At just three games into the season, all stats should be taken with the appropriate grain of salt. Still, it is a fine time for some “early results analysis” (otherwise referred to as a Jump to Conclusions mat).
Jay King of the Athletic had a number of stats like that but the one that stuck out to me is the positive net rating for Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Gordon Hayward.
The trio has posted a plus-13.4 net rating over the first three games. Over 45 minutes with Hayward, Brown and Tatum on the court, the Celtics have held opponents to 97.9 points per 100 possessions — about the same defensive rating that trio managed last season with Al Horford and Aron Baynes on their side. This year’s great mark wasn’t inflated by the Knicks game; the trio’s defensive rating was actually better against Philadelphia and Toronto. The Celtics have forced turnovers at a dizzying rate and handled some huge opponents with smaller lineups. Even without as much bulk alongside them, Hayward, Brown and Tatum may be disruptive enough to stand as the base of a strong defense. That’s the hope in Boston, at least.
The thought heading into the season was that the Celtics would be weak defensively in the paint (Kanter or some other inexperienced center) and at point guard (Kemba Walker). While those positions aren’t exactly defensive strengths for the Celtics, they are at least putting in early season effort.
When you have strong defensive play by the wings and a scheme that incorporates switching, jump switching, and general help defense, you can typically get by without having all plus defenders on the floor. Teams have been doing it since the dawn of basketball.
Marcus Smart clearly helps things, as does the early impact of rookie Grant Williams. But as King points out, this group of wings (more known for their offensive games) is more than holding their own defensively as well.
Here’s hoping that this stat is a sign of things to come for the rest of the year.