The Boston Celtics have practically surpassed every expectation placed upon them. In these playoffs especially, after beating the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games and the Philadelphia 76ers in five games, this young and hungry Celtics team has flipped the narrative that surrounded them since Gordon Hayward went down on opening night.
With all this hype surrounding the Celtics, one attribute that can best describe the team that General Manager Danny Ainge has built is versatility.
In the modern NBA, versatility is king. The Golden State Warriors and their fear-inducing “death lineup” exemplify this. Players that can guard multiple positions on defense while also having the ability to hit jump shots and create off the dribble are luxury goods.
Ainge, through the draft and free agency, has taken the Golden State model and turned the Celtics into, among other aspects, a versatile team.
This process started from the 2015 NBA Draft when the Celtics took Terry Rozier, who has blossomed these playoffs, a scrappy and athletic point guard not afraid to guard bigger players or go inside for a rebound.
The following year, Jaylen Brown was drafted with the third overall selection. Numerous people thought the Celtics had reached for Brown, known for athleticism and defensive potential, but he has proved to be one of the better two-way players in the NBA with All-Star potential. (Brown’s improvement from his rookie season to now is a separate article in itself).
After trading the No. 1 pick to the 76ers for the No. 3 pick during the 2017 draft, Ainge selected his ideal player in Jayson Tatum, a polished scorer with good length. Tatum has proven that he can not only make NBA three-point shots consistently and score on nearly anyone, but also that he is a more than capable defender on shooting guards, small forwards and some point guards.
We cannot leave out the acquisitions of Marcus Morris and Al Horford. Morris is a big, strong wing player that can also guard multiple positions and gives the Celtics another tough presence alongside Marcus Smart. Horford provides indispensable leadership, shot-blocking and stretches the floor with his mid-range and three-point shooting.
Ultimately, what these versatile players do is give the mastermind Brad Stevens options on defense and offense. The Celtics switch nearly every pick and roll because Stevens has the confidence in his players’ defensive ability. This also helps when playing against someone like LeBron James who can be defended, or try to be, by more than three Celtics players.
On offense, Boston can run a variety of plays for nearly every guy depending on certain matchups, game situations or whoever has the hot hand. The amount of motion and passing in Stevens’ offensive sets allows Boston’s talent to shine.
Versatility has been a large factor in Golden State’s dominance over the past three seasons and is currently helping a young Celtics team advance in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Position-less basketball is what versatility gives teams. The Celtics are current Celtics are one example of that.
In the modern NBA, where champions blend together team basketball, defense and shooting, versatility is a necessity.