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Amid C’s Hoopla, Don’t Forget About the Bigs

BOSTON – When you think about the Boston Celtics, you think about their perimeter stars.

Just be sure not to forget about the men in the middle.

The Celtics may very well have the most talented and eclectic group of centers that they’ve ever had during the Brad Stevens era. There are five players on the roster who will see time at the center position, and each one of them brings something different to the table.

Stevens commented Friday afternoon that Al Horford, Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis, Guerschon Yabusele and Robert Williams will all see action at center this season. Horford and Baynes keyed Boston’s run to the brink of the Finals a season ago, but the reintegration of Theis, the growth of Yabusele, and the addition of Williams has deepened the tool shed for Stevens.

Prior to Friday’s practice, teammate Gordon Hayward rattled off a list of many of that group’s skills.

“I think that Al gives us an option to play-make through him and he spreads the floor really well with his ability to shoot and take guys off the dribble,” Hayward began. “Baynes has done a great job of screening, rolling to the rim. He’s even, as you saw a little bit last year, step out and been able to knock down the 3.

Hayward continued, “Rob has got incredible length and is able to alter shots, and I’ve definitely felt that in practice of him changing some of my looks when I try to go to the rim, and he’s only going to get better. Theis is a guy that knows how to play. We’ll play him at some 4 and some 5. He’s just got a great feel for the game and can do some of the similar things that Al can do for us.”

Yabusele, who is more of a natural power forward but will see time at center, can also do many of the things that Horford does, but Yabu owns a much bulkier body. Stevens singled Yabusele out multiple times for his impact on games during the preseason.

Add all five players together, with their wide range of body types and skill sets, and you’ve got the definition of depth and versatility. Stevens, arguably for the first time in his career with the Celtics, now has the opportunity to make nightly decisions at the center position based off of a myriad of factors rather than simply rotating a group of three players. The coach spoke Friday about what factors would play into such decisions.

“Who you’re playing against. How you’re playing. How they’re fitting in with the guys around them,” he said. “Who has the most energy on that night, because maybe somebody else played more minutes than you had hoped.”

There’s a lot that goes into it, and there are many different routes that Stevens can take. That’s the beauty of this crew of bigs: he has options.

He’s got an All-Star in Horford. He’s got a defensive wall in Baynes. He’s got a rim-runner, shot-blocker and shooter in Theis. He’s got a big, athletic shooter in Yabusele. He’s got an energetic shot blocker and finisher in Williams.

He’s got an eclectic group of bigs, the likes of which he’s never had before in Boston. Don’t forget about them.

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