per game statistics may leave fans apprehensive (4.4 per game) he’s only played 15 minutes per game the last 3 years. As you can probably imagine his relative production was a lot more appealing. He was averaging 10 rebounds per 36 minutes last year and grabbed 22 percent of available defensive rebounds.
Ultimately this is all the Celtics need. Spot minutes at the beginning of the first and third quarters will be extremely valuable to both the Celtics and Stevens. Not much of a rim protector and with no ability to stretch the floor, Baynes will likely not be very helpful down the stretch of games.
He is a solid positional defender however. He competes, moving his feet and holding his ground against the big men in NBA.
This will be especially beneficial to Al Horford, who has said on multiple occasions that he is a 4 and prefers playing the 4. I believe that Al Horford understands his role as the 5 at the end of games. But any wear and tear the Celtics can save him during the regular season should bear fruit during the playoffs.
Baynes himself has shown a decent level of durability the last few years. He hasn’t played less than 70 games in the last 3 years. 75, 81 in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 respectively. He holds up well at his limited minutes and the Celtics will hope for that to continue this season.
He is there answer at Amir’s role. If they do lose him, it will likely be the trade market or bust to replace him. It is pretty clear that Ante Zizic is not ready to hold down a significant role to start the season. They will need a player like Baynes on the roster, so his health is actually reasonably important.
The market for non shooting bigs has bottomed out since last year. The Celtics were savvy for picking up Amir’s option last year when they did and not addressing center until this off-season. This has allowed Bayne’s to come in at such a low number and agreeable term.
While the Wizards are paying upwards of $30M combined to Mahinmi and Gortat, the Celtics can get a relative level of production from Baynes and Zizic for about $25M less. That’s team planning folks. The Celtics recognize a bloated market and steer clear of it. Only to dip back in once it crashes. That type of speculative success allows them to spend their capital on the positions that are appropriately expensive and harder to come by. Namely Ball moving stretch bigs(Horford) and scoring wings(Hayward).
No one is confusing Baynes with a scorer and some of those expensive big man are more deft at finishing around the rim. Many of them however, struggle mightily with foul shooting. Another area Baynes excels in. Shooting a career high 84% from the foul line last year, whatever reason Brad has to take him off the floor, it will not be for worry of him being fouled.
Ultimately, I expect Baynes to contribute about the same as Amir Johnson did the last couple years. What he lacks inability to stretch the floor he makes back in defensive effort and rebounding. He should play roughly the same amount of minutes he did last year in Detroit(15 per). They will need him to stay healthy however , because there is no back up plan.
[All statistics provided by basketball-reference.com]
[All contractual data provided by spotrac.com]
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