Offensive Tweaks: C's Will Feature More Traditional Play from Centers

BOSTON – The Celtics offense is no longer buoyed by perimeter skill at all five positions. This season, the offense will operate in a much more traditional manner.

Gone are the days of 5-out basketball that features all five players who are a threat beyond the 3-point line. What has arrived is a brand of basketball that will feature post play and aggressive rolls to the basket by Boston’s big men.

“It’s different than we’ve played in the past, but that’s OK,” Brad Stevens said of the offense Friday afternoon. “Every year you tweak a little; this year, I would say offensively we tweaked more.”

Such is due to the departures of Al Horford and Aron Baynes, who combined to attempt 264 3-pointers last season alone. This year’s rotation of centers, which features Enes Kanter, Daniel Theis, Robert Williams and Vincent Poirier, attempted a total of 161 professional 3-pointers during their last two seasons combined.

Theis, who was the third center behind Horford and Baynes for each of the last two seasons, accounted for 125 of those attempts, but you can expect to see his 3-point field goals to decrease as well.

Rather than have Theis operate as the only 3-point threat at the center position, Stevens would prefer all of his bigs play the same way. They will all be tasked with putting pressure on the interior of defenses, whereas last season, they were all tasked with spacing the floor.

“With the exception of posting Kanter, which I think you’ve got to do some because he’s obviously very good down there, these guys really play the same,” said Stevens. “You can be consistent with your style all the way through a game.”

Marcus Smart, the longest-tenured Celtic, is one player who’s excited about the new role Stevens is asking his centers to fill.

“That’s always been our problem,” he said Friday. “Love Al, but sometimes we need a threat to the rim with the big.”

Smart, along with Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum, are Boston’s ball handlers and perimeter creators. They will be at ease when the ball is in their hands, knowing that they won’t need to adjust their play based on which center is on the court with them. They’ll be able to play the same way, all the time.

The fashion in which they want to play is quick, decisive and aggressive. Allow the bigs to create space with their screens and rolls, and then create shots with speed and skill.

“With those guards, we’re all interchangeable, with the fact that we’re trying to play [without] really holding the ball, not a lot of one-on-one,” Smart explained. “Just move the ball and break defenses down with easy buckets.”

There wasn’t much that came easy to the Celtics last season. They ranked 10th in the league in offensive rating, but they exerted a ton of energy while attempting to create shots.

This season could be much different. With four prototypical bigs, all of whom are athletic and pose threats as rollers to the rim, Boston’s top players will have a different type of space to create off the dribble.

Sure, it’s more traditional, but for the Celtics, it just might be better.


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