The Boston Celtics could take some time to figure out what kind of pace they will be playing at this season
The Boston Celtics are in the process of discovering exactly how their offense is going to function this season, and there are a lot of factors still undetermined. One thing, however, has been made abundantly clear in the preseason, and that is the emphasis on ball movement.
Just like last season, the Celtics move the ball as a team. It is not just about Kyrie Irving getting all the assists, because they have multiple players touching the ball every possession, and with all kinds of off ball movement they need each player on the court to be contributing to that best possible opportunity.
The one downfall to this so far this preseason has been over passing. The Celtics are not used to having this many strong finishers on the team, and they need to be more aggressive than they were last year, because it will do a lot more damage when these deadly finishers are passing up good opportunities to try and get the perfect opportunity.
That over passing can also lead to a slower pace. The Celtics want to keep opposing defenses constantly moving and constantly playing a guessing game. The Celtics have the talent to be successful in a slower half court set, but their real potential comes when they run other teams off the court, getting the great opportunities before the defense can even realize what is happening.
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The Celtics also know that they can be one of the best transition teams in the league, and that will also require them pushing the pace.
While the new players are settling, chances are the offense will be a bit slower. It is more important to establish the comfort and chemistry, and make sure that there are good looks on each possession.
Once that is settled, then the high end potential of this offense can be unlocked. It is not enough to be a good or even great offense in the NBA. You need to be able to score a lot of points really fast, because defense will only take you so far with so much offensive talent in the NBA right now.
The Celtics know they will have the ball movement to get the open looks and they know they have the players to hit those open looks. The way this offense can be a threat to be the best in the league is if they are able to maintain that while playing at one of the fastest paces in the league.
When the Celtics are playing small ball, they will have five players on the court that are threats from three point range. It is already hard enough for opposing defenses to account for this half court offense, if you speed everything up they players will be running wide open on each and every possession.
The Celtics have so many different ways to open things up, and create different ways to destroy teams. The faster they play the more they will be able to exploit, and the more helpless the opposing defense will be.
Stevens has played with a lot of pace in the past, so we know it is something that he has looked for and knows how to instill. The pace got slower last season, because they were prioritizing quality rather than quantity.
This season, with the talent they have, they should no longer have to sacrifice either. We see the Golden State Warriors play at one of the fastest paces in the NBA, and yet the offense always functions well with no forced shots.
The Celtics need to find that kind of balance, where they are making sure that Irving and Gordon Hayward are getting to their best positions where we know they will finish, and the faster they get there the more often they will get there, giving them a lot of opportunities to run teams off the court.
It will be fascinating to see how the Celtics’ offense develops this season, and I would expect it to be in flux for a good part of the season.
One thing we have to anticipate is that the more comfortable this offense gets, the faster they are going to play. Pace is not going to be the most essential part of their offensive identity, because passing and ball security will always be number one.
Pace, however, will always be the key to the top end potential of this offense, and the great question will be whether or not this offense can continue to get all the open looks they need while playing as fast as possible.