Friday, May 6, 2022

Anonymous GM Reveals Key To Earning Minutes In Celtics Rotation: Sources

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The Boston Celtics have established themselves as one of the best teams in the NBA this season. After a difficult start to the year, they finished second-best team in the Eastern Conference and set the sixth-best record in the league.

While their offense turned on its own (from January 1 through the end of the regular season, they had the second-best offensive rating at 117.9), Boston’s defense was the primary reason for their second-half surge. From the start of the new year through the end of the regular season, the Celtics’ defensive rating was 105.2.

This was not only the best defensive rating in the league in that span, it was also by far the best. During that period, the difference between Boston’s defensive score and the second-best brand (the Phoenix Suns at 108.7) was greater than the gap between the second-best and 10th-best teams (the Orlando Magic at 110.9).

Boston also ended the year with the best defensive rating of the season as they added even more defensive help at the close in the form of Derrick White and Daniel Theis. According to an anonymous Eastern Conference GM, that defensive mindset is critical to earning minutes with the Celtics.

Sources told Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney that being a plus on the defensive side of the ball is a must to get minutes in Udoka’s rotation. Regardless of what a player brings on offense, if they can’t defend, they don’t get game time:

Udoka’s switch-everything defense requires everyone to be locked on the ground and able to guard multiple positions. If the Celtics had a defensive commitment on the ground, they wouldn’t be able to make a fluid transition one through five.

Because of this defensive mindset, Brad Stevens built the team to suit Udoka’s tastes, with defensive stalwarts featured up and down the roster.

In hindsight, Stevens’ plan to tailor the roster to a more defensively oriented team was clear. He traded Kemba Walker, often seen as a liability on this side of the field, for former Celtic Al Horford. The 35-year-old was named to the All-Defensive Team in 2018 and has been a key part of Boston’s defense system that year.

Stevens also traded several players who were unhelpful on defense. Tristan Thompson and Carsen Edwards were shipped off in the off-season, neither of which provided much on this side of the ground.

Finally, Stevens’ trade deadline actions focused on giving Udoka more defensive firepower. He added Derrick White and Daniel Theis, both of whom are above-average defenders who can hold their own, and sent out Enes Freedom, Dennis Schroder and others.

While Boston’s roster is set as of now and nearly all are signed for next season, that mentality should be remembered as the Celtics fill out their roster this summer. Defense is clearly a priority and so far that has paid off.

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