We know the Celtics probably won’t be a good defensive team next season. They won’t be an overall good team at all.
When KG left, most of that defensive identity and fierceness went away with him. Yes, we still have Avery, and yes Gerald Wallace is a solid defender, but that alone doesn’t make you a good defensive team.
The lack of a true inside presence, one that can make players think twice about going to the rim, is and will be the greatest obstacle in the Celtics road to being decent defensively.
Vitor Faverani is the biggest guy on the roster and with him being a rookie probably no one will be scared of him – and it will take time for him to fully grasp timings and rotations. Bass is supposedly our best team defender now and the one who can call instructions from the back like KG did. Now, Bass is as big a downgrade from KG as one can imagine. Even if he is decent at commanding team defense, if someone slips, he won’t be able to respond effectively by closing the gap to block or alter a shot. That’s just not who he is.
However, in the middle of all of this Brad Stevens says that the Celtics will be a defense-first team. “Having a defensive DNA is critical to success. There is no question about that,” Stevens said a while back before we saw him coach an NBA game.
That’s nearly a certainty. Defense wins championships, offense wins games, blah blah blah.
But what if the Celtics just can’t play defense? Brad Stevens will find a way to make them play defense, and apparently he’s getting to it.
If the Celtics are something, that is young and athletic. That’s why harassing players on the perimeter might be their best chance to success. With guys like Avery, Lee, Wallace, and Green available, the Celtics have plenty of athleticism to cover the outside.
These guys are all capable of playing tough defense and denying penetration, but they also can react to what their opponents are doing.
Some of them can stripe the ball away from players, others can jump the passing lane and steal the ball, but all of them can double in the perimeter. And that’s what they’ve been doing. They’ve been working as a unit outside, closing lanes and denying penetration as a team. They’ve directed guys to where they want them to be and steals have come.
That will be the way the Celtics play defense for a chance at success. Focusing on the outside.
The results of this system will hopefully be plenty of transition opportunities off the turnovers caused. When the Celtics grab the ball they’ve been looking to get the ball up the court as quick as possible. This will only result in easy baskets.
In the end, the way in which perimeter guys have been playing team defense to clog lanes and deny passing and penetration will be the hope for Stevens to have a solid defensive team. If the ball is allowed to get inside, the Celtics have virtually no one to respond.
The key will be for that ball to stay on the outside and while its there try to steal it as a team.