Brad Stevens and his coaching staff find themselves in a unique spot during the NBA restart. The particulars of playing and living in the Orlando bubble present a new variable to the proceedings but the way this season has been structured also creates new opportunities as well. Instead of jumping into the postseason within days of completing an 82-game grind, the Celtics have had months to self-scout to prepare for the challenge that lies ahead in the postseason.
“The offensive versatility and defensive versatility has been our strength all year,” Stevens said after months of film. “We're not going to overpower many teams on the block, with the exception of Kanter, but we have a lot of guys who can put the ball on the floor and a lot of guys who can play downhill with speed, so that will continue to be our focus. I mean, there's going to be things we add over time, but there's also ... we need to pick up where we left off from an offensive and defensive standpoint. Because we were in pretty good shape when you look at it from a big picture at both ends of the court. But it's easier said than done. Other teams are out there, too, and they are very talented that you are competing against.”
Not only have the Celtics had months to evaluate and plan, but this will likely be the only year in NBA history where there will be essentially an extended training camp to implement plans and new lineups ahead of the postseason. The balance of introducing new looks and sustaining the play that worked so much over the first 65 games of the season is a push-and-pull that the coaching staff will need to balance as games get going.
“Every team is balancing that,” Stevens admitted. “The fundamentals you have to do anyway, but as far as running your system we’ve been able to pick up right where we left off with our calls and knowing what to run. We thought we had a lot going for us at both ends of the court. Statistically, that would be backed up, but what it also does is give us a chance to review when you get back to playing. But you do that anyways. We didn’t have in everything we were going to have in on March 11, because you want to save some things for April. It’s probably not too dissimilar, but we’ve had more time to review and really analyze our team. The one thing we still haven’t had a chance to do too much is analyze our team in full.”
Kemba Walker’s sore knee will hopefully allow the team to play in due time but the C’s have had a chance to dig through the numbers of close to a full season that featured a healthy Walker for a good chunk of it. Based on that some new plans can be constructed regarding rotation patterns and lineup choices based off that raw data. Let’s take a look at a few choices that deserve more run when the season resumes.
Let Tatum feast lineup
Enes Kanter/Grant Williams/Jayson Tatum
Offensive rating: 129.8
Net rating: 25.4
Minutes played: 129 over 30 games
Analysis: Stevens has wisely assigned Tatum captain duties for the second unit consistently throughout this season thus far, giving him a chance to create for himself and keep an inferior offensive supporting cast from being exposed. The Celtics have opted against going with the ‘double big’ look too much with their lineups, sometimes since it’s just not a realistic defensive lineup choice against teams that can shoot 3s at all five positions on the floor. However, in an Eastern Conference that’s filled with size among contenders, this is a grouping that could serve the C’s well against backup units. Kanter and Williams are both strong screen setters, helping Tatum create separation with his teammates. Combine that with Kanter’s prowess on the offensive glass (when help defenders leave him alone) and the C’s have the recipe for a potent offensive attack against second units. Kanter needs to be at his best for this lineup to work but after declaring himself healthy for Orlando, this group should get a chance together anytime the matchups allow for it.
Lockdown lineup combos
Jaylen Brown/Daniel Theis/Grant Williams
Defensive rating: 85.6 points allowed per 100 possessions
Net rating: +23 net rating
Minutes played: 85 in 27 games
Gordon Hayward/Marcus Smart/Jayson Tatum
Defensive rating: 97.3 points allowed per 100 possessions
Net rating: +13.5
Minutes played: 512 in 32 games
Analysis: Defensive versatility is an essential staple of Brad Stevens’ strategy and both of these lineups fit the bill on