MIAMI – Aron Baynes is a big man, but he does all of the little things for the Boston Celtics.
The value that he provides to this team does not always show up in the box score. However, it is most certainly always acknowledged and appreciated by his teammates and coaches.
“He’s physical and tough – and he’s got nice touch, and that’s all icing on the cake – but he’s physical and tough, and he’s really committed,” Brad Stevens said of Baynes following Boston’s 96-90 victory Saturday night over the Heat.
Physicality and toughness don’t wind up on SportsCenter Top 10, but they do help the team win. They also lead to the types of plays for which Baynes takes pride.
“That’s what I’m out there for … I think Marcus and I are definitely about those plays, and it feeds the team and gives them energy and the rest of the guys start to make those same plays,” Baynes said. “That’s what it’s about at the end of the day: it’s not about trying to get into the stat sheet, it’s about trying to get that win.”
Make no mistake about it: Baynes has been a critical piece to Boston’s puzzle as it has rattled off four consecutive victories.
From a defensive perspective, Baynes has made a “huge difference,” according to Stevens. That’s because Baynes is almost always in the right place at the right time, and because he has a special talent around the basket that not many others possess.
“Baynes was one of the best in the NBA last year at defending the rim, without blocking a ton of shots,” said Stevens. “The whole verticality deal, he’s very good at, and he works really hard at it, and he’s a big body when you run into him.”
Baynes blocked a game-high four shots Saturday night and he affected many more. On a nightly basis, he doesn’t need to block shots to make an impact on Boston’s defense; in fact, he entered Saturday’s contest having blocked only two shots on the season, yet the team’s defense is 11.8 points better per 100 possessions while he is on the court compared to when he is off of it.
That is a massive impact.
At the offensive end, Baynes’ key role is to set great screens to free up Boston’s top perimeter scorers such as Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Simply put, the big man doesn’t care about scoring.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t do so when called upon.
Baynes has shot the ball with incredible efficiency this season. Through six games, he has a true shooting percentage of 64.9 percent, which is third on the team behind Tatum and Daniel Theis. Baynes has connected on eight of his 13 shot attempts from outside of 10 feet, providing the team’s guards with a highly reliable outlet when they take the ball off the dribble.
And then there are those gritty and physical plays that he makes that leave the rest of the team smiling from ear to ear.
One such play took place late in the third quarter of Saturday night’s win.
Jayson Tatum missed a runner in the paint and Baynes fought through the middle of two Heat players to tip the loose ball to himself. As he grabbed the offensive board, he was pushed toward the top of the key from underneath the basket and slowly tumbled toward the floor inside the paint. As he fell, he managed to toss a pass out to Irving, who was well beyond the 3-point line.
Irving immediately took the ball off the dribble to his right as Baynes simultaneously attempted to pop back onto his feet. Baynes had barely regained his balance as he stood up before Irving whipped a pass over to him at the free-throw line.
Baynes caught, fired, and connected, prompting Boston’s entire bench to pop into the air in celebration of the sequence.
That’s Aron Baynes in a nutshell.
Tough. Physical. Reliable.
He may be an unassuming, complementary player who racks up modest stat lines, but he is unquestionably one of the key players and leaders of this team.
“He probably doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves,” commented Tatum. “He’s a veteran, he’s won a championship, he does it all. Whatever coach asks him to do, whatever the team needs any given night, he does it.”
Even if it doesn’t draw the attention of anyone outside his locker room.
To Baynes, it’s the little things that matter.