Of all the centers in all the NBA who have been linked to the Boston Celtics through free-agency musing, idle trade rumor, or legitimate past interest (just about every center, that is), the one who remains the simplest to acquire and most logical to wind up on the team next year has a familiar face: Australian big man Aron Baynes, who played for Boston in 2017-18 and 2018-19 before he was shipped to Phoenix to make room for the signing of Kemba Walker.
That is why it was noteworthy that Celtics star Jayson Tatum posted a photo on Snapchat this week, showing him on a past team flight, with Baynes smilingly waving in the background. In some circles (starting with Barstool’s Dan Greenberg), there was speculation that perhaps Tatum could be recruiting Baynes, a guy who was enormously popular among teammates during his two years in town, through social media.
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Aron Baynes Remains Celtics’ Most Attainable Center Option
There would be a lot of sense in bringing Baynes back. Familiarity is just the starting point—he enjoyed his time in Boston as much as the Celtics enjoyed having him on board.
Cost could be another one. The Celtics could be wrangling with the luxury tax and with a troupe of centers already under contract—Robert Williams, Daniel Theis, small-ball center Grant Williams, Vincent Poirier, probably Tacko Fall—even if/when Enes Kanter opts out, it would be unwise to spend too much on a big man.
Baynes is a free agent this offseason and coming off his most productive NBA season in his time with the Suns, averaging 11.5 points and 5.6 rebounds, making 35.1% of his 3-pointers on 4.1 attempts per game—all of which were career highs. He certainly could look to cash in on his production, but at age 34 (next month) and with limited cap space available before next year gets going, he’s not likely to break anyone’s bank.
If the Celtics could unload Robert Williams and Poirier, there could be room for another big man, especially because Grant Williams is versatile.
That would create room for Baynes, who can be a tough presence inside with more size (he is 6-foot-10) than Theis (who is 6-foot-8), last year’s primary starter. Baynes has also honed his 3-point shot, a project he began in his first season with Boston.
Cedric Maxwell Endorses Aron Baynes Return to Boston
Tatum is hardly alone in wanting to Baynes return. Last month, speaking on the Toucher and Rich show on 98.5 FM the Sports Hub, former Celtics star and radio color analyst Cedric Maxwell endorsed the idea, saying:
If I had my crystal ball, and I could pick out one guy who really changed what this team has done — and I’m not sure if he’s under contract or not, so it’s not be tampering — but Aron Baynes would have been really a good roadblock in the paint and some toughness that sometimes I don’t think the Celtics really had. This team was a finesse team and when it came down to power basketball, I think that’s when teams just really took them to the woodshed.
Baynes is not a star center, not on the level of San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge or Indiana’s Myles Turner—other prominent centers linked to the Celtics—but on a team loaded with offense and lacking in toughness, he could be a piece that brings Boston closer to contention.