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Jonas Jerebko: the once and future King stopper

With LeBron James likely to be at the top of the mountain of the Eastern Conference for the foreseeable future, is it possible that Boston has found it's LeBron stopper* in the Swedish Larry Bird?

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

*I understand that nobody can stop LeBron.  The Celtics couldn't in a four game sweep against Cleveland.  Jimmy Butler and the Bulls put up a good fight in the second round and lost.  Even the cream of the Eastern Conference Hawks couldn't thwart James with versatile defenders Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll.

However, you can slow him down.  The Golden State Warriors didn't exactly stop James on the way to a championship and Finals MVP Andre Iguodala "held" LBJ to a near triple double, but they did beat him.  Before the Finals started, the conventional wisdom was that the Warriors would be able to throw a handful of defenders at LeBron and give him multiple looks (until something worked).  Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green did little to keep him in check and it was finally the wily veteran Andre Iguodala that would contain him.  Iggy has been one of the league's best defenders in the last ten years.  If you haven't checked out his conversation with CBS Sports' Matt Moore about defending some of the NBA's best scorers, it's a must read.

So why mention Jonas Jerebko, a player included in a trade seemingly as a throw-in in a cost cutting move at the deadline, in the same breath as Iguodala?  Jerebko is hardly the individual defender that Iggy is and Jae Crowder (if he remains in Boston) is the most likely candidate to isolate against players like James head-to-head, but in stretches against the Cavs this post-season, Jerebko provided great defensive versatility off the bench.  Offensively, he'll be remembered this season for his three point shooting and swooping drives to the rim, but his ability to guard three positions on the other side of the ball might keep him in Celtic green.

Through most of the first round, whenever Jerebko came off the bench, he was matched up with Kevin Love at the four.  However, whether it was a on a switch in a pick and roll or when the Cavs went small, Jonas was matched up against LeBron a few times.  He held his own, limiting LeBron to 3-for-7 shooting with two of those buckets coming on late rotations from Jared Sullinger.  In all seriousness, this isn't the most ideal match up, but as the team looks to be more fluid, Jerebko is the kind of player the team will target because of his offensive and defensive versatility.

Crowder Jerebko switch

Jerebko isolation

Jerebko isolation 2

Jerebko isolation 3

Jerebko isolation 4

Jerebko isolation 5

Jerebko isolation 6

Brandon Bass and Jonas Jerebko are both free agents this summer with full Bird rights, but to me, it seems more likely that Ainge will opt to keep the Swedish Larry Bird on the roster over BB.  When the Celtics were down 8 points at halftime in a must win Game 3,  Brad Stevens shuffled the line up a bit and inserted Jerebko at the four in order to provide more versatility on the defensive and offensive end.  While Brandon Bass brings consistency with his mid-range jump shot and toughness, Jerebko is quicker and longer on the defensive end, he can put the ball on the floor to drive, and his range stretches out beyond the three-point line.

Stevens has stated during the off-season that the Celtics are looking to diversify the roster with more versatile players and even though Bass has been a good soldier during the rebuild, Jerebko might have more upside moving forward.  He's two years younger than BB and probably will come at a cheaper price.

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