Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Yes the Celtics are 10-13 and likely to finish in the lottery, but it’s nearly impossible to fault the performance of Stevens in his first year as an NBA head coach.
Rivers was not willing to lead another rebuilding project, but the Celtics brass went out and found a 37-year-old rising star that fits perfectly into the new era of Boston basketball.
The announcement of Stevens’ contract shocked the sports world during the offseason, and the six-year deal he agreed to indicated that the Butler wunderkind is clearly planning to be in Boston for the long haul.
Given the talent disparity the C’s are dealing with most nights without Rondo on the court, Stevens has done a fantastic job keeping his team competitive.
The Celtics are never rattled, run beautiful out-of-bounds plays, rarely get blown out and know how to dig themselves out of holes, as they showed against the Brooklyn Nets.
And Stevens is managing to do all that while drawing up most of his plays for Green and Crawford.
Speaking of Crawford, what Stevens has managed to do with the much-maligned scorer has been nothing short of miraculous.
Crawford came to Boston as a gunner, but has completely revamped his game with the help of Stevens.
He is now averaging 14 points, 3.2 boards and 5.3 assists as a starter and was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
The Celts’ defense, despite lacking a single dominant shot-blocker or perimeter stopper outside of Bradley, has been terrific. They are seventh in the league in points allowed at 96.1 which, although partially due to their slower pace, is still quite an accomplishment.
Stevens’ squad does a great job of rotating and closing out on shooters, allowing opponents to shoot just 32.9 percent from deep, and they are holding opponents to just 45.1 percent shooting overall.
The Celtics collapse on penetration, throw well-timed double-teams and generally force opponents to beat them with mid-range jumpers or difficult off-the-dribble moves.
They have trouble containing big men like Brook Lopez or Amar’e Stoudemire, but that is more a product of the personnel than Stevens’ defensive system.
After some early-season rotation issues, Stevens has found units that are successful, and is capable of getting the most out of both his unproven young players and the team’s veterans.
Given the players on the C’s current roster, settling on a stable rotation is a lot easier said than done.
For a coach without much to work with, Stevens has done a tremendous job, and it’s worth wondering if even Rivers could have had this much success with the pieces on Boston’s current roster.