‘Must Replace’: Unlikely Celtics View Vet as Starter Next Year, Says Analyst

Celtics urged to move on from Tristan Thompson

Getty Celtics' Tristan Thompson (L) & Kemba Walker (R).

Whenever the Boston Celtics‘ season comes to an end — whether that’s at the conclusion of this series, or later down the road — the Cs will have their hands full as they attempt to configure a championship-contending roster.

This likely means saying goodbye to one, if not a few, prominent faces.

While All-Star Jaylen Brown continues to be floated as a potential trade piece, Danny Ainge and company made it pretty clear this season that the Cal product is in near-identical standing with Jayson Tatum when it comes to being untouchable.

As Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes recently highlighted, veterans Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart will also hear their names dangled this offseason. Yet, he believes Walker is “still valuable as a pick-and-roll threat (and costs too much to move),” while Smart’s “defensive contributions remain vital.” While we mostly agree with the sentiments, we do feel as if the latter is likely the most realistic trade piece this summer. Still, we’ll play along.

So, if Smart and Brown stay put and Kemba’s contract makes him essentially unmovable, where do the Celtics make changes? Hughes believes it’s quite simple — it starts in the frontcourt.

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Celtics Urged to Replace Tristan Thompson Next Season

“It seems unlikely the Boston Celtics view Tristan Thompson as the presumptive starting center next year, which makes this replacement suggestion easy,” Hughes proclaimed.

The B/R columnist landed on one obvious replacement for Thompson in the C’s starting lineup — Robert Williams. That was before floating the idea of a potential reunion with a former Celtics-grown talent in Daniel Theis, who Boston shipped off to Chicago at this year’s trade deadline.

“The Celtics’ offense took a hit when Thompson was on the floor this past season. And though the veteran big man might be more reliable in his defensive positioning than Williams, he trails Time Lord in rebound, assist and block rate.” Hughes added. “Whether Boston decides Robert Williams III is ready for consistent starting duties, goes crawling back to Daniel Theis in free agency (not the worst idea) or seeks another upgrade on the market, Thompson should return to backup status in 2021-22.”

Thompson, who made his way to Beantown this past offseason after nine years in Cleveland, did see a slight dip in production this season. After averaging a double-double in back-to-back campaigns with the Cavaliers, Thompson averaged 7.6 points and 8.1 rebounds in 54 games (43 starts in 2020-21). While his output is far from headline-grabbing, the wily veteran — who is the lone Celtic with Championship experience on the roster — has appeared to cement himself as a prominent fixture in the locker room following some debunked reports that he had ruffled some feathers.


Robert Williams is Boston’s Wild Card

Time Lord flashed legitimate top-10 center skillset at moments this season. Unfortunately, injuries have far too often stripped the budding big man from Boston’s lineup.

The 23-year-old missed seven games earlier this season with knee tendinitis and continues to nurse a lasting turf toe. Williams set the franchise record with nine blocks in Game 1 of the first-round series with the Nets. However, he’s since been limited to a total of 23 minutes in the series, most recently being ruled out of Game 4 with a left ankle sprain.

When healthy, Williams is a dynamic rim protector, who’s extremely efficient on the offensive end (72.1% field-goal percentage in 2020-21) and also happens to be a highly impressive distributor. If all goes right, Williams gives Boston yet another young core piece to build around.

Here’s to hoping it all works out.

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