The Boston Celtics brought in Neemias Queta on a two-way contract, and while the 24-year-old seven-footer will likely spend most of his time in Maine, the move could signal the beginning of an audition process for Brad Stevens.
Al Horford is 37 years old – he won’t be around forever. This year will be the first season of his two-year contract extension, and after that, his future in the league is unclear. Meanwhile, Robert Williams and new Celtic Kristaps Porzingis have dealt with injury issues throughout their careers.
Boston has one of the best big rotations in the league, but it comes at a cost. Luke Kornet will provide some sneakily solid backup minutes after appearing in 69 games for the Celtics last year, but that’s where their center depth ends.
With Blake Griffin’s time in Boston supposedly ending, the Celtics should be on the lookout for new big man projects.
Kornet was actually a product of this process. He first joined the Celtics via a trade with the Chicago Bulls in 2021. And after spending time in the G League and bouncing around on 10-day deals with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks, he found his way back to Boston. The big man played well enough with the Maine Celtics to earn a standard deal, and he’s been a reliable depth option for the big club ever since.
Last offseason, the Celtics brought in Mfiondu Kabengele on a two-way deal after an impressive Summer League stint. He played reasonably well in the G League but didn’t stick. The same can be said about Noah Vonleh, who had a shot to earn a guaranteed spot on the roster but was ultimately traded by the deadline and waived by the San Antonio Spurs.
Now, Queta will be the Celtics’ next big man project. At just 24 years old, Queta is coming off a dominant G League season that saw him finish second in MVP voting behind Bulls guard Carlik Jones. He averaged 16.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game while shooting 68.5% from the field.
The Sacramento Kings cut Queta after signing veteran center JaVale McGee, much to the chagrin of many fans. Though he was never able to earn regular minutes in Sacramento’s rotation, fans and media spoke highly of the seven-footer during his time there.
Tony Xypteras of The Kings Herald even went as far as noting that Queta could run some of the same sets the Kings set up for Domantas Sabonis:
“Neemy is a very large man that moves surprisingly well,” Xypteras wrote. “He can defend the paint better than anyone on the roster right now, so long as he isn’t getting into foul trouble. He can rebound. His skill as a passer is high enough that Mike Brown could probably get away with running some of the same sets he’s already running through Domantas Sabonis.”
Queta won’t step into the Celtics rotation immediately. He won’t be asked to play regular minutes, nor will he have the opportunity to. But by bringing him in on a two-way deal, Boston will welcome him into their system and have the option of using him in a pinch if need be.
In the past couple of years, the Celtics have not only been one of the best teams in the NBA but also utilized their G League squad to perfection. Kornet and Sam Hauser both spent significant time in Maine before joining the Celtics on standard deals and now both are consistent faces in Boston’s regular-season rotation.
With Hauser’s emergence as a rotation piece, the Celtics now have some solid wing depth behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Jordan Walsh will have an opportunity to climb into the lineup this year, too.
The next item on Stevens’ to-do list is the center position, because with Horford’s career coming to a close and Williams’ and Porzingis’ injury histories, big man depth will be a necessity moving forward.
Queta may not be the answer right now, but he’ll have a chance to prove himself as the next guy in a line of auditions.