The first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs is almost in the books, and I sure hope that the Boston Celtics front office and coaching staff have been watching closely.
After all, the Celtics are looking to rebuild themselves into yet another legitimate contender for the Larry O’Brien trophy . . . but what worked in the past will not necessarily work in the here and now, as these playoffs have already demonstrated to me and anyone else who has been lucky enough to tune in and watch.
To provide a frame of reference, I direct your attention to the Indiana Pacers. See, the Pacers were the team that many of us thought would finally end the Miami’s Heat reign as Eastern Conference champion, and their midseason acquisitions of Andrew Bynum and Evan Turner only strengthened our confidence in the team that Larry Bird built. After all, this was a team that bullied and bruised its opponents to the tune of a league-leading defense that allowed opponents to shoot only .420 from the field, score only 92.3 points per game, and swatted over 440 shots on the season. With big men Roy Hibbert and David West protecting the rim and dominating opponents on the glass, Indiana looked ready to prove that old-school basketball was good enough to bring home a championship banner.
Even after their regular-season wheels fell off a bit, most expert still picked the Pacers to handle the Hawks fairly easily. Clearly, that has not been the case, as Atlanta has taken the fight to Indiana and forced the Pacers to play a style of basketball that is clearly uncomfortable: small ball.
And herein lies the biggest lesson the Celtics need to learn from these playoffs: guards rule Draft well, Danny Ainge.
Atlanta has been able to terrorize the Pacers, thanks to the abilities of point guard Jeff Teague to attack the rim and sharp shooter Kyle Korver to knock down open shots when the ball is kicked out to him. Yes, it’s clear that Indiana is still suffering from a case of the “What the hell has gone wrong with this team?” but give the Hawks credit where credit is due: their guards are having a far greater impact on this series than Indiana’s bigs, something I must admit I didn’t see coming.
It’s not just the Indiana-Atlanta series that is showing us all the worth of a strong backcourt, either. How did the Washington Wizards take down defensive player of the year Joakim Noah and the Chicago Bulls in a mere five games? By riding the one-two punch of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Why have the Toronto Raptors seized a 3-2 lead in their series against the favored Brooklyn Nets? Because they have two phenomenal young guards in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Guards are dominating series all over the Eastern Conference, a fact which has not gone unnoticed by me.
It’s not a huge surprise, and watching the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship this year prepared me for such a discovery, since the UCONN Huskies won their championship on the back of guard Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. Even so, I have spent most of the season arguing against the Boston Celtics looking to draft guards Dante Exum or Marcus Smart with their first pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Now, I’m not so sure. As much as I enjoy Avery Bradley‘s on-the-ball defense, I don’t see a backcourt of Rajon Rondo – Avery Bradley dominating a playoff series. Teaming Rondo with someone like Exum, however . . . let’s just say I’m starting to warm up to that possibility.
What do you think – do these playoffs suggest the Boston Celtics should draft a guard with their first pick in the draft? Comment below, or @HoudiniCeltics!
Tags: Boston Celtics