Defining the Boston Celtics' Offensive and Defensive Strategy
It's a new season with new faces, so the Boston Celtics' offensive and defensive strategy is bound to change. Of course, mainstays like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo are still around, but adjustments will need to be made to accommodate the newcomers.
Ever since Garnett arrived in 2007, the Celtics have been known for having a stout defense. This was very clear in 2012, as Boston was the No. 1 ranked defense in the NBA. The C's offense, however, struggled last season, all too often becoming stagnant and being susceptible to droughts.
Although the cliché is that defense wins championships, you need a consistent offense to be crowned, as well. With the new talent that GM Danny Ainge has infused into the team for the upcoming campaign, it looks as if the Celtics offense will be stronger.
So, how will Boston maintain its lockdown D, and how, exactly, will its offense improve?
Let's define the club's strategy on both ends.
Offense: Run the Offense Through Garnett
This may seem awfully obvious, but the Celtics didn't do this nearly enough last season. It was seen more during the playoffs, but even then, Garnett could have been utilized more properly.
When you have a dominant big man, you have to get him the ball: period. Doing so opens the entire offense up, and with new guys like Jason Terry and Courtney Lee spotting up around the three-point line, getting K.G. the ball in the post could end up being absolutely lethal.
Notice the word "post" in that last sentence. That is where Garnett should be receiving the basketball. Too often, K.G. is out on the perimeter settling for jump shots. Now, Garnett is a very good shooter.
As a matter of fact, he shot an incredible 47.7 percent from 16 or more feet out last year. He is clearly very effective from that range, so he should not abandon it entirely. However, that is not where he should be primarily setting up shop.
Doc Rivers has to consistently design plays for Garnett on the low block. Of course, K.G.'s amount of time banging in the post should be monitored during the regular season, as that will end up taking a toll on the 36-year-old, but come playoff time, that basketball needs to be forced into Garnett.
Offense: Rondo Needs to Push the Tempo
With the infusion of younger, fresher legs onto the Celtics' roster this season, Rondo should be making a concerted effort to speed things up offensively.
Of course, Rondo should be under control when he does this. He shouldn't be flying up the court if the opponent is back on defense and his teammates are lagging behind him.
However, off of defensive boards, Rondo should leak out for an outlet pass from the rebounder, and a wing should join him. If Rondo gets the rebound, then he should direct his teammates up the floor and try to catch the defense off-guard in the open court.
Boston now has the personnel to do this, with guys like Lee, Terry, Jeff Green and the newly signed Leandro Barbosa being outstanding players in transition. Chris Wilcox (when he gets healthy, as his back has been acting up) also runs the floor incredibly well.
If Rondo can push the tempo regularly, opponents will be kept off-balance, making the C's absolutely deadly offensively.
We all know how efficiently the Celtics have been able to run half-court sets; it's the lack of fast-break points that held Boston's offense back last year. Adding this new dimension to the arsenal should give the club plenty of more easy scoring opportunities.
Offense: Let Green Be a Floater
That means to let Green operate from anywhere on the floor.
The 26-year-old may very well be the Celtics' most versatile player offensively. He can post up, he can put the ball on the floor and drive the lane, he can shoot and he can score in transition. There really isn't anything that Green can't do.
This is why Boston should use Green as a joker and let him play all over the place. He has looked tremendous throughout the preseason, demonstrating how much of a matchup nightmare he can be for opponents. Allowing him to make use of all of his abilities offensively will open things up for Boston on that end of the floor and make defenses have to scramble.
Green even has the ball-handling ability to play some point forward. This would certainly not be ideal for long stretches, but if Rondo is off the floor or if Green grabs a rebound, there should be no problem with him bringing the ball up the floor and making opponents wonder about what in the world he is going to do.
Many people still haven't realized how vital Green is going to be to the C's this year.
Defense: Play to the Opponent
Given the Celtics' overall lack of depth last season, this wasn't something they could really do. This year, however, Boston has the capability to play to the size of its opponents defensively.
Let's say the C's are playing a team like the Los Angeles Lakers. Obviously, the Lakers have a big team headlined by Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol up front. Well, instead of having to have Brandon Bass along with Garnett up front, the Celtics can use one of Jason Collins or Darko Milicic. This would give K.G. much more freedom and would take a considerable load off of his shoulders.
In this case, the Celtics can then go with Green at the four to match the athleticism of James. In 2012, the Boston wasn't able to do that, resorting to even putting Bass on the MVP. Now, the C's have more flexibility there.
The depth on this club is not only huge offensively, but it will also help significantly defensively.
Defense: Let Garnett Roam
With great perimeter defenders like Rondo, Avery Bradley (when he returns) and Courtney Lee, plus the additions of bigs like Collins and Milicic, K.G. will not be nearly as responsible defensively this season as he has been in past years.
Getting into the lane will be difficult for opponents based on having Rondo and then either Bradley or Lee up top alone. Now that Garnett has some frontcourt support on the defensive end for the first time since Kendrick Perkins once patrolled the middle for the Celtics, he can provide help defense whenever he wants.
K.G. couldn't really do this last year. He had to guard the paint because he was the only intimidator Boston had down low. Greg Stiemsma was a very good shot-blocker, but he wasn't exactly a great post defender, and he tended to get lost at times in the pick-and-roll. Garnett thankfully has some help this year, and he can be the same kind of joker defensively that Green will be offensively.
Defense: Be Aggressive
The Celtics are so loaded with top-flight defensive players that they can afford to be aggressive and gamble on that end of the floor.
With Garnett and either Collins or Milicic as the last line of defense, Rondo and Bradley can afford to play the passing lanes and try to force turnovers. Should either of them misplay it, they have an all-world defender in K.G. back there, not to mention a goon alongside of him.
Boston should also be more inclined to try and trap its opponents when necessary.
We've seen it time and time again with the C's, particularly in the playoffs. When it's late in the game and the Celtics need to get stops, they turn up the defensive intensity and frequently disorient their opponents. Boston should do that even more this year.
Why? Because now, the Celtics can get out and run.
When a team sets up a trap, the opposition has propensity for forcing errant passes that get picked off, resulting in fast-break opportunities. With Boston's new-look roster, it can now be even more lethal in those situations.
Also, the C's are now deep enough (and big enough) where guys can give hard fouls. Collins, Milicic and Jared Sullinger should make players like LeBron and Dwyane Wade think twice about driving the lane.