This summer, the Celtics don’t have a first round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, making Boston an unlikely destination for Victor Wembanyama. Admittedly, I haven’t seen much of the French big man to be jealous about. However, I have seen enough of Caitlin Clark in this tournament to know that she’d be the perfect Celtic.
Boston’s offense is predicated on everybody on the floor, particularly their perimeter players, being able to do everything on offense: shoot, drive, and pass. The varying skillsets of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Derrick White, and Malcolm Brogdon collectively make them increasingly difficult to defend. They have the second most efficient offense in the league (117.3 points per 100 possessions).
Just ask the Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics hung 140 points on them at Fiserv Forum Thursday night en route to a 42-point blowout. Clark isn’t unfamiliar with that kind of offensive explosion. She’s averaged nearly 32 points a game in the Women’s NCAA Tournament, including a cool 41 against South Carolina, arguably the best defense in the college game.
Watching Iowa on Friday night, I couldn’t help but think just how well Clark’s game would fit in at Boston. The Hawkeyes average the most points in the Big Ten behind her 27.7 points per game. She’s a deadly outside shooter (38.7% on 9.2 attempts) and if she gets a shoulder around you, she’s a blur zipping to the rim.
My favorite thing about Clark is my favorite thing about Brogdon. They’re Black Friday shoppers at 12:01 am; if there’s even the slightest crack in front of them, they’re making a bee line for a sale on easy buckets. It’s uncanny really. Brogdon is virtually tied with Tatum and Brown in drives per game despite playing ten less minutes a night. With all due respect, neither are really exceptional athletes, but a little misdirection here, a little bump there and they’re right at the rim.
And with all the switching teams are doing to prevent shooting pockets from forming, bigs are getting switched on to smalls and making unwilling dance partners.
To love Clark and the Celtics is to embrace modern basketball. That means wrapping both arms around three-point shooting, even when it doesn’t make a lot of sense like on a fast break. Traditionally, you’re taught to fill the lanes and try and get a layup. However, if you’ve got the ability to shoot especially on a night when you’re feeling it, it’s OK to bombs away on the secondary break.
Clark is also fantastic playmaker with how much attention she draws. She and teammate Monika Czinano roasted South Carolina several times running simple pick-and-rolls. Boston doesn’t run a lot of PnR, but with Robert Williams lurking the baseline and hanging out in the dunker spot, he makes for a good target if his defender decides to help.
There are still some old school dynamics that new school teams incorporate like getting into the paint to generate open looks on the perimeter. However, the concept has been turned on its head. Instead of throwing it into the post for the big man to find open shooters, drivers are kicking out to the front court teammates for 3.
I cheated. This kick ahead outlet from Brogdon to Sam Hauser is from Friday night’s game against the Jazz. The Celtics aren’t exactly a running team (14 points a game in transition, 15th in the NBA), but they are the best defensive rebounding team — yes, you’re reading that right — and they’ll take easy points on the run whenever they can.
Against SC, Iowa got clobbered on the offensive glass 26-to-5, but ran the bigger team off the floor when they could with Clark quarterbacking off of defensive rebounds and finding run outs with pinpoint passing.
Alas, Clark isn’t destined to be in Celtic green. But hopefully later today, she’ll have her one shining moment against LSU in the championship game. And if Boston can replicate Clark’s dominance of the tournament so far, the Celtics could be lifting a trophy of their own in July.