Tonight, the Boston Celtics take on a team that is experimenting with the most extreme small ball makeup to date. Could the C’s learn a thing or two from the Houston Rockets?
The Boston Celtics play smaller than most teams. With Daniel Theis (6’8) as their starting center, they certainly do not possess any size advantages. In fact, with Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward often switching off guarding the opposing team’s 4-spot, you could argue the C’s are part of the small ball revolution already.
Their opponents tonight–the Houston Rockets–ratchet up (or down) the small-ball craze to the extreme. James Harden has taken the opening tip. P.J. Tucker, at six-foot-six, is the primary center. Few teams have ever tried a true 5-out strategy to this degree.
You see, the minutes distribution in Houston sees only Austin Rivers, Ben McLemore and Thabo Sefalosha as the only three players off the bench who earn any minutes at all. The Rockets have all but abandoned the center position after seeing Clint Capela gain notoriety in recent years as a rim-runner and making icons out of skilled pivots like Yao Ming and Hakeem Olajuwon.
It’s a whole new NBA, though. Going small has been the trend since the Golden State Warriors built a dynasty out of using Draymond Green at the center spot and allowing shooters and slashers overwhelm opposing defenses.
While the Boston Celtics possess several centers on their roster, none qualify as elite. Daniel Theis’ blocking and sealing abilities, Enes Kanter‘s rebounding and post-scoring and Robert Williams‘ general athleticism can all be factors for a team that has its eyes on the east’s second seed.
But if the Celtics embrace small-ball, who knows how much they can thrive. Here are 3 ways they can do so: