Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Aron Baynes could become starter for Celtics

Ty Anderson
July 13, 2017 - 5:10 pm

The Celtics may have begun a move towards a more ‘position-free’ lineup, which is something that gives C’s head coach Brad Stevens seemingly limitless lineup options next season, but even after 53 wins and the East’s top seed a season, there was no denying the fact that the Celtics were a team with massive needs at the five.

2016 first-round draft pick Ante Zizic is already coming overseas to begin his NBA career with the Celtics, and Celtics president Danny Ainge provided additional support for Zizic and Stevens with the signing of Aron Baynes to a one-year, $4.3 million contract.

A signing that may turn out to be of greater importance than originally thought.

An undersized club lacking toughness up front, Baynes’ addition certainly spoke to the Celtics’ needs. They longed for somebody to collect rebounds at both ends of the court (exposed by the Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson in the East Finals), and also needed the toughness that Baynes brings to the club as a noted rim-protecting defensive presence.

“[Baynes] adds toughness to our team," Celtics assistant coach Walter McCarty told NBA Australia. "He's a guy who plays with a lot of energy. He plays tough, very gritty.

"We need rebounding at the four and five, I think that (Baynes) really brings that," McCarty continued. "That's what we need, that's what we struggle with.”

For a Celtics squad that ranked 22nd in both offensive and defensive rebounding per game last season (finishing 27th in the league as a whole), Baynes’ presence as a board-banging body capable of pulling down rebounds could be enough to push him into the club’s starting lineup, as it’s believed Al Horford would prefer to play the four.

And given where the Celtics are as a team, and with Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk leaving as free agents, it seems likely that Baynes will get more than the three total starts he had during his two-year tenure with the Pistons behind Andre Drummond.

“Hopefully he comes in and continues to do what he's done his whole career; That's rebound the basketball, make tough plays, give us some offensive possessions when we need them,” McCarty said of Baynes. “The NBA season is a long season. I'm sure we're going to need him to start sometimes, you just never know.”

The 30-year-old Baynes, an NBA champion with the Spurs in 2014, averaged 4.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in over 15 minutes per night for the Pistons a year ago.

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