Boston Celtics starting center: Kristaps Porzingis
There was more risk involved in the Kristaps Porzingis trade than a lot of Celtics fans appear ready to admit. Porzinigs hasn’t always been the healthiest player in the league and Smart, better or not, was the bleeding heart of Boston’s defense and a real force for good in the locker room. The Celtics’ locker room didn’t always radiate the best vibes last season. How will it hold together without Smart’s fire and commitment to winning?
That said, there’s a reason Boston made the move. Porzingis was brilliant for the Wizards last season and he addresses an area of need for the Celtics. Robert Williams’ injury and subsequent regression left Boston in need of better rim protection; Porzinigis is one of the best shot-blockers in the NBA. Joe Mazzulla may have to alter his defensive strategy with Porzinigis, who’s almost exclusively a drop coverage center, but he’s going to empower the likes of White and Tatum to wreak havoc on the perimeter.
Offensively, Porzinigis is a huge boon for the Celtics. He’s going to ratchet up the three-point volume and he’s going to stretch defenses thin with his ability to hit shots several steps behind the line. The Tatum-Porzinigs pick-and-pops are going to drive opposing coaches mad. Porzinigis can still beat closeouts and do damage as a face-up scorer too. He averaged 23.8 points on 62.7 TS% last season. The Celtics got a very, very good player.
Primary backup center: Robert Williams III
Robert Williams was on the All-Defense team a year ago. He struggled to work his way back from injury last season and spent a good chunk of the year coming off the bench, but he remains a singularly gifted athlete who can absolutely impact the game at a high level.
Williams is perhaps more switchable than Horford at this stage of their respective careers; he could spend a lot of time next to Porzingis in two-big lineups, giving the Celtics a pair of top-shelf rim protectors. Williams has unreal recovery speed guarding the perimeter and his reaction times in the paint are unmatched. The man has a great first and second leap and he can elevate into the heavens to reject a shot. A return to form would leave Boston with hard decisions to make rotationally, because Williams is another “bench” piece who would start for a lot of other teams.