When I look at the Celtics and how they have turned the season around in the last two months I see many reasons for it. I believe the Celtics are a year away from being a true title contender but sometimes it happens earlier than expected. These are some of the reasons for the improvement:
- Defense – Boston is the best defensive team statistically in the league. Over the last year they have brought in players that can switch and defend interchangeably. Their switching man to man defense has been outstanding with Rob Williams the free safety and also the ability to guard anyone.
- Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown buying in – When your two best players begin to play unselfishly and trust their teammates it is powerful. When teams decide to double Tatum he makes the read and finds the open man. Their ability to read defenses and make the right play is on point. Tatum is becoming a top ten player in the league and Brown has become a willing and team oriented co-star.
- Robert Williams – He should be on the All Defensive first team. Boston’s defense becomes much better when you have him as your rim protector. If he adds the ability to shoot from fifteen feet the sky is the limit for him.
- Al Horford and Marcus Smart – Suddenly both are making the three more consistently when open. Both are outstanding on the ball defenders. Smart seems to make a few big defensive plays every game. Horford defends as a five but he can switch and guard anyone. Horford also is a second shot blocker at the rim.
- Grant Williams – A good on the ball defender and able to guard anyone on switches. Williams also has been deadly shooting threes from either corner.
- Brad Stevens – Give Stevens credit for unloading Kemba Walker and picking up Horford in the offseason. He also extended Robert Williams and Marcus Smart at team friendly deals. This season he accumulated assets in Dennis Schroeder and Josh Richardson. Then as their value increased he traded them for defensive minded Derick White and Dan Theis. The two fit into Udoka’s switching defense because they also can guard interchangeably. Stevens still needs to build a deeper bench but so far all of his moves have turned out positively. Stevens also selected Udoka and that has turned out well.
- Ime Udoka – Earlier in the season I doubted him as a coach. I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong. He deserves credit for getting Tatum and Brown to buy in. He also sold the team on defense and its importance to winning. The Celtics switching style with Williams as the free safety is the right system for his team This works well with the players he has. He has built a harmonious group that has their eyes on winning, not their individual stats, a tough task in today’s NBA. The only critique I have is his need to trust his bench more.
All in all things are looking up for Boston and with their two best players young with great futures things should get better.
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