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The Boston Celtics’ defense remained tough in the 2012-13 season, but it was not quite as strong as it has been in years past. With Garnett hobbled by injuries, the team still managed to give up just 96.7 points per game, good for 12th in the league, but it was clear that something was missing.
In his prime, Paul Pierce used to be an outstanding two-way player, but now that he is older it is essential that he conserves more of his energy for the offensive end of the court versus expending it defensively. The Celtics slid him over to 2-guard for stretches to guard less physical players, leaving the task of covering players like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony primarily to Jeff Green.
This strategy worked, but Green is also going to be taking on a significant load offensively as the second or third scoring option on the court, and so it would be wise for Boston’s management to pursue a moderately-priced wing defender capable of covering two or three positions seamlessly.
Avery Bradley is a great perimeter defender, but because he is rail thin and just 6’2” he sometimes has difficulty covering bigger shooting guards and is best suited to defend the point.
Perhaps the most logical and familiar option out there is Memphis’ Tony Allen. Allen cut his teeth with Doc Rivers and the Celtics, and has since helped make the Grizzlies one of the league’s best defensive teams. He is not much of a shooter, but averaged 10.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game for Memphis in the playoffs.
Allen is capable of covering 2-guards, small forwards and even some point guards, and has tremendous length, timing and quickness, making him one of the league’s premier defensive stoppers. Unfortunately, it is unlikely he will leave Memphis for a return to Boston, given that he left over an issue with playing time that would still be a key problem with the Celtics.
Another ideal, if unlikely, option is Denver’s Corey Brewer. Brewer is not a particularly strong player, but at 6’9” has the size to cover the two and three and is great at reading passing lanes. He finally found a niche in Denver and proved he could be a key contributor with a quality ball club.
Brewer has the size and length to contest shots, as well as the lateral quickness to stay in front of opponents and deter drives into the paint. At just 27 years old, it is also safe to assume that Brewer has a few more prime seasons ahead of him, whereas Allen is currently 31 years old.
Brewer shot poorly in the playoffs, but managed to average 10.8 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists for the Nuggets against Golden State.
If those two prove too expensive for the C’s, more affordable options include bringing back Toronto’s Mickael Pietrus, a true three-and-D player who was huge for Boston in the 2012 playoffs; OKC’s athletic 2-guard Ronnie Brewer; or Kobe Bryant’s arch nemesis Dahntay Jones of the Atlanta Hawks.