Today’s topic: What do you think next year’s team identity will be? Two years ago, it was defensive versatility. Last year, it was Mazzulla-ball and threes. Roster changes will create a new identity — what will that be?
Length and athleticism. The Celtics have the luxury of rolling out some super Monstars-like lineups. Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Kristaps Porzingis and Robert Williams is a five I’m particularly intrigued to see. Plug in Malcolm Brogdon, Oshae Brissett or Al Horford and the general trend remains the same. They may not be quite as elite defensively as they were at their peak two years ago, but they have the ability to mix and match in a way that few teams do. Even when they go big, they don’t lose shooting or playmaking; that’s why it’s so scary.
My first thought was team size, but since Trevor focused on that, I’ll go with talent. I know that’s a bit amorphous, but I think people are sleeping on how good Porzingis was last year and what a luxury it will be to roll out a 7’3” 20+ PPG scorer who shoots threes at a high volume and efficiency. That’s the 3rd option! Heady stuff, and that’s coming from a heartbroken Marcus Smart stan. There will be many regular season nights when Tatum, Brown, and Porzingis all have it going for an efficient 20+ points each and the Celtics just roll a lot of teams that can’t keep up with their mix of size, scoring depth, and 3 point shooting. Will the Celtics eventually need to develop some nuance to their identity in terms of rim protection, defensive rebounding, etc.? Of course. But sheer talent should carry the way while they figure those things out.
Maybe the summer heat is getting to me, but I think we’ll see a Celtics squad that at least tries to emphasize cutting and off-ball movement more than driving and kicking. Banton, Walsh and Brissett, if they get minutes, can make an early impact as cutters. Jaylen Brown, Derrick White and Robert Williams should find easier buckets with cuts. Adding Porzingis means adding a post playmaking hub, and it seems Jayson Tatum is set for even more chances to facilitate. I don’t know if the spacing will be better than it was last year, but I think it’ll look a lot different.
I think the team’s identity is going to shift from a constant switching defense/positionless basketball to a more hybrid of Mazzulla-Ball and 3pt shooting along with more standard, positioned basketball with everyone “doing their job.”
I think that we see a lot less smallball. Which, I’m sure we will see some, but I feel like our smallball is going to end up still being bigger than most other teams’ smallball lineups.
I don’t know what I’d call the identity, since we haven’t seen it translate onto the court, but I do think it will be efficient and effective. Especially since JT, Al and KP are all at the top of the 3-and-D players chart according to BBall Index:
Here's a look at who was actually a 3&D player this past season.— BBall Index (@The_BBall_Index) July 20, 2023
⬆️Better on 3PT C&S opportunities relative to shot quality
➡️Better defensive impact
-Only players above average in both stats made the list
-1000 minute min
-2023 regular season pic.twitter.com/X7Cjx2bLpP
Can we hope that this revamped group becomes known as “the calm and poised Celtics”?
There’s no disputing that last season’s Celtics lacked mental toughness. The players themselves have admitted that sometimes they’d let bad calls and missed shots take them out of a game mentally. Inevitable meltdowns followed. Now they’ve traded away two of their most hard-edged players in Marcus Smart and Grant Williams.
If we can find a silver lining, it’s that Marcus and Grant were also the most volatile Celtics. They frequently chirped at referees and opponents, often to their detriment. (We might call that the “Imma Make Both Syndrome.”) Maybe, just maybe, the team will now start to take on the persona of Derrick White: understated, moving with a purpose, not too loud or too quiet. And then maybe lack of focus, blown leads and poor late-game execution won’t be such problems anymore.
Pretty soon, even Jayson Tatum might cut down his arguments with the refs. (Hey, we can dream.)
Mazzulla-ball on crack. Let the 3’s rain down in a torrent that washes away the competition. Let the ball move like a blur, passing up good shots for better shots like a distracted boyfriend meme. There will be so much spacing on the court you could drive a Brinks truck onto the court to give Jaylen his monthly paycheck in cash.
Defense? Sure, they’ll play defense too. But you don’t need to be top 5 in the league if you just outscore everyone else.
The days when the shots aren’t falling? Yeah, that’s going to be rough. But hey, maybe that’s a good way to implement load management during the regular season. “Oh, you’re 3-17 from the field in the 3rd quarter? Take the rest of the night off.”
Seriously though, they seem to be leaning heavily into Joe’s philosophy. They’ll need to refine it and develop it so that there’s more wrinkles beyond “hope the shots fall,” but this is who we are now. Might as well get used to it.