When we came up with the theme for this week, I gotta admit, I couldn’t narrow it down. There’s just so much to be excited for. Nothing is guaranteed of course (knocking on wood till my knuckles bleed). But how can you not be excited to see what next steps Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown make? How can you not be giddy at the prospect of a three-headed hydra guard rotation of Marcus Smart, Derrick White, and Malcolm Brogdon? How can you not be giddy about the ultra switchable big combo of Al Horford and Robert Williams III?
So I’m just going to try to narrow it down to one half of the court and focus on the defense. You know, last year’s #1 ranked defense that didn’t lose any key contributors and will include Derrick White for a full season (with a full training camp to learn the system even better).
How good was the defense last year? Good enough to impress ESPN's Zach Lowe (not known for hot takes or hyperbole).
“For the last 45 games, 50 games, the Celtics have been maybe the best defense I’ve ever seen,” Lowe admitted. “There are no weak spots to pick at. They switch everything. They don’t make mistakes.”
There are no perfect defensive metrics, but the Celtics ranked high in just about all of them (in the regular season and the playoffs). Marcus Smart won Defensive Player of the Year and Robert Williams was named to the 2nd Team All Defense. Jayson Tatum, Derrick White, and Jaylen Brown all received votes for the 2nd team as well.
That list doesn’t even include switchable post anchor Al Horford and the versatile Grant Williams. Malcolm Brogdon is known more for his offense but he’s an above average defender in his own right. Lowe is right, there are just no weak spots to pick on.
The Celtics come at you in waves. Good luck finding a mismatch, and even if you do, they scram out of it better than most teams. Great offenses and great scorers struggled against the Celtics in the playoffs. Ime Udoka had them locked in and moving on the proverbial string. Pick a defensive cliché, it applies.
So yeah, I guess you could say I’m excited about seeing this defense frustrate and flummox opponents once again.