This past year was the worst defensive season in the Brad Stevens coaching era for the Boston Celtics.
They ranked a putrid 16th in defensive rating, and their effort from game to game was inconsistent. They lacked the personnel to be an elite defensive team, but they gave no fight on that end for most of the season.
With the holes in their roster came the holes in Brad Stevens’ defensive scheme; switching everything and trying to have an active defense with low IQ players could not possibly work.
With Stevens now in the driver’s seat, and Udoka calling the shots, the Boston Celtics are poised to make a defensive comeback if they play their cards right.
They need more support on the defensive end regarding personnel — though bringing in Horford was a great start, it can’t be their only move.
They need to find more perimeter defenders and maybe even another big in case Williams gets hurt. All that is up to Brad Stevens, but this article will be about the scheme.
Udoka has preached defense for his entire coaching career as an assistant coach. Now, he’s in charge of both sides, but we all know what he’ll specialize in.
With the Nets, Udoka did a spectacular job utilizing Blake Griffin as a small-ball five and made Ben Simmons see the best defensive version of himself after four years of keeping his potential untapped.
Before that, Udoka had the privilege to be around Kawhi Leonard before his injury, when he was on pace to be a multiple-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Let’s take a look at a few things he might be able to do for the C’s defense.
Defensive improvement for Boston Celtics No. 1) More cognitive switching
With Brad Stevens on the sidelines, the Boston Celtics have always been comfortable allowing their bigs to switch and hold their own on the perimeter. With Al Horford, they could get away with this, but they have struggled without him for the last two seasons.
The Cs got destroyed by Bam Adebayo because he could take advantage of Boston’s switch-heavy system.
Ime Udoka is familiar with Boston’s switch-heavy scheme seeing as he employed it himself last season.
The Nets were a little different than the 2019-20 Celtics, though.
They switched because they did not have the personnel to defend the rim if someone got through. Instead of fighting over screens, the Nets would switch every action and get back in position to help as fast as possible.
Switching is a part of basketball, and it is a massive part of the NBA playoffs. The Boston Celtics need to be prepared to switch, but they should dial down how much they do—sometimes switching every matchup leads to better matchups for the opposing team.
For example, Evan Fournier getting switched onto Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart tagging Joe Harris. Ime Udoka and every Boston Celtics fan watching would much rather have Smart on Irving in this situation.