Noah Vonleh is close to earning a full-time NBA contract with the Boston Celtics following an impressive pre-season showing.
Still, the Celtics have considerable depth at the center position heading into the new season, so Vonleh will have his work cut out for him if he’s hoping to play meaningful minutes – should Boston extend a contract offer.
When speaking to reporters following an October 9 practice session, Vonleh noted how he’s been working on his screening angles so he can fit in better alongside star wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown – something he’s had to do in the past when playing for the Portland Trail Blazers with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
“I’ve been on a team where they had a two-headed monster in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, but this is a different type of monster with Jayson and Jaylen. I feel like they’re more dynamic, they’ve got good size, and they can do a lot out there. So, pretty much doing the same thing, screening those guys, getting them open, and making it easier for them,” Vonleh said.
On October 7, Vonleh got the opportunity to start for the Celtics, as Joe Mazzulla opted to rest a large portion of the team’s core rotation – still, Vonleh seized his opportunity and ended the contest with 14 points, 13 rebounds, and two assists while shooting 75% from the field.
Vonleh Expected to Earn a Contract
In an October 7 article, The Athletic’s Jared Weiss shared his thoughts on why Vonleh is the leading candidate to earn a roster spot at the end of training camp – noting how the veteran big man showed a lot of what Boston is looking for during the Celtics 112-103 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
“(Vonleh) finally showed how his face-up game can be used in an offense that isn’t going to give him clear-outs in the high post. Vonleh had a few athletic finishes off the bounce and showed he can be aggressive to get to spots where he has leverage without turning the ball over.
That gives him a distinct advantage over Mfiondu Kabengele in earning minutes at the five, especially given how Vonleh’s defensive intensity and positioning looked much better Friday. With Kabengele already on a two-way deal, Vonleh appears to have the inside track on the 14th roster spot,” Weiss wrote.
The Celtics currently have two open roster spots, with the common consensus being that they will enter the new season with the 15th slot available, as to give them some room to maneuver in the buy-out or trade market. As such, the 14th spot is up for grabs, and with just one pre-season game left to go, it appears that it’s Vonleh’s spot to lose.
Boston’s Big Man Depth Could Hurt Vonleh
One roadblock that could hinder Vonleh’s route to a deal with Boston is their depth at the center position. Right now, the Celtics have Robert Williams, Al Horford, Luke Kornet, Blake Griffin, Grant Williams, and Mfiondu Kabengele (two-way) who can all spend time playing as a center – that is six players, five of whom are part of the Celtics current 13 man roster.
Adding another center into the rotation would mean that more than a third of the team’s composition is made up of centers – meaning there will be a lack of talent elsewhere, should injuries occur throughout the season.
Right now, Boston could use an additional wing, rather than a potential seventh center, which could put Justin Jackson in a position to usurp Vonleh as the front-running coming out of training camp – unfortunately, we won’t know what the front office is thinking until they make their decision in the coming weeks. Yet, for now, Vonleh is clear the front-runner to remain with the team heading into the new season.