Thursday, August 7, 2014

SQ14 #13 The 2.9 Scheme, Change, and a Celtic-type Player

Yesterday I talked at some length about the changing NBA, and how it has altered the demands on players, coaches, and general managers.  Let me reinforce that notion with another quote from Zack Lowe’s article:
“Offenses are more complex now than they were even at the start of last season [2011-12]. The NBA may still be a pick-and-roll league, but the pick-and-roll a team really wants to run might come after several different 'fake' actions designed to confuse defenders or get their momentum moving in the wrong direction. Predictable offenses just aren’t good enough anymore against elite competition”
The overall takeaway is that coaches must be shrewder in devising their attack, players must be smarter and more aware to recognize the defensive strategies and execute more than the obvious one-player-away passes that have been the staple in the past, and GM’s have to go a step beyond scouting bigger, faster, stronger. 

Which brings me to Celtic-type players, a topic near and dear to my heart.  For decades Boston has leaned toward more cerebral types where athletic talent and basketball skills are balanced with court awareness and seeing the play, and game, develop.  It might be most apparent in their stars (Cousy, Russell, Bird, Rondo, and Garnett come immediately to mind), but the Celtics played a five-man game seldom depending on isolations.  This understanding and awareness has to permeate throughout, including the bench if substitutions are to keep the cohesion going.  When you consider that anyone making it into the NBA has already passed a one-in-a-million screen, further reducing the pool by picking only the insightful makes acquisitions an almost insurmountable task.  And that is not adding the fact that this court prescience is a particularly difficult quality to find, much less quantify.

Part of the reason I am so optimistic about the Celtics’ course is that Danny Ainge has begun to accumulated players with a high BBIQ.  A former PG in the front court, multiple coach’s-sons, a PG who didn’t find math a sufficient challenge in school and dissects film and opponents with equal abandon, and a coach known for detailed preparation and overachieving with his talent on hand.  So let’s move on to how our current roster measures up to the increased demand of the emerging NBA.

As I hinted in the previous paragraph, Rondo, Sullinger, and Olynyk are all known for their understanding for the dynamics of the game as well as their diversity of skills.  I think Zeller will be another player who “gets it” and sees plays developing and player movement before they happen.  On the other hand, my biggest misgiving about Avery Bradley is how poorly he played the point--late passes, telegraphed swing passes, and an inability to envision how the flow on the floor will develop.  Brandon Bass is another player who has been an integral part of recent teams, but who I feel lacks the gestalt understanding of the game that allows him to anticipate.  This seemed apparent shortly after his acquisition as he had real difficulty in picking up the defensive rotations which stood out as he was the only player not “on a string” in lockstep with the Big Three team. Jeff Green also makes me hesitant.  He seems unable to find the open man when his drives collapse the defense.  He does great when running down a block or locking up on the ball, but he is often late on switches and recognizing the “next” threat when offenses begin to move the ball and the defense is stressed.  I think the paucity of his assists and steals point to this minimal understanding since his physical skills should make him excel in these areas.  Wallace is a curious case.  He made some wonderful passes, especially on inbounds plays; but too often in the flow of the game his efforts were late and/or telegraphed begging to be picked off.  Good execution, questionable recognition?

The remainder of the roster remains an unknown to me as I just haven’t seen any/enough of them.  I will comment on Pressey and Faverani.  Phil made so many good passes that I tend to give him a high mark, but there were enough miscues that I’m not sure if he can discern an opening from a closing space.  Faverani is even more confusing.  He made some great passes and his help defense was usually spot on when he got there; however there were reports of his difficulty in learning the defensive rotations.  Will more experience in the Celtics’ systems make him a cohesive cog or is he doomed to be great on one play and lost on the next?

To be sure, I will be closely watching Thornton and Turner whose reputations contain elements of both understanding and oblivion.  Maybe it will be a matter of motivation to play team defense and offense, but their answers to these questions are the acid test for me, not their shot.  As for our rookies, my gut reaction is Smart will be smart, and Young will be young and oblivious--I just hope James gets a coercive environment to develop his court sense because I fear he will otherwise trend toward iso ME ball. 

Who’s left?  Johnson and Babb, too little info; Anthony, don’t care; all three, not sure it will matter.

Only 52 days until training camp.[Discuss on CG Forums!]


  1. Excellent analysis as always. I am also excited about Sully, KO, and Rondo and their high BBIQ. I believe that Smart fits in that group quite nicely. It's going to be interesting to see how it plays out this season and if Danny can bring in more of the "Celtic type" players to replace those who don't quite get that side of the game.

    Oh and when reading the first part of your article I was reminded of how simple the game used to be when Red could have just 7 plays and win championships every year with just those 7 plays. But again, he had players with high BBIQ who knew how to vary those plays on the run when options were closed off.

  2. Anonymous9:29 AM

    I guess this writer appreciates the value of a good pg. Rondo in the same sentence as Cousy, Russell, Bird and KG? That`s a compliment of the highest magnitude. He does make others better, as did the other 4.
    But this writer has made a good point ( no pun intended) in building a cerebral team. All of Red`s teams ( and the 08 team included, as well) were comprised of intelligent and unselfish players. With the exceptions of Russell and KG ( imo, 2 of the 3 most athletic Celtic greats), the C`s championships came more from smart ball players, and team play, more so than athleticism. Ideally, I`d like all 3, but the first two are more important to me.

  3. Anonymous6:00 PM

    Agree on the intelligent players with high BBIQ over a team full of the best athletes. Gerald Green could jump out of the gym but when he was a celtic he didn't have a clue as to defense or team ball.


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