There was no question that, over the course of his time in the NBA’s bubble in Orlando this summer, Celtics center Daniel Theis saw his performance wane. What was not known—publicly at least—was that Theis was experiencing knee problems during that time.
So it came as a surprise when the Celtics announced this week that Theis had surgery on his left knee. In a release, the team described the surgery as a, “successful arthroscopic procedure on his left knee, including removal of a loose body.”
The team went on to explain that Theis’ surgery is, “not expected to affect Theis’s ability to fully participate in training camp.”
Of course, it is still unclear when the NBA will begin its training camp for the 2020-21 season, which is more likely to be the 2021 season, as commissioner Adam Silver has said that the season is likely to start in January, at the earliest.
Daniel Theis’ Performance Flagged in Playoffs
There is some wider concern about Theis’ knee, because in March 2018 he had surgery to fix a torn lateral meniscus in the same knee. He did return the following season, and played 66 games.
During the season, Theis put together his best year, averaging 9.2 points and 6.6 rebounds, shooting 56.6% from the field, a career high. But when the Celtics came back to finish the season in the NBA’s bubble environment, he was especially effective, averaging 10.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists with 1.3 blocks in 27.3 minutes per game in the team’s first six games. He was given the final game-and-a-half off. He also shot 58.5% from the field and 42.9% from the 3-point line.
Theis was good in the first 10 games of the Celtics’ run, averaging 10.0 points and 6.8 rebounds, with 1.4 blocks. He shot 51.9% from the field, but his 3-point shooting fell to just 19.0% and he shied away from attempting those shots.
His offense sank in the final seven games of the Celtics’ run, when he averaged 7.4 points and 7.6 rebounds. He also struggled badly to contain Miami center Bam Adebayo in the conference finals against the Heat.
Celtics Could Seek Center to Replace Theis in Starting Five
There is some question about what the Celtics intend to do with Theis in the future. He is 28 years old and while he has been a good role player, he might be out of his element as the team’s starting center. Boston brought in Enes Kanter last summer in hopes of having Kanter win the role of the starter, but Theis was simply better than Kanter as a two-way player.
Kanter is likely to opt out from his contract and hit free agency. The Celtics do have Robert Williams as a potential starter in the center spot, too. Boston is also likely to investigate the market for a center, possibly bringing in a free agent like Aron Baynes or rehabbing All-Star DeMarcus Cousins. The Celtics have three first-round picks in this year’s draft and could probe the trade market, too.
Theis’ contract is not fully guaranteed next season, but even with the injury, he is likely to be back on the roster, either as the starter again or as a reserve.
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