The changes taking place in the Boston Celtics’ basketball departments may be more profound than you think.
Yes, Ime Udoka is gone for the year and is replaced with former assistant Joe Mazzulla. But gone too are many Celtics big men for various reasons. Daniel Theis was traded and not replaced with a veteran big. The closest to his position was Danilo Gallinari, who is out likely for the year with a torn ACL. Robert Williams is out for the start of the season due to injury.
The Celtics simply cannot play big in the ways they did last year. Regardless of whether Mazzulla intended to copy-and-paste Udoka’s system from last year due to the familiarity of the players and the timing of his dismissal, doing so makes little sense with a changed makeup of the team.
As such, the first test tactically for Mazzulla will be in playbook design. The Celtics open the season with more impactful guards than they did a season ago; Derrick White and Malcolm Brogdon are here, and Payton Pritchard has proven worthy of a rotation role. Boston figures to be smaller, a tad faster, and more reliant on spacing-based sets than before.
Mazzulla can tap into his past experiences to bring forward such a system. He was the head coach at Division II Fairmont State, a powerhouse program in West Virginia, from 2017 to 2019. The Falcons were really successful and played at a pretty high pace. They also had an incredibly efficient half-court offense, due in large part to the mastery of Mazzulla’s playbook.
While the level of competition and the players in the system are drastically different, perhaps Mazzulla has some areas to draw from that will really help the Celtics and allow him to put his stamp on this team.
Below is our film room video on the sets and principles that Mazzulla put into place and how they could find their way onto an NBA floor for the Boston Celtics this year.