Brad Stevens' read-and-react offense

Jared Wickerham

Doc Rivers had one way of doing things on offense. Brad Stevens has a different approach.

When Doc Rivers was running the Celtics, he had 3 or 4 future Hall of Famers (and sometimes more, remember Shaq and Sheed?) executing the offensive sets he had drawn up.  That worked beautifully in the early years and a little bit less beautifully as the years went on (perhaps a natural regression due to age).  Still, scouts marveled at how well the Celtics executed time and time again.  They were a machine in terms of getting to the right spots and doing what Doc wanted them to do.

One drawback was that it could also make them somewhat predictable.  There were times when options were taken away and the offense bogged down and broke.  Rondo would pound, pound, pound the ball waiting for the play to develop with a disgusted scowl on his face as he had go to his 4th option and/or hoist up a shot at the end of the shot clock.

That was then.  Now we've got a new coach and he's got a different philosophy on offense.  See what this scout relayed to Ian Thomsen of SI.

Will Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith trio work in Detroit? - NBA - Ian Thomsen - SI.com

"The sets they run are more read-and-react type things than the normal execution of go from point A to B and then go on with this. He's got terminology of actions. But he's not going to play the two-man game or three-man game to see what the defense is going to give him. Instead he'll run an action and leave it to his players to read the defense. "That has made it difficult to get a handle on what he's doing, because he might get three different things on three possessions all on the same play call. What they ran the first time with that terminology isn't going to be the same thing they run the second time he makes that call.

This is a wonderful insight into what Stevens is doing in Boston.  It seems like a system that is easy to install and teach the basics, but has room to grow exponentially with the right players and amount of experience in the system.

Rajon Rondo probably already knows the system down pat and has dozens of potential options in each set that he could take advantage of once he gets on the court.  Jordan Crawford might be benefiting from the ability to freelance a bit more.  The rookies and young players are spending less time thinking about where they "should" be and more time reading and reacting to what's in front of them.

As the whole team gets more experience in the system and learns the best ways to use each other's tendencies, the better things will look.

I was discussing this with the CelticsBlog staff and wjsy pointed out that this is a lot of the same philosophy that Popovich uses in San Antonio.  Obviously he's got Hall of Famers that have been playing together since half our players were in elementary school, so they simply execute you to death.  But the fundamentals are the same.  Put people in the right position with the right spacing and options, then react to what the defense gives you.

Obviously it is too simplistic to say that Doc's system was completely rigid and didn't allow for options.  Each of Doc's play had "triggers" that moved to a different variation if things broke down.  Still, I think I prefer Brad's system (at least in theory) better.

In fact, FLCeltsFan pointed out that Red Auerbach used to run an offense with only 6 plays and let the players run several options off of any of them.  He'd keep running the same play all game long, daring the other team to stop it.  That's pretty cool.

The other CelticsBlog authors are better at breaking down plays and sets and scouting reports than I am, but I thought I'd share this article (go read the whole thing) and open this up to discussion.

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