While most Celtics did not take part in any meaningful action in the closing stages of the FIBA World Cup this weekend, Vincent Poirier proved to be the sole exception. The 25-year-old suited up for France in the third-place matchup against Australia on Sunday for a chance of a spot at the podium.
Poirier has spent the entire tournament backing up Rudy Gobert at center on France and his minutes have been sporadic, which is understandable for playing behind an All-Star. He didn’t even get off the bench against Team USA last week during France’s upset win due to Greg Popovich electing to play small ball for the majority of the contest with Harrison Barnes and Jaylen Brown in the frontcourt. France elected to stick with Gobert and more mobile bigs in response during the upset win.
The third-place matchup against Australia was a different story as true NBA bigs such as Andrew Bogut and Aron Baynes anchored the floor for 40 minutes for Australia. With Gobert (2 points, 4 fouls, 3 turnovers) struggling and battling early foul trouble, Poirier got the call early and often against the Aussies and delivered a strong performance (8 points, 7 rebounds, +13 in 20 minutes) in France’s 67-59 comeback win, helping his team rally from 15 down in the second half.
"This guy, I think, just started basketball 5 years ago, so he's had a special career. His energy was great,” teammate Nicolas Batum told NBA.com after the game. “We can't count on Rudy every game... He was huge. He wasn't scared by Bogut and Baynes... He was amazing tonight."
So what exactly can Celtics fans expect from Poirier next season as he enters a wide-open battle for minutes at the center spot with Enes Kanter, Robert Williams and Daniel Theis? Let’s take a closer look at his performance in this matchup to identify some of his strengths and weaknesses and how they may translate to the NBA game.
Energy/Screening: The seven-footer never stopped moving in this game when France had the ball, working in numerous screens on and off the ball to counteract his lack of shooting range. Poirier is a solid screener (not whistled for a moving pick in this one) and uses his strength/size off the ball well to help free shooters. This was a constant problem last year for Boston with some lineups (no one was willing to do the dirty work to get people open) but Poirier makes a living at this. He’s a good roller in the pick-and-roll, punishing defenses with quick finishes and good hands for letting him roam free.
The area that really stood out, however, was Poirier in transition. He can really book it down the floor to crash the offensive glass and that’s going to be crucial for a Celtics team that will play small at the four a lot and wants to get out in transition. A big man hitting the paint early puts pressure on the defense, so that should open the floor a lot for shooters in semi-transition. That type of effort will be a welcome change since Poirier has more foot speed than a big like Baynes.
Rebounding: With so many talented true bigs in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics are likely going to need a