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In Defense Of Future Defense


Boston's defense remained elite even without Mikki Moore.

We’re headed for an interesting experiment after the 2011-2012 season.

As we all know, the Celtics will be making major roster changes, even if veterans like Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen return at reduced rates. It’s conceivable that Avery Bradley will the third-longest serving Celtic come training camp 2012.

Even if Garnett does return, he’ll be 36, Allen 37 and Paul Pierce 35, all before the first regular season game. But for the purposes of this experiment, let’s suppose at least one of Garnett or Allen leaves the Celtics. And because he’s so central to the Boston defense, tangibly and intangibly, let’s further suppose it’s Garnett.

Would that make any difference to Boston’s defensive efficiency or can the C’s remain a top-5 defense with a less imposing group of players surrounding an aging Pierce, a young Bradley and Rajon Rondo (who admittedly projects to remain one of the best defenders in the league at the point guard position for years to come)?

The intuitive and easy answer is no. Too many parts will be turned over, with no holdovers at the 4 and 5 spots. And Pierce’s impressive defense at the SF will surely trail off 16 months hence, won’t it?


But what’s interesting about the defense in this Celtics era (07-08 to present) is that regardless of the players on the roster at any given time, Boston has proven an elite team. The trade of Kendrick Perkins barely affected Boston’s overall defensive efficiency. The defensive rating the C’s racked up post-trade (regular season) would have ranked them in the top-4 of the league if projected over a full season. They also finished 4th overall in defensive efficiency in this year’s playoffs (3rd if you discount the small sample size that landed Orlando in 1st).

Look back to game 7 of the 2010 Finals and you’ll find — again without Perk — the Celtics fell in Los Angeles for a number of reasons, none of which included defense. The C’s put up a dominant 96.5 defensive rating for that final game. Any coach in the league would be thrilled about that number in a clinching game 7 situation.

Go back to the similarly ill-fated 2008-09 season and you’ll find another elite regular season defense (even with KG missing 25 games) where the C’s finished 2nd in the league. Then, come the playoffs, with Leon Powe also going down in the Orlando series, Boston still managed to finish 5th in overall defensive efficiency.

The pertinent question here centers around how many pieces you can pull from Boston’s Jenga stack before the whole thing comes crashing down. Put another way, how much of Boston’s defensive excellence can be attributed to:

1) the system and schemes Tom Thibodeau, Doc Rivers and Lawrence Frank installed;

2) the effort and commitment of the players; and

3) the specific personnel on the roster rather than just specific types of personnel?

The first two could carryover to the 2012-13 lineup.

That third one is the really important question.

I don’t think any of us believe you can replace KG with just any run-of-the-mill, ultra-athletic, stretch-4 (as if even those grow on trees). But is it possible his impact on the C’s defensive culture can be transmitted to the next era via Rivers, Rondo and Pierce?

Or if it can’t, could Boston lure Garnett back for a final season or two by reducing his offensive workload and making him a defensive anchor?

Failing even that, if his presence is deemed irreplaceable by anyone shy of Dwight Howard, and if he’s dead set on retiring, could KG find himself in a suit, coaching as one of Doc’s assistants?

A few thoughts to consider as the lockout drags on…

  • Cos

    Pie in the sky or not, I'm still looking for Howard in green and white in 2012, with other guys and having KG in the rotation from the bench. Same deal with Ray when the time comes.

    The celts have been looking for quality veteran reserves the last few years. going forward, those reserves are already on the team. I don't think its as far fetched as it seems, but it definitely needs Howard to make it work.

  • Austin

    I do believe KG is a big part of the celtics defense. I dont believe they can replace him without being mentally distracted like they were with Perk. Unless they make a run at Dwight Howard, (because they only have 3 players under contract for 2012-13) so they can offer him a maximum size contract.

  • Bob

    Garnett and Howard both in green would make Twin Towers as good (probably better) as those of Duncan and Robinson in the Spurs. Let's hope Howard acknowledges that.

    • Batman

      Better? Not even close
      But still very good

      • Faye

        You have to remember that Kevin is past his prime, but if he and Dwight were the same age, it world be about the same or even better for sure. Hands down

        • Batman

          Really? Tim Duncan is the greatest PF in history
          Garnett is better than David Robinson in his prime but its close and Dwight is nowhere near any of their levels
          I'm not trying to be snarky but lets not disrespect one of the greatest frontcourts ever by comparing them to Garnett and Howard

          • Chris O

            Whoa Batman, whoa. Dwight is still extremely young for a big (who develop later than other positions). Timmy D is the greatest PF in history but Garnett is a top 5 PF in history. And although I am not saying YET that Howard matches Robinson he could by the end of their careers. You do realize Howard is already one of the best defensive players EVER (probably top 20) and so is KG. That being said Garnett will be severly limited by then if they paired up but still the front courts would be a lot more comparable then you make them seem. Its not like we just compared Scal to bird. I mean clearly no one can match Scal!!!!

      • janos

        hi batman

        • Batman

          hey Janos
          how r u doing coping with the lockout

          • janos

            is fuckingshit batman. i hate it. is janos.

          • I_Love_Green

            Hey Janos, I Love Green here. You miss the Celtics yet?

          • janos

            hi green yes i miss celtic like rondo and other one to. i guess nfl go back work soon why not nba to? is better league i dont think not?

          • Batman

            yes its terrible i need to see the men in green or I'll die

  • GeOgre

    I don't see the Celtics letting garnett go until Jujuan Johnson can get to play with him and learn his ways. Hopefully KG can take him under his wing and buld him up.

    Thanks for putting up an article on Celticshub…. I'm going through Celtics withdrawal here.

  • I_Love_Green

    JaJaun Johnson will be a KG lite in 2 years. BELIEVE DAT

  • http://bigleaguewiffleball.com/ Jon L.

    I wish we still had Perkins to hold down the defense for the future.

    • Batman

      I don't think Perkins would have resigned

  • LACelticsFan

    Who is going to be our firepower off the bench, and should we stay with ONeal as our starting center? I mean we will have Green, but after him, who else can really put some points on the board? Think maybe we should/could be offering to a vet like McGrady or Redd. And right now we have ONeal at center and nothing else. Who would you like to see within reason. DHoward is not within reason, period.
    Rondo – ????? – Bradley
    Allen – ????? – Moore
    Pierce – Green
    Garnett – Johnson
    ONeal – ?????

    • I_Love_Green

      Big Baby, Jr Smith, Delonte, and random center that plays good defense.

      • Batman

        Here's hoping Bradley can play 20-25 good minutes and be a lockdown guard defender

      • LACelticsFan

        It does look like we will resign BBD huh? Well I think he will realize that Boston is the only place where he will be valued and to continue putting the team first if he wants a long career. That huge payday he wants surely will never come, unless he can snag that elusive 6th man award. I also think West will return, but you really see us getting JR and slowing his attitude down but keeping his game high? I would like to see Rondo have some more fastbreak runners with him.

  • James Patrick

    KG, Ray and Paul need to retire as Celtics. Sure we've only one 1 title with our core, but these guys have meant so much to what the Celtics represent. It'll be heartbreaking if they don't retire as Celtics. Hopefully, they take a pay cut for the good of the team.

  • http://twitter.com/keysoftheraw @keysoftheraw

    Avery Bradly just needs some burn, and he will be a good NBA player. Great defender.

    NBA and NBA Draft Analysis For Summer 2011 – Eff Jimmer Edition

    • Gary Carter

      I hope you are right, but he does not look any where near a player that could help us the next couple of years, the guy is missing basic basketball understanding.

  • http://www.usacheapnikeshoes.com/ cheap nike

    but I can say that by the time I got to the end of it I was glad to have read it. Not just glad that I had finally finished it

  • http://www.usacheapnikeshoes.com/ air griffey max

    but that I had started it and seen it through. I felt as though I had been through something major, as though I had not merely experienced something butdone something,

  • janos

    Hi Ryan, Janos here. Some time new player come team is better but not alway then get free agent? question make, which one? I like see list all player and then pick the good one.

  • Gary Carter

    We need to keep KG and Ray if the money is right , even if they come off the bench. Paul is good for two or three more years. A second big is our biggest need, plus the retaining of D. West is a very very important move for the Celtics, he fits very well in our plans next year and for four or five more years. If we are serious about a run next year , we need to retain Glen Davis because of his experience with our team and what he can bring to the team or get a player that is clearly better than him, but it could take a year to train a new guy. Green is a must keep or get a plyer of equal talent. West and Green give us a lot of upside.

  • https://twitter.com/TranslationComp convocco

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