Brad Stevens named Celtics head coach

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wutang112878

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I just came to post this too.  The entire thing is worth reading. 
 
I found this absolutely shocking:
 
 
Have you looked at any information from the SportVU data-tracking cameras yet?

I have not. I get reports on it sometimes from Drew [Cannon, Stevens's longtime analytics guy] and [Boston assistant GM] Mike [Zarren].
 
 
Granted he isnt ignoring it, but considering how innovative and stat driven Stevens is I would have thought that he would have been looking and using this every day.
 

moondog80

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wutang112878 said:
I just came to post this too.  The entire thing is worth reading. 
 
I found this absolutely shocking:
 
 
Granted he isnt ignoring it, but considering how innovative and stat driven Stevens is I would have thought that he would have been looking and using this every day.
 
He's delegated the task of looking at it to his subordinates, that's not surprising at all.  This is complicated stuff, he's a busy guy.  I'm sure there's useful stuff in this data, but it's going to take time to mine it.  And when they do uncover something useful, he's not going to reveal it in a Grantland interview.
 

Jer

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It'll be interesting to see how that evolves over time. I'd give him a pass for a while as he's had to adapt to some more fundamental changes between the college and pro games.
 
I suspect another issue with SportVU like many other analytical tools is that you need to be careful to focus on things that are actionable rather than interesting.
 

brohirrum

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Is it just me or do many Boston coaches (maybe not Farrell) take there P's and Q's from Bill? 
 
That interview with Stevens reminded me of what Bill does weekly on the Coaches Corner. By That i mean he explained some strategy, had some short answers which needed a follow up, did not divulge anything about his players they do not make obvious themselves, and protected his players (making it obvious he blames some of Greens struggles on his change of position) *Bill does this by saying X had a difficult assignment on Y play ex*. 
 
Interviews with Claude are much the same while Behind the B has opened up his world to us a little more. 
 
For me in particular I liked the beginning when he and Zach were talking about the perception that they were both math wizes. 
 

Blacken

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Jer said:
I suspect another issue with SportVU like many other analytical tools is that you need to be careful to focus on things that are actionable rather than interesting.
It isn't even that yet. Most of what I've seen and heard is in confidence, but the core problem is that there's too much data to even figure out what might be interesting, let alone actionable. The smart teams are hiring technologists as well as statisticians to actually build the stuff to manage the firehose; this is what Houston and to a lesser extent Toronto and Dallas are doing. (Other teams are trying, but their budgets are, to no one's surprise, totally unworkable for hiring good, rather than just sports-obsessed, talent.)
 

wutang112878

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Do you know what output and data teams are getting?  Because I dont understand how some rudimentary data couldnt be incredibly useful.  If I was thinking about an opponent I would want to have some simple chart that details the position of the passer when they make an assist pass to figure out if there are specific spots on the court that you can congest to disrupt an opponents flow of passing.  Is stuff like that really difficult to extract from whatever they are getting?  If thats the case, shame on SportsVU because you would think usefulness should be a priority for them.
 
The NBA released a ton of interesting stats on their website, and I agree that stuff is just interesting.  There is nothing actionable about the fact that Gordon Hayward travels 2.6 miles a game. 
 

Blacken

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I don't know exactly what's in the pre-baked analytics that SportVU provides; I know that at least the basics of the visualizer that you see in the various SportVU YouTube videos is provided to buyers. My own interest, and the interest of people I've talked to, is in the data set--a big list of player XY positions and ball XYZ position - I think it's 24fps or something like that. I think they have some basic event tagging as well in the raw data--"shot scored, 2 points", "ball tipped", "ball secured", etc.--but I don't have access to it and the folks I've spoken to aren't particularly technical.

The NBA released a lot more compiled data than just the "how far did they travel" stuff, though. Check this out; this is what I used to verify my intuition that the "hurr Bosh sucks" guy was out of his mind. There's a lot of interesting stuff in there. I don't, however, know how many of those analytics are done by the NBA and what's available in the SportVU package itself. Everyone I've spoken with has been looking for talent to rip the SportVU data and use it internally.
 

wutang112878

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Blacken said:
I don't know exactly what's in the pre-baked analytics that SportVU provides; I know that at least the basics of the visualizer that you see in the various SportVU YouTube videos is provided to buyers. My own interest, and the interest of people I've talked to, is in the data set--a big list of player XY positions and ball XYZ position - I think it's 24fps or something like that. I think they have some basic event tagging as well in the raw data--"shot scored, 2 points", "ball tipped", "ball secured", etc.--but I don't have access to it and the folks I've spoken to aren't particularly technical.

The NBA released a lot more compiled data than just the "how far did they travel" stuff, though. Check this out; this is what I used to verify my intuition that the "hurr Bosh sucks" guy was out of his mind. There's a lot of interesting stuff in there. I don't, however, know how many of those analytics are done by the NBA and what's available in the SportVU package itself. Everyone I've spoken with has been looking for talent to rip the SportVU data and use it internally.
 
Was that a typo or do they actually have the Z height of the basketball?  That would seem crazy even though its probably not particularly useful.
 
It would seem that translate xy into simple vectors and charts would be useful and not terribly technical, not that its easy.  I guess I'm just flabbergasted that its taking so long for this data to actually be used.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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wutang112878 said:
 
Was that a typo or do they actually have the Z height of the basketball?  That would seem crazy even though its probably not particularly useful.
 
It would seem that translate xy into simple vectors and charts would be useful and not terribly technical, not that its easy.  I guess I'm just flabbergasted that its taking so long for this data to actually be used.
 
Interesting.  Maybe Stevens is playing dumb - that they actually use it a lot but don't want to tell people yet because it is so new?
 
Here's one thing I picked up quickly.  In pull-up jumpers, and for players who attempt more than 3 pull-ups per game, Jordan Crawford is ranked fourth in FG made% (45%) behind Tony Parker (47.8%), Luol Deng (46.9%), Dirk (45.8%), and Wesley Mathews (45.2%).
 
I think a good portion of his effectiveness as a point guard is his ability to hit the pull-up jumper; it opens up lanes both for passing and driving.
 

wutang112878

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I would say playing dumb makes some sense, I just cant believe the guy isnt really using it.
 
I dont think Crawford can play the traditional PG role in a traditional offense, but Stevens seems to be putting him in a perfect situation for him to thrive, its really amazing.  I think its 2 things with Crawford, the pull-ups as you mentioned, but also his ability to drive.  According to SportsVU he averages 4.8 drives per game and his FG% is 47.4% on drives.  Thats a tough guy to guard.  He has shot the 3 well, shoots pull-ups well and is effective driving.  As you said, thats going to open up a lot of lanes.
 
However, what I found most surprising about that list is that Luol Deng is on it.  I never could figure out what he was good at, but I guess pull-ups are it!
 

Blacken

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wutang112878 said:
Was that a typo or do they actually have the Z height of the basketball?  That would seem crazy even though its probably not particularly useful.
Why wouldn't it be useful? You need it to know if a player's going into triple-threat (lifting the ball above his head), you need it to determine when a rebound is secured, etc. etc.
 
It would seem that translate xy into simple vectors and charts would be useful and not terribly technical, not that its easy.  I guess I'm just flabbergasted that its taking so long for this data to actually be used.
It would translate into vectors that don't actually mean anything. There's too much data to work through manually and the sort of computer algorithms necessary to do a decent job of recognition and filtering require a lot of work (and I think SportVU provides some of the basics, but not a ton).

Toronto has had guys working on this for three or four years doing stuff like defensive scheme optimizations; I think they have three Ph.D.'s on it? Nine to twelve man-years isn't a lot, it's the sort of thing you'd see a real company drop fifteen developers and three subject matter experts on, except NBA teams are notoriously cheap and from what I understand most don't really get it anyway.
 

Jer

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wutang112878 said:
...Bradley and Crawford both are better utilized for their athleticism and quickness instead of their half court offensive orchestration, yet Stevens really didnt seem to be pushing the pace.  I'm not sure if Stevens simply doenst like a fast paced game, we probably wont find out until he has some real talent to work with, but its clear that with this team he doesnt want to play Nellie ball.
 
Wu, I hope you don't mind. I'm stealing this quote from the Rondo thread. I think it's an interesting line of thought on Stevens.
 
Lets operate under the hypothesis that Steven's is dictating the current pacing. Could one of his motivations simply be player development? We always hear how players need to adjust to the pacing of the pro game. Maybe it's easier for guys to hone their situational awareness and basic skills in the half court style of play. He could then be hoping to layer in transition skills when guys have graduated a bit.
 
This might also explain some of the "odd" lineups he trots out relative to game situation. Maybe he's creating fodder to hammer guys on back in the classroom and practice.
 

wutang112878

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Glad you thought it was interesting.  Its really difficult to tell what Stevens motivation really is.  I think the odd lineups are a function of him trying to find any possible combination where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts because the parts he has to work with are so putrid.
 
As for the pace, lets look at the gross stats of the team:
 
eFG%: Offensively we are 26th in the league and defensively we are 11th
FT/FGA: Offensively 22nd, defensively 23rd
 
Turnover%: Offensively 24th, defensively 20th
Rebounding%:  Offensively 14th, defensively 22nd
 
From a shooting perspective our opponent is more efficient in their own shots and they get more FTs than average per shot, while we are less efficient shooting than our opponents and get less FTs than our opponents.  So the more shots that are taken in a game, the larger the spread will be from a points per shot perspective.
 
In terms of gaining possessions, we give away too many possessions on offense but do an average job rebounding our own misses.  Whereas, our opponent doesnt turn the ball over that often and we do an awful job rebounding the basketball when they shoot.  So on the whole, the more possessions there are in a game will result in a larger gap between our possessions and our opponents and its in their favor.
 
Now the argument to be made for pushing the pace would be that our offensive efficiency should improve on fastbreaks, lets assume that our offensive efficiency would double on fastbreaks and lets ignore the fact that our opponent is better at creating possessions than we are.  We would need to create 6 additional fast break opportunities per game to have our offensive efficiency be greater than our opponent.  The math behind that:  Our current eFG% is .473 and our opponents is .492  then  ( 0.473 * 77 + 6 * ( 0.473 * 2 ) ) / 83 shots per game = 0.495  According to this we are 19th in fastbreak points per game, and if we had 6 additional fast break shots and doubled our offensive efficiency it would add 2.8 points per game making us 10th in the league in fastbreak points per game.  Thats a long way of saying, Stevens would have to transform this slow group into one of the fastest pace teams in the game.  With this talent and with our inability to rebound defensively that seems like an absolutely insane strategy.
 
Overall, the guy is playing with the flawed hand he is dealt.  We are analyzing the poker playing ability of a guy holding a pair of 4s, outside of folding anything he does is going to be mind boggling.
 

Van Everyman

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In his season preview yesterday, Chad Finn had this to say about Stevens:

Brad Stevens is one of the best coaches in the NBA. Not best young coaches. Best coaches. There's aren't five others in the league who would have had the inspiration to try reckless Jordan Crawford at point guard and used him in a way that he was productive and efficient. My worst fear for this team is that Stevens gets tired of the losing and heads to Duke or Indiana in the next few seasons. He was a brilliant hire, and I hope we get the chance to see what he can do with actual talent.
http://www.boston.com/sports/touching_all_the_bases/2014/10/17_reasons_to_watch_the_celtics_this_season_and_yes_there_re.html

After watching last night's season opener, I got to thinking:

Conventional wisdom is that in today's NBA you need at least two stars who can score to make a serious run at the title. But after watching last night's admittedly gush-worthy season opener, where almost the entire 10-man rotation was in double figures is there any chance that Stevens could be the first coach to prove that thinking wrong? If so, it throws everything we think we know about how Danny is constructing the roster—trading Rondo and Green—out the window.

Is it possible? Does Danny think it's possible?
 

TheRooster

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Nope.  There's almost no precedent.  The 04 Pistons are the only team I can think of to win a title without a hall of famer, and most have had two.  This team can be better than people expect and can probably even be good next year, but I can't envision a title without another elite player. 
 

Sam Ray Not

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TheRooster said:
Nope.  There's almost no precedent.  The 04 Pistons are the only team I can think of to win a title without a hall of famer, and most have had two.  This team can be better than people expect and can probably even be good next year, but I can't envision a title without another elite player. 
Pistons also had the Bill Russell of his era in Ben Wallace, who was the best player in the NBA by RAPM year after year, while people scratched their heads and wondered how a team without a single top 10 player could be so good.
 
On topic: I love what Stevens is doing. The Celts at least look like they're going to be entertaining, which is miles more than you can say for Knicks or Lakers.
 

CreightonGubanich

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The closest approximation is probably the current iteration of the Spurs. I know, they have at least two and maybe three Hall of Famers on the team. But at 38 and 37, Duncan and Ginobili aren't stars by any measure. Parker is 32, and nifty as ever, but he's got 14 NBA seasons under his belt and he's lost a half step. Point being that the Spurs lack a go-to isolation scorer, but they overcome that weakness through spacing the floor and perfectly executing an offensive system that requires smart, precise passing. 
 
It takes a long time and a lot of continuity to build an offensive system like San Antonio's, and the Celtics won't approach that this season. But Stevens is on the right track by preaching Space and Pace, combined with tenacious perimeter defense. He's using his bigs to space the floor for penetrating guards, an inside-out strategy that just might work. 
 
There's not a huge difference between last year's roster and this year's, but something feels different. The team has an identity and a plan. They know that the Olynyk/Sullinger combination can play together, offensively and defensively. They have a defined, 10-man rotation that fits together. Minutes are going to young guys with promise, rather than the Gerald Wallaces of the world. It wouldn't shock me to see this team win 40 games and make the playoffs, assuming Rondo sticks around and stays healthy. 
 

luckiestman

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CreightonGubanich said:
The closest approximation is probably the current iteration of the Spurs. I know, they have at least two and maybe three Hall of Famers on the team. But at 38 and 37, Duncan and Ginobili aren't stars by any measure. Parker is 32, and nifty as ever, but he's got 14 NBA seasons under his belt and he's lost a half step. Point being that the Spurs lack a go-to isolation scorer, but they overcome that weakness through spacing the floor and perfectly executing an offensive system that requires smart, precise passing. 
 
It takes a long time and a lot of continuity to build an offensive system like San Antonio's, and the Celtics won't approach that this season. But Stevens is on the right track by preaching Space and Pace, combined with tenacious perimeter defense. He's using his bigs to space the floor for penetrating guards, an inside-out strategy that just might work. 
 
There's not a huge difference between last year's roster and this year's, but something feels different. The team has an identity and a plan. They know that the Olynyck/Sullinger combination can play together, offensively and defensively. They have a defined, 10-man rotation that fits together. Minutes are going to young guys with promise, rather than the Gerald Wallaces of the world. It wouldn't shock me to see this team win 40 games and make the playoffs, assuming Rondo sticks around and stays healthy. 
 
There actually is quite a bit of difference between this years roster and last years. Gerald Wallace started last year, he will hardly see the floor this year. Pg was avery bradley experiment, jordan crawford and phil pressey. Now you have Rondo back and Marcus Smart backing up. Thorton fits better than C Lee. Zeller is a lot better than Faverani. Humphries played well but Sully and Bass would be in front of him. Evan Turner (with his warts) isn;t a stiff. Olynyk looks way more comfortable and a bit stronger. Sully seems like he can shoot a little (he was already solid in the post and a good rebounder).
 
I'm a shameless homer about the Celtics, so maybe I'm only seeing the upside, but I think this team is much better than last year. Doesnt mean they are contenders or anything. 
 

Brickowski

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IMHO this roster is significantly better.  It starts with an improved Olynyk, especially on defense, and Zeller.  This allows Sullinger to play his natural position.  The bench is also improved with the addition of Turner, Smart and Thornton.
 
I'm trying to temper my optimism, though.  The Nets thought all they would have to do is show up, and if it were not for Teletovic's outside shooting they would have lost by 30. 
 

CreightonGubanich

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luckiestman said:
 
There actually is quite a bit of difference between this years roster and last years. Gerald Wallace started last year, he will hardly see the floor this year. Pg was avery bradley experiment, jordan crawford and phil pressey. Now you have Rondo back and Marcus Smart backing up. Thorton fits better than C Lee. Zeller is a lot better than Faverani. Humphries played well but Sully and Bass would be in front of him. Evan Turner (with his warts) isn;t a stiff. Olynyk looks way more comfortable and a bit stronger. Sully seems like he can shoot a little (he was already solid in the post and a good rebounder).
 
I'm a shameless homer about the Celtics, so maybe I'm only seeing the upside, but I think this team is much better than last year. Doesnt mean they are contenders or anything. 
 
 
Oh, I don't disagree at all. I meant there's not a lot of difference in overall talent level, though I definitely think there's improvement there as well. Mostly it's in the fit of the roster. Last year's roster was a bunch of pieces that didn't make sense together, while this roster really gives Stevens a lot of options. Thornton fills a much needed role, I love how Turner provides a little bit of everything including a secondary ball handler. And I'm excited about what seems to be an emphasis from Danny on players who can pass the ball. Both Olynyk and Sully are excellent passers for big men, and it really opens up the floor. Turner helps there as well. Brandon Bass is the big outlier, but they're even trying to remake him as a stretch-four.
 

HomeRunBaker

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The rosters are essentially the same as last years 20-something win team. What is different is that Rondo, Sully and Green were healthy in the offseason to prepare for this year rather than being laid up.

Stevens is certainly above average and possibly more which we won't know until we accumulate some real talent here. Rooting day by day that Coach K remains heathy and motivated.

Having said all that we beat a crappy Nets team without arguably their most important player and a new coach who absolutely isn't above average. Executing our offense versus the defensive prowess of "JJ and The Euroviches" 48-minutes of confusion is a dangerous bar to set. Let's see how the next few games go before reserving playoff tickets.
 

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HomeRunBaker said:
The rosters are essentially the same as last years 20-something win team. What is different is that Rondo, Sully and Green were healthy in the offseason to prepare for this year rather than being laid up.

Stevens is certainly above average and possibly more which we won't know until we accumulate some real talent here. Rooting day by day that Coach K remains heathy and motivated.

Having said all that we beat a crappy Nets team without arguably their most important player and a new coach who absolutely isn't above average. Executing our offense versus the defensive prowess of "JJ and The Euroviches" 48-minutes of confusion is a dangerous bar to set. Let's see how the next few games go before reserving playoff tickets.
I wouldn't say it is the same roster, Smart, Turner, Zeller, Thornton is a much different rotation than Bayless, Wallace, Humphries, Johnson, Pressey.
 

nighthob

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The first half of that is on target, anyway. Smart & Turner are a huge upgrade over Wallace, Johnson, and Pressey. But Thornton/Bayless is at best a wash and Humphries to Zeller might be a slight downgrade. But really we're discussing deep rotation guys at that point. The big difference is at the top of the rotation.

I know it's only one game and the undead corpses of Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, but Smart was leaving a blood trail out there. He looks like a keeper.
 

The Social Chair

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The Celtics number one priority is to acquire as many assets as possible, All the better if they can win games while doing it (like the Suns last year).
 

moly99

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Van Everyman said:
Conventional wisdom is that in today's NBA you need at least two stars who can score to make a serious run at the title. But after watching last night's admittedly gush-worthy season opener, where almost the entire 10-man rotation was in double figures is there any chance that Stevens could be the first coach to prove that thinking wrong? If so, it throws everything we think we know about how Danny is constructing the roster—trading Rondo and Green—out the window.
 
The reason is financial rather than something inherent to basketball. Most mid-level players end up getting heavily overpaid compared to the true top tier guys. Rudy Gay was making the same money as Lebron when he was in Miami. That's sickening.
 
To wit, the reason many fans want to move on from Rondo is not that we think he sucks, but rather that we don't want to give him the money he wants for an extension.
 

Van Everyman

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Yes but my point is that equation changes if you don't need to accumulate assets only to dump them for a KG-type trade because those assets are actually winning you games against good teams.

Again, perhaps this is just a pipe dream. And there's no evidence this is possible in today's NBA with today's salary cap. But if anyone can do this, it's a guy like Stevens.
 

Eddie Jurak

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I think Stevens is a very good coach, but he isn't God and this is still a player's league.

He has an interesting team - great depth of mediocre players - and maybe he can do something with that.

But at the end of the day, if he can go 35-47 and be in the hunt for the 8 seed for a while that would count as a great year for him.
 

CreightonGubanich

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Van Everyman said:
Yes but my point is that equation changes if you don't need to accumulate assets only to dump them for a KG-type trade because those assets are actually winning you games against good teams.

Again, perhaps this is just a pipe dream. And there's no evidence this is possible in today's NBA with today's salary cap. But if anyone can do this, it's a guy like Stevens.
 
 
I think the blueprint for this Celtics team to win games is exactly what you saw last night - push the pace, share the ball, defend like hell. I think 40 wins is realistic for this team if they can do that. But they have two fatal flaws that will keep them from approaching contender status. One, and the lesser of the two in my opinion, is the complete lack of a rim protector. Sullinger and Olynyk move their feet well and are both heady defenders, with the bulk to defend bigger guys one-on-one in the post. But neither of them can play KG's weakside help defender role at the rim. It's a real problem, and it leaves them way too dependent on their guards to keep guys out of the paint entirely. The defense of Smart and Bradley will mitigate this somewhat, but not enough.
 
The second flaw is that their lack of a shot creator will again find them struggling to win close games. They're a front running team. When the game slows down and they have to execute in the half court, who is their best offensive option? Sullinger, probably. You either have to have a scorer that can create their own shot against a set defense, or you have to have a finely tuned offensive system that can break that defense down with an endless stream of pick-and-rolls and smart passing, like the Spurs. The Celtics have neither, and I think they'll really struggle to win close games.
 

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Cellar-Door said:
I wouldn't say it is the same roster, Smart, Turner, Zeller, Thornton is a much different rotation than Bayless, Wallace, Humphries, Johnson, Pressey.
Zeller/Thornton is essentially the same as Humphries/Bayless. Turner and Smart are 15-18 mpg backup and seemingly will upgrade from Crash/Pressey but when these are your personnel changes it's pretty similar.

We played a Nets frontcourt that was razor thin which didn't expose the Sully/Olynyk/Zeller/Bass 4-5 rotation nor were they prepared in their defensive schemes especially against the screen and roll. That won't be the case many nights and we still don't have closers offensively who can get us points in the final 6 minutes when the defenses clamp down in a tight game. That's still a big big problem.

I agree the team is more fun right now primarily due to the explosive Smart/Thornton backcourt off the bench i'm just not sure that equates to anything more than 30-32 wins.
 

Cellar-Door

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HomeRunBaker said:
Zeller/Thornton is essentially the same as Humphries/Bayless. Turner and Smart are 15-18 mpg backup and seemingly will upgrade from Crash/Pressey but when these are your personnel changes it's pretty similar.
My point was less that they are better players than different types of players.
Zeller is a 7ft 255 center Humphries is a 6'9" 230 PF. Turner is a very different player than Crash. Thornton is a scorer in a way Bayless Isn't. They change how the team operates. Smart is a big lock down defender that makes the biggest difference of any of them.
 

TheDeuce222

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HomeRunBaker said:
Zeller/Thornton is essentially the same as Humphries/Bayless. Turner and Smart are 15-18 mpg backup and seemingly will upgrade from Crash/Pressey but when these are your personnel changes it's pretty similar.

We played a Nets frontcourt that was razor thin which didn't expose the Sully/Olynyk/Zeller/Bass 4-5 rotation nor were they prepared in their defensive schemes especially against the screen and roll. That won't be the case many nights and we still don't have closers offensively who can get us points in the final 6 minutes when the defenses clamp down in a tight game. That's still a big big problem.

I agree the team is more fun right now primarily due to the explosive Smart/Thornton backcourt off the bench i'm just not sure that equates to anything more than 30-32 wins.
Smart played 28 minutes last night and Turner played 24.  They are clearly the first two guys off of the bench and will play a lot more than 15 minutes per game.  Tempering expectations after that kind of a game is appropriate, but I think Smart and Turner give them elements that are much needed on this team.  
 
Furthermore, the big improvements are in the starters who were here last year and are (or have the potential to be) on a different level this year.  I'm primarily talking about Rondo here, who looked like he was a lot more aggressive and comfortable last night than he was at any point last season, but also a slimmed down Sullinger and a bulked-up Olynyk.   I'm not saying this is a 55 win team, but they're a better team than last year if they are healthy.  I'll stick with what I said in the predictions thread - that I think about 38 wins is doable.  Taking Wallace and Pressey out of the regular rotation is a huge plus.  
 

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CreightonGubanich said:
The closest approximation is probably the current iteration of the Spurs. I know, they have at least two and maybe three Hall of Famers on the team. But at 38 and 37, Duncan and Ginobili aren't stars by any measure. Parker is 32, and nifty as ever, but he's got 14 NBA seasons under his belt and he's lost a half step. Point being that the Spurs lack a go-to isolation scorer, but they overcome that weakness through spacing the floor and perfectly executing an offensive system that requires smart, precise passing. 
 
Just a minor point about the Spurs...
 
It's true that the Spurs have the best basketball structure of the modern era (seemingly perfect skill development, roster management, rest, preparation, offensive and defensive system, etc.), but this often leads people to underrate the talent on the team, especially because Pop so deliberately limits minutes and distributes offensive and defensive responsibility. So on the one hand, this is an environment that allows players to thrive where they otherwise might not, but it also limits their statistical output, leading many to underrate the talent on the team.
 
C/PF: Splitter: Statistically, he rates very well and is a top 5 or 10 C when playing. It's difficult to know how much of that is due to the system he's playing in, but he's clearly a talented and skilled big-man.
 
C/PF: Duncan: Yeah, he's old and doesn't play much in the regular season. When he does play though, he's still elite for his position. Duncan had the third highest RPM (rate stat) of any PF or C last year, trailing only Dirk and...Nick Collison. BPM, like any encompassing NBA stat is highly imprecise, but just about all stats and subjective experiences would agree that Duncan is still very good when he plays. How many post players would you take over Duncan for a playoff run, right now? Davis, Howard, Love, Blake, and Dirk...maybe? Aldridge, Noah, or Bosh? Probably not...
 
SF: Leonard: Just won Finals' MVP, arguably outplayed LeBron at times in the Finals, ESPN's RPM rates him as the 6th most effective SF in the game, and WS/48 ranks him 11...of all players. Already an elite defender and rebounder who can shoot. One can reasonably argue that he's a top-10 player right now. Who'd you take over him at SF? LeBron and Durant, obviously. Not sure about Melo or even a healthy Paul George.
 
SG: Ginobili or Green: Also old, but rated as the #2 SG in the league, according to RPM. 17th best overall player according to WS/48. He can still run an offense, pass, shoot, create off the dribble, etc. Green is one of the best 3 point shooters in the game and ranked as the 4th best SG in the league last year. What ball dominant SG would you take over Ginobili for a playoff run? Harden, sure, but is there anyone else? Is there a better off-the-ball SG than Green? Maybe Korver or Klay Thompson?
 
PG: Parker: Statistically, he's actually a weak spot, ranking 13th among PGs by RPM, although WS/48 really likes him. Most scouting reports would agree that he's an elite offensive PG when playing. There are definitely a few PGs most would rather have for a playoff run (Paul, Westbrook, Curry), but outside of that, I'm not so sure.
 
Then on top of that, they have players like Patty Mills, Belinelli, and Boris Diaw, who also rank well statistically and have a multitude of skills. Even their worst player, Matt Bonner, is a big 6-10 with elite 3-point range.
 
So, yes, the Spurs have an arguably perfect system that makes it easy for their players to thrive, but they also basically never have a lineup that's not highly skilled at all 5 positions. 
 
Another way to put it, how many players on the current Celtics roster would even make the Spurs team and how far down the depth chart would they be?
 

ALiveH

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Some great throughts & insights on this thread.
 
In my opinion, 35 wins is a reasonably ambitious goal for this group.  But, a 10 win improvement is a very meaningful accomplishment without adding a superstar (I think most here agree Rondo isn't and even if Smart eventually becomes one he won't be one this year).
 
Looking past this year, that would be a great base to build off given the group of young, improving players and assets available to build through draft or trade.
 

Brickowski

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IMHO any of the Celtics starters would be rotation players on the Spurs, although none of them would start for SA.
 
Is basketball intelligence a "talent?"  From what I've seen during the preseason and last night this is an intelligent team.  Also, they are shooting much more confidently than they did last year.  Sullinger is way better from beyond the arc, and so is Bradley.  And I can't remember the last time Zeller missed a shot.  He's unspectacular but efficient.
 
Having said that, I think CreightonGubanich has diagnosed their weaknesses pretty well.  They can't allow themselves to get mired in a halfcourt game, even if the game is close.  It's run or die. They need to create uncontested threes and layups with their legs, and the fact that they go 9-10 deep will allow them to wear teams down.
 

HomeRunBaker

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TheDeuce222 said:
Smart played 28 minutes last night and Turner played 24.  They are clearly the first two guys off of the bench and will play a lot more than 15 minutes per game.  Tempering expectations after that kind of a game is appropriate, but I think Smart and Turner give them elements that are much needed on this team.  
 
Furthermore, the big improvements are in the starters who were here last year and are (or have the potential to be) on a different level this year.  I'm primarily talking about Rondo here, who looked like he was a lot more aggressive and comfortable last night than he was at any point last season, but also a slimmed down Sullinger and a bulked-up Olynyk.   I'm not saying this is a 55 win team, but they're a better team than last year if they are healthy.  I'll stick with what I said in the predictions thread - that I think about 38 wins is doable.  Taking Wallace and Pressey out of the regular rotation is a huge plus.  
Smart and Turner played extended minutes due to the Nets having zero frontcourt presence and playing 4 guards/wings for most of the game. That isn't going to be the case very often and the backcourt minutes are going to be limited.

Last nigh was nice......opening night last year was nice too. If there's a W-L improvement I'd imagine it's a couple games to the upside as the team is still extremely flawed in the frontcourt defensively without having a closer on offense. It's the same glaring weaknesses that weren't addressed.....it cost of a ton of 4th quarter leads last year and the recipe looks the same. I do agree with first 42 minutes should look better aesthetically.
 

Van Everyman

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CreightonGubanich said:
 
 
I think the blueprint for this Celtics team to win games is exactly what you saw last night - push the pace, share the ball, defend like hell. I think 40 wins is realistic for this team if they can do that. But they have two fatal flaws that will keep them from approaching contender status. One, and the lesser of the two in my opinion, is the complete lack of a rim protector. Sullinger and Olynyk move their feet well and are both heady defenders, with the bulk to defend bigger guys one-on-one in the post. But neither of them can play KG's weakside help defender role at the rim. It's a real problem, and it leaves them way too dependent on their guards to keep guys out of the paint entirely. The defense of Smart and Bradley will mitigate this somewhat, but not enough.
 
The second flaw is that their lack of a shot creator will again find them struggling to win close games. They're a front running team. When the game slows down and they have to execute in the half court, who is their best offensive option? Sullinger, probably. You either have to have a scorer that can create their own shot against a set defense, or you have to have a finely tuned offensive system that can break that defense down with an endless stream of pick-and-rolls and smart passing, like the Spurs. The Celtics have neither, and I think they'll really struggle to win close games.
These are excellent points.

So...continuing to spin out this fantasy...do rim protectors and shot creators necessarily have to be elite talent? If not, can Danny acquire them without having to blow up the roster? To me, this really goes to the crux of whether Stevens is a transformational talent or just another college coach whose skill set doesn't translate to the professional game.

The observations on Popovitch appear to my eye to be spot on. And there is probably a tendency to undervalue the talent on SA. No one is arguing you can win at any sport with scheme and roster construction alone. You need talent – the question is how concentrated it needs to be in a handful of players.

That's why it's hard for me not to look at this roster, Stevens' strengths and wonder whether he and Danny could be the guys to break the mold – and the stranglehold superstars trawling for rings have had on the game the last decade-plus. Would be a rich irony after all that the Big Three era ushered in.
 

nighthob

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Van Everyman said:
Yes but my point is that equation changes if you don't need to accumulate assets only to dump them for a KG-type trade because those assets are actually winning you games against good teams.

Again, perhaps this is just a pipe dream. And there's no evidence this is possible in today's NBA with today's salary cap. But if anyone can do this, it's a guy like Stevens.
Well the approach works against crappy teams that you're blowing out. It doesn't work so well in close games when you need someone to get you those key buckets in the teeth of the defense.
 

Brickowski

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nighthob said:
Well the approach works against crappy teams that you're blowing out. It doesn't work so well in close games when you need someone to get you those key buckets in the teeth of the defense.
Well, if you have 5 guys on the floor who are threats from beyond the arc, you can always get a shot, even against good teams.  The trick is to make them.
 

nighthob

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What makes San Antonio buzz is not just the floor spacing but that they almost always have three guys on the floor that are capable of scoring under any circumstances. When your best lineups feature Olynyk, Sullinger, and Green, well, not so much.
 

The Social Chair

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^ this
 
also (off topic) but Leonard is not a top 10 quality player. Top 10 players have to be the best player on the team every night. The real stars in the league would get killed if they had as many quiet nights offensively as Leonard had in the playoffs last year. 
 

Brickowski

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I'm happy so long as the young Celtics continue to aspire to achieve this, whatever their talent level:
 
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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Just for fun, but more to see how this holds up over the course of the season, the Cs are currently

2nd in efficiency (118.5 points per 100 possessions)
1st in assist ratio at 20.1 (they assisted on 57% of their buckets) and 4th in assist to turnover ratio (2.15)
4th in True Shooting Percentage (61.7%) and
3rd in Effective Shooting Percentage (60.2).

Nets and Cs played to third fastest pace.

Personnel-wise, this teams reminds me a bit of the Doug Moe/Dan Issel Nuggets, although the Smart/Bradley/Rondo backcourt could be pretty awesome defensively (for one game, Rondo seemed to be invested defensively, which hopefully will keep up in his contract year). At least this group is fun to watch.

link: http://www.celticsblog.com/2014/10/30/7131625/the-boston-celtics-are-developing-into-an-impressive-offensive-force
 

HomeRunBaker

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So is the Brad Stevens honeymoon over yet? I've heard fans beginning to openly question his rotations and now some are seeing with what I've preached since early last season in him being abused night in and night out by the opposing coach working the calls while he stands there dumbfounded with his arms folded.

I'm not as hard on him as some for the rotations since he has limited options and most of them are bad, he's forced to play arguably the worst interior tandem in the league together for large stretches and doesn't have a 4th quarter finisher.

To me many of these complaints are out of his control as his roster is what it is. Watching him stand on the sidelines while his counterpart is working the officials and getting every call is painful to watch however. On the flip side his teams enter nearly every game prepared and they play hard often building double digit leads until the opponents dig in and talent takes over.

When does the honeymoon period end for you?
 

luckiestman

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Look I don't know why rondo was guarding lebron at the end of the game when jeff green is on the team but I think stevens is great. Our best player was the third or fourth best player on the floor but we played them even
 

Cellar-Door

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Rudy Pemberton said:
What makes Stevens "great"?
He's got a team with subpar talent competing at a high level? He made a commitment to high pace and offensive efficiency and the Celts have had both: 4th is pace, 6th in Ortg, and they have played a tough schedule and have had injury issues. His offense is also creating good shots, outside Rondo every non-rookie is having either his best or one of his best season in terms of TS%.
Obviously it is small sample, but this team has been getting a lot more out of terrible talent than it should be.
 
HRB's argument about working officials I don't get.
He worked them a ton last night, it didn't matter. Coaches don't get calls in the NBA unless it is someone like Pop. Players get calls, and the Celtics have no guys who get deferrence from the officials and last night they played a team with 3 guys who are among the most visible in the league. Those guys get calls, Kelly Olynyk isn't going to. No matter what Stevens does he can't change that. I think his strategy of arguing calls without showing up the refs is probably his best bet right now, throwing a tantrum will just get him T'd up and a bad rep with the officials.
 

radsoxfan

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Cellar-Door said:
 
 
HRB's argument about working officials I don't get.
He worked them a ton last night, it didn't matter. Coaches don't get calls in the NBA unless it is someone like Pop. Players get calls, and the Celtics have no guys who get deferrence from the officials and last night they played a team with 3 guys who are among the most visible in the league. Those guys get calls, Kelly Olynyk isn't going to. No matter what Stevens does he can't change that. I think his strategy of arguing calls without showing up the refs is probably his best bet right now, throwing a tantrum will just get him T'd up and a bad rep with the officials.
 
Agreed.  HRB's been beating this drum for awhile, but I really don't get it.  I see no evidence it particularly helps (did Doc's antics earn more calls above and beyond having Pierce/KG/Allen would have earned anyway?).
 
I suppose it might be nice to see him show more emotion at times, but it doesn't really matter to me.  He seems very engaged and into the game, and as you mentioned, last night Stevens was all over the officials, just not very demonstrative about it.  
 
Stevens has made a few questionable moves this year to be sure, just like any coach does.  But his lack of temper tantrums on the sidelines is hardly something I'm concerned about. 
 
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