Since the departure of Al Horford in the 2019 NBA free agency period, the Boston Celtics have been active on the trade market searching for someone who could fill the hole in the middle. Though they currently have Enes Kanter, Daniel Theis, and Robert Williams III playing manning the center position, none of them could replicate Horford’s performance on the defensive end of the floor. In the past months, the Celtics have already been linked to several defensive-minded big men who could be available on the trade and free agency market in the 2020 offseason, including their former center, Aron Baynes of the Phoenix Suns.
Baynes was one of the players that the Celtics traded to the Suns last summer to get a first-round pick and clear salary-cap space. However, compared to the two seasons he played in Boston, the New Zealand big man has gotten better on both ends of the floor. If the Celtics could acquire him using their mid-level exception, Dan Favale of Bleacher Report believes that they should consider bringing him back to Boston in this year’s free -agency period.
“But roster logistics should go out the window if Aron Baynes is willing to return for the taxpayer’s mid-level exception. He is both a burly body and a floor-spacer to plug up front who would give the Celtics a higher likelihood of success against the Eastern Conference’s most terrifying behemoths—namely Joel Embiid. This isn’t to say Baynes will be had for the mini MLE. His own team, the Phoenix Suns, should be prepared to offer him more if it’s not trying to operate with cap space.”
Signing Baynes as a free agent makes a lot of sense for the Celtics, especially if they want to boost their chances of ruling the Eastern Conference and winning a title next season. Baynes may not be an All-Star, but he is capable of going up against top big men from Eastern Conference powerhouse teams like Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers and Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Aside from giving the Celtics a defensive-minded center, Baynes could also be a huge help on the offensive end of the floor, whether it’s under the basket or in the perimeter. This season, Baynes has shown a massive improvement with his game, averaging 11.5 points and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 48.0 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from beyond the arc. Those numbers are expected to skyrocket if the Celtics bring him back and head coach Brad Stevens gives him significant playing time and a spot in their starting lineup.
Baynes may haven’t shown any sign that he’s no longer happy with the Suns, but at this point in his NBA career, he would likely be better off playing for a legitimate title contender than wasting his time on a rebuilding team. However, as of now, it remains a big question mark if the mid-level exception would be enough to convince Baynes to return to Boston this summer.