Eastern Conference GM Discusses Celtics ‘Best Case Scenario’ For Back Up Center Role

Mfiondu Kabengele, Boston Celtics

Getty Mfiondu Kabengele, Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics still have multiple open roster spots, and their center rotation could still do with an additional big man.

Sure Brad Stevens has extended a training camp invite to Noah Vonleh in a bid to resolve his limited center issues, but there’s no telling if Vonleh will impress enough to earn a full-time contract in Boston.

That’s where Mfiondu Kabengele comes into play, having recently signed a two-way deal with the Celtics, courtesy of his impressive performances throughout Summer League. As a two-way player, Kabengele will be eligible to participate in both G-League and NBA games, which should provide the Celtics with plenty of big man depth throughout the regular season.

However, according to an Eastern Conference GM, who spoke to Heavy.com under the condition of anonymity, there’s every reason to believe that Kabengele could eventually earn himself a full-time deal in Boston, with Brad Stevens converting his contract in a similar fashion to that of Sam Hauser’s last season.

“When you look at the guys they brought in, he probably has the best prospects, more than (Noah) Vonleh or (Bruno) Caboclo. But they want him to play so if they keep him on the two-way, he can get reps in Maine and come down. With him, it has always been, putting in the work and getting an opportunity, and he should get both there now. They could convert him in camp, sure.

But start him in the G League and you can keep him off the books as far as the tax goes for a few months, too, then convert him in January or in February after the deadline. But unless they go make another big move, that is the best-case scenario because he’s young, he was great in the G League last year, really good in Summer League, and maybe you can keep him long-term if he works out. He’s got a chance to stick if he takes advantage,” The GM told Heavy’s, Sean Deveney.
Of course, Kabengele will need to impress when given the opportunity – both in Boston and in Maine, if he’s going to convince Stevens to use one of his open roster spots to give him a full-time return to the NBA.

Luke Kornet Can be the Third Big in the Rotation

A lot has been said about Luke Kornet’s ability, and whether he’s a capable deputy to Robert Williams and Al Horford. Yet, when you look at Kornet’s potential role with the team, it’s easy to envision him being a success as the first big man off the bench.

Kornet is a legitimate seven-footer, and a capable rim protector, screener, and stretch-five – while his lateral movement is deceptively good. When Brad Stevens was still the Celtics’ head coach, he noted how Kornet’s greatest asset was his ability to guard pick-and-roll plays while protecting the rim – and for Udoka, that’s precisely what he will be tasked with doing.

“Luke’s a guy that can shoot the ball, but we’ve also been really intrigued with Luke for a long time because of his pick-and-roll defense. He’s always in good position. He’s long, he affects shots; he’s a guy we’ve always had an interest in because of those two things,” then head coach Brad Stevens said shortly after Boston originally acquired Kornet in 2021.

Brad Stevens Postgame Interview | Celtics vs ThunderBrad Stevens spoke in his postgame interview about the win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the momentum the team can build as it goes into a seven-game home stretch. Stevens said "We needed a gut-check win … This was one you had to find a way, because you can't keep going back and forth.…2021-03-28T05:27:47Z

As long as Kornet is put in a position to play to his strengths, and his exposure to guarding on the perimeter is limited, he should be more than capable of providing Boston with 10-14 minutes of reliable play per night.

Celtics to Hold Open Try-Outs at Training Camp

Where most contending teams would be content filling out their rosters with veteran talent, Stevens has decided to take a different route – inviting multiple young veterans into training camp, with the hope of them impressing and earning a role within the rotation.

On August 3, The Athletic’s Jay King reported that Boston would be holding tryouts during training camp, with the prize of an NBA contract on offer for anybody who impresses the coaching staff.

“As of Tuesday, the Celtics mostly were expected to fill out the rest of the training camp roster with young veterans willing to vie for those spots. Recent additions Noah Vonleh and Bruno Caboclo will be in that group, while last year’s two-way player Brodric Thomas and former Kings draft pick Justin Jackson are viewed as strong candidates to join them, league sources told The Athletic,” King reported.

Hopefully, Boston find some diamonds in the rough, and fill out their remaining roster spots with some young and hungry talent. However, it will be interesting to see if Kabengele can overcome Noah Vonleh his hunt for a consistent spot in the Celtics rotation, and that’s something we will have to wait and see unfold.


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