Blakely: Four reasons Celtics could improve defensively this season
Blakely: Four reasons the Celtics will improve defensively this season
BOSTON – The idea of losing Avery Bradley earlier this summer via trade was certainly a blow to the Boston Celtics’ defense.
That was soon followed by the departure of Jae Crowder as part of the package sent to Cleveland for Kyrie Irving, a move that delivered yet another shot to the gut defensively for a Celtics team that finished 12th in the league defensively.
But as you watch the team that Danny Ainge has put together, there are clear and undeniable signs that despite the loss of Bradley and Crowder, Boston’s defense may not be so bad after all.
Here are four reasons why the Boston Celtics may actually wind up being as good – or even better - defensively this season.
When you start to examine this Boston Celtics roster, it’s pretty clear that they have upgraded their starting lineup from a size standpoint. Boston now has 6-foot-3 Kyrie Irving at the point, replacing 5-9 Isaiah Thomas. At shooting guard, 6-8 Gordon Hayward is in, 6-2 Avery Bradley is gone. And while at 6-7 Jaylen Brown is just an inch taller than ex-Celtic Jae Crowder, Brown’s length and long strides defensively allows him to cover a lot of ground in a hurry to contest shots.
BETTER DEPTH IN FRONTCOURT
Boston’s interior presence defensively begins with Al Horford who will rotate most of this season between playing power forward and center. Who he’s paired with will be a work in progress all season, but Boston certainly liked what they saw from Aron Baynes at center. In Boston’s 94-82 preseason win over Charlotte on Monday, Baynes was praised for his scoring. But it was his defense against Dwight Howard (7 points, six turnovers) that really stood out. Boston rookie Daniel Theis had some nice moments scoring the ball against the Hornets, but he is more known for his defensive versatility. Marcus Morris, who along with his brother Markieff (he plays for Washington) were found not guilty in an assault trial on Tuesday, is also a solid defender who can help Boston as well.
Adding Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to the roster provides Boston with a pair of high-scorers who can also create their own shot. Al Horford, one of the best passing big men in the NBA, now has more options to find offensively which means better spacing for more made baskets. And if that’s happening more often, it’ll result in more opponents being forced to play against a set Celtics defense which is exactly what head coach Brad Stevens and his staff want.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Brad Stevens who is going into his fifth season, is that more times than not he gets the maximum value out of his players. And he does this by putting them in positions where they can make the biggest impact. He’s particularly keen on making sure his team’s defense is on one string which it has been for most of the preseason. But more than anything, Stevens figures out what it will take to compete and potentially beat foes which is why his rotation, much like last season, will be in a season long state of uncertainty. But one thing that is clear, is that Stevens’ teams will play defense at a relatively high level which is why there’s hope that this year’s team could be as good or better than last year’s squad which finished 53-29 and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.