Monday’s are tough enough as it is, but for the Boston Celtics, the start to this workweek was a nightmare. The team announced that guard Marcus Smart (sprained right thumb) and forward Daniel Theis (torn meniscus) will miss significant time.
For Theis, the injury puts an end to what has been a productive rookie season for the German big. Smart, who’s out indefinitely, stepped into a jack-of-all trades role for the Celtics.
Losing the two bench pieces come at the wrong time for the Celtics, who’s already had a plethora of injuries build up. Jaylen Brown (concussion), Kyrie Irving (knee) and Al Horford (illness) headline the banghed up Boston crew.
With the trade deadline passed, it might be in Boston’s best interest to build its depth up from within for the race to the East’s top seed.
The Familiar Face: Jabari Bird
Jabari Bird appeared in just four games with the Celtics earlier in the season and averaged 5.5 minutes, but Jaylen Brown’s former teammate at Cal has been the Red Claws’ third leading scorer (19.3 points per game) behind Celtics prospects Abdel Nader and Guerschon Yabusele.
Like both Smart and Theis, Bird hasn’t shot well from beyond the arc with any type of proficiency this season (Bird is shooting at a 32.5% clip, while Smart and Theis shot .302% and .310% before injury, respectively). But like Theis, Bird has been able to put up points without being reliant on the three-ball. Bird is shooting 51.8% overall from the field (60.1 % from two-point range), while Theis shot 54.1%.
From a defensive standpoint, the 23-year-old Bird has a defensive rating of 103.2, and has recorded 1.4 steals per game. Smart of course is heralded for his defense, especially his ability to rip the ball out of opponents hands and throw himself into passing lanes. His defensive win shares and defensive box plus/minus are both significantly higher than those of his offense, only highlighting his importance on the defensive end of the floor.
Bird is a far cry from the defensive cobra that Smart has proven to be, but the 6-foot-6 guard has enough size, athleticism and skills to be an impactful defender in select minutes.
The Big Name: Anthony Bennett
Former first overall draft pick Anthony Bennett hasn’t seen an NBA court this season after playing in 23 games with the Brooklyn Nets last season. He averaged 5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. He was waived last January before signing with Fenerbache in Turkey.
But after starting the season with the Northern Arizona Suns, he was traded to the Red Claws in December. In 17 games with Maine, his numbers have been a total 180 from what he averaged in his 151 NBA appearances.
With Maine, he’s averaging 15.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.3 steals on 44% from the field. The major difference from the first four years of his career? His shooting from three-point range. Over the course of his four-year stint in the NBA, he shot just 26.1% from deep on just under one attempt per game. But since joining the Red Claws, the former UNLV standout has refined his stroke, and has shot 43% from deep on 7.4 attempts per game.
That perimeter efficiency is important as he’s scoring 63% of his points behind the arc. His great work in that avenue has helped his all-around efficiency as his true shooting percentage is 59%. He’s shooting over 90% from deep when he’s assisted by a teammate, which aligns well with the likes of Al Horford (95%) and Jayson Tatum (94%).
If Bennett was to carry his sweet shooting from Maine to Boston with him, the 6-foot-8 swingman could step into a valuable bench scoring role for a team that’s shot the sixth most three pointers in the league this season.
The Double-Double Threat: Devin Williams
Averaging 11.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game with the Red Claws this season, the former West Virginia big man has stood as one of the better front-court players in the entire G League. That status has heightened over the last few weeks as Williams has put up 15 points and 13.6 rebounds since the All-Star break.
That great second-half play has been recorded double-digit rebounds in six consecutive games, capped off by a 20 points, 21 rebound performance in a loss to the Erie Bayhawks. Ranked eighth in the league, the Celtics haven’t had issue getting boards this season.However, that came before they lost both Smart and Theis, who have combined to pull down 7.8 boards per game. Theis rebound percentage (16%) is third on the team, behind Aron Baynes (16.1%) and Greg Monroe (18%).
With Maine, Willaims has posted a rebounds percentage of 23.8 (15.3% offensive, 32.5% defensive). At 6-foot-9, Williams isn’t the tallest. But neither is Theis, who measures in at the same height.
If Boston is looking to shore up its bench rebounding with Smart and Theis missing significant time, Williams would be a pretty solid temporary pickupr the team.