NBA analytics can track almost everything these days, from total dribbles in a single game, to the most efficient pick-and-roll duos in the league. If the prevalence of ‘posterizations’ were a stat that was readily tracked along with these other categories, Celtics centre Aron Baynes would almost certainly be atop the league in such rankings.
Ask any basketball player what they hate the most while playing and they’ll probably say losing, quickly followed by having your ankles crossed and being put on a poster.
Aron Baynes may hate being put on a poster every other game, but he almost certainly hates losing more. Game after game, Baynes continues to challenge guys at the rim to help his teams chances of winning, despite the risk of internet humiliation.
In this post-season alone, Baynes has been caught by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and just today, Kevin Love. The Aussie also happened to have the best individual defensive rating on the best defensive team during the regular season. The fact that Baynes features on an abundance of posters while also leading the Celtics defensively isn’t a coincidence. Baynes’ willingness to continually challenge players around the rim contributes largely to his regular season defensive rating of 97 per 100 possessions.
“My job is to try to make every shot attempt of the opponent’s as tough as I can,” Baynes told ESPN’s Chris Forsberg in April.
“If that’s me putting my body on the line then each time I’m going to step up and do it,” Baynes said. “It’s fun for me. I like it when guys are focused on [trying to dunk on] me because then they’re not focused on their game.”
When Aron Baynes gets dunked on, it goes viral. What doesn’t go viral however, are the defensive possessions proceeding the poster, where Baynes successfully rotates and forces missed shots that would have been made otherwise. These type of plays endear you to your teammates and coaches, and make winning much easier overall.
All of us probably saw this play where Baynes gets absolutely destroyed by Antetokounmpo in the first round of the playoffs:
But barely anybody saw this play during a random regular season game earlier this year. Baynes demonstrates perfect verticality to stop an easy basket, after Celtics guard Marcus Smart gets beat on the perimeter.
It’s understandable why Baynes is known for getting dunked on. A giant person dunking on another giant person at full speed, is nothing short of spectacular. But that doesn’t happen every possession, or even on a majority of possessions. What does happen more frequently though, is Baynes doing his job.
During Boston’s current post-season run so far, the Aussie has been tasked with some near-impossible defensive assignments, none greater than when he was being used as the primary defender against Sixers All-Star Joel Embiid in the second round. Per Second Spectrum, Baynes defended Embiid for 196 possessions in five games, giving up 65 total points to Embiid while forcing five turnovers. To give context, when Baynes defended Embiid, the Sixers superstar averaged 3.7 less points per 100 possessions compared to his season average. While Baynes didn’t stop Embiid, he did enough to quell his influence and in doing so, contributed significantly in Boston’s 4-1 series victory.
But, Embiid also threw down this huge jam on Baynes in transition that lit up ESPN and social media:
Honestly, Baynes should wear these posters like badges of honour, because whenever a lowlight like this happens, you know the big man had probably racked up a plethora of solid, but unremarkable defensive plays in between.
Through two games against Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals, Baynes has an unbelievable defensive rating of 94.8, and the Celtics find themselves up 2-0 against LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. Having seemingly added a three-point shot out of nowhere, in conjunction with his defense, Baynes is quite literally in career-best form right now.
With that said, he is undoubtedly, 100 percent going to get dunked on by LeBron James at some point in the next few games. It will be glorious. It might go viral. It will be the number one play on SportsCenter. But Aron Baynes won’t stop doing what he does, because it helps his team to win.
And you know what? Winning is something the Celtics have been doing a lot of lately.