For a contending team like the Celtics that will be stuck above the salary cap for the foreseeable future, diamond-in-the-rough signings are a crucial element to team building. Boston’s front office is not going to be able to pay market value for most free agents so they need to find the guys who are willing to take less to play for a potential champion or simply add the guy that no one else in the league has on their radar.
Daniel Theis was the latter for the Celtics when they inked him to a two-year deal for the league minimum in the summer of 2017. His level of production compared to his salary made him one of the biggest steals of the offseason and while the focus on missing Celtics last postseason was on Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, Theis left a pretty big hole in the frontcourt depth chart as well when he went down for the year with a torn meniscus.
After bouncing back from a meniscus tear and a scare with a torn plantar fascia that healed ahead of schedule last month, Theis has been a good soldier while spending most games watching from the sidelines. He was a DNP-CD in two of Boston’s last five games and averaged just 11 minutes per game in the month of November before injuries opened the door for a bigger role for him on Saturday night against the Bulls.
The 26-year-old made the most of that opportunity, posting career-highs almost across the board (points, assists, blocks, minutes) in the historic beatdown of the Bulls. Theis’ plus/minus (plus-50) ranked among the top-five individual game numbers in NBA history.
While it’s important not to overreact to one performance against one of the worst teams in the NBA, positive production from Theis has been far from an isolated incident this season.