Saturday, December 29, 2018

Daniel Theis struggling to find his footing in increased role

The last two weeks, the Celtics have experienced a dearth of production in their front-court.

Stalwarts Al Horford and Aron Baynes have had their fair share of absences of late. A broken hand will sideline Baynes for the next month or so, meanwhile, Horford missed an extended amount of time, returning just recently from his patellofemoral pain syndrome in his left knee.

Brad Stevens has exercised caution in his use of Horford, turning to role players like Daniel Theis and Guerschon Yabusele. Rookie Robert Williams (left quad), who's shown great promise in brief stints, is considered day-to-day.

Theis, who has been rather unspectacular this season, hasn't made the most of his opportunities throughout his previous two outings against the Sixers and Rockets. He's efficient around the basket, where he's scored 47-of-68 attempts from less than eight feet.

This is a part of his game that give him a slight edge over Baynes, who's a poor offensive threat. In comparison to Theis, he's scored 29 of his 56 attempts from the same distance.

Meanwhile, the Celtics have given up a lot of points to opposing bigs lately. Between Joel Embiid (34 points) and Clint Capela (24 points), Boston has allowed an average of 29 points a night throughout their last two contests.

Coming off of Wednesday's 127-113 loss, up next on the docket are big men like Marc Gasol, Jaren Jackson Jr., and LaMarcus Alrdridge -- where the Celtics will conclude their three-game road trip in San Antonio. Theis will certainly have his hands full as he continues to face some of the league's most dominant big men and is being tested in ways he hasn't been at the pro level outside of his career in Europe.

Contrary to popular belief, Theis is not dragging the Celtics' offense down but it's his defense that's leaving much to be desired. Playing alongside Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart has predictably had positive effects for Theis. The threesome combine for a net rating of plus-19.9 and an effective 57.9 field goal percentage.

In Horford's absence, Theis stepped up, averaging 53.8 percent shooting, 10.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and just under one block per game. He's also a deep threat, shooting 41.2 percent off of 2.4 attempts a night.

His offensive rating of 134 is startlingly brilliant. On most teams, Theis would either start of play a big role as a backup. He's better than we give him credit for and will perform sufficiently in his maximized role but without stellar one-on-one defense, Theis will struggle to keep up with the rest of the Celtics.

If he doesn't improve in that aspect of his game, it's only a matter of time before Stevens will ultimately decide to go another route with his lineup changes.

Vinny Jace

Photo used is courtesy of Getty Images

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