In a season that’s been full of inconsistency for the Boston Celtics, one of the few players that Brad Stevens knows what he’s going to get from on a nightly basis is Aron Baynes.
The veteran center has a limited skillset, but it’s an effective one, whether it’s going to protect the rim, playing hard, rebounding, setting screens and generally taking only open shots. It’s not flashy stuff, yet it’s all important for a team like the Celtics to maintain winning basketball on a nightly basis. The dirty work needs to get done, otherwise, you end up looking like the original Celtics starting five on offense.
When Gordon Hayward moved out of that starting lineup last week, publicly, Stevens talked about the need to get Hayward in a rhythm and playing with lineups that highlight his strengths. While that part of the strategy is clear, it also undervalues the impact of moving a guy like Baynes back into a more prominent role.
The 30-year-old entered Friday’s game playing just 13 minutes per game, a five-minute drop-off from his average last year. While there are many factors in the C’s slow start to the year, less Baynes on the floor has undoubtedly been an underlying cause of additional struggle. Stevens loves the versatility of Al Horford at the 5 but the numbers in that department have been underwhelming on both ends of the floor. Through 19 games of the C’s season, Boston has been better both on offense and defense from their season averages when Baynes is at the 5 and one look at Friday’s win over the Hawks makes it easy to see why.