Celtics length and switch-ability - keys to lock-down defense
I have written on numerous occasions that Danny Ainge was trying to build a Celtics team with size and versatility, meaning players 6'4" to 6'10" who could play at least two of the ball handler, wing and big positions. I failed to add switch-ability as a third requirement. Here is ESPN's Zach Lowe on Boston's effective defense, featured in this weeks 10 Things I Like+Don't Like:
I try to avoid featuring the same team here in consecutive weeks, but when you win 14 straight and interrupt the Warriors' demolition of the league, rules go out the window.
I'm not sure even Boston's coaches and front-office folks realized how huge this team is on the wing until they saw everyone play together in preseason. Jaylen Brown is a 6-foot-7 starting 2-guard with a 7-foot wingspan. That is obscene. When the Celtics have any three of Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, and Marcus Smart on the floor (and, hell, throw in Semi Ojeleye) with Al Horford at center, they can switch seamlessly across four positions.
And Friday as usual means 10 Things I Like+Don't Like starring the red-hot Celtics, James Harden's lobs, Chicago's offense, Slow-Mo, more https://t.co/HSh3gwhypF
Jaylen Brown has been terrific as the starting two-guard. And he keeps getting better. As he gains experience he will become a nightmare for opponents. Lowe's referencing that can Boston "switch seamlessly across four positions" indicates the reason for the Celtics lock-down defense. The length, versatility and switch-ability allows this team to lock down individual players and their teams. Here are some more of Lowe's impressions:
It was all on display in their win over Golden State. They switched a ton, and when they didn't -- when they put two on the ball -- the guys behind the play took up so much space when they spread their arms, they could almost guard two people at once. Brown and Horford dissuaded several passes just by making themselves big away from the ball. And when they fall behind chasing shooters around picks, they make up ground so fast, they interfere with the shot anyway.
A sampling of games vs. Boston's defense this season:
Carmelo 3/17 (18 FG%)
Steph Curry 3/14 (21 FG%)
K Porzingis 3/14 (21 FG%)
Joel Embiid 4/16 (25 FG%)
Kemba 5-19 (26 FG%)
Klay 5-18 (28 FG%)
RWestbrook 7/20 (35 FG%)
The Celtics pull off defensive switches like they are playing in a video game. They are that good at it. But it would not work without the height and wingspans. Boston's foes see so many arms they must feel they are playing against a Giant Squid. Superstars and their teams can't seem to handle Boston's defense. Also, I never expected Jayson Tatum's defense to be this good so soon. He has shoulders like Anthony Davis which tells me that with a bit more height he could end up as a rugged center/forward later in his career. Al Horford has been even better this season than last, and heaven knows what would happen if Marcus Smart starts hitting his shots. Semi Ojeleye fits the size/versatility/switch-ability mode very well also. Once more with Zach Lowe:
Meanwhile, Markelle Fultz is shooting left-handed, Jimmy Butler isn't shooting much at all, Jae Crowder looks like he aged five years over the summer, and Irving is playing unselfishly (by his standards). Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens might be warlocks.
I doubt warlocks, but those two certainly know how to assemble a team. Think defense first, bring in guys of high character that have size, wingspan and versatility, and teach them how to properly, and instinctively, switch on defense to provide lock-down defense. Seems to be working. Warlocks? Could be.