Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens is one of the youngest and most talented coaches in the NBA, despite not getting a single vote for the Coach of the Year award.
The Boston Celtics have been the victims of a massive injury bug. Despite that, they still remain one of the best teams in the league, winning games with masterful defense and tremendous ball movement.
Even though this team is talented, there has to be a guy who is the brains behind this team. That man is Brad Stevens. Since being hired in the summer of 2013, the former Butler head coach has shown that he can be a great coach at the professional level. He has implemented an intricate offensive system that requires full team participation on every play. He also has had a top defense twice in the last three seasons.
Even longtime Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has recognized his brilliance and uniqueness as a coach, saying back in November of 2015, “I really respect what he does. I’ll still watch his Butler tape, trying to learn what he did there, to be honest with you. I respect the hell out of him. He’s a fine young coach, great demeanor. His team executes well, and they’re just going to get better and better. So I enjoy him.”
Coach Popovich, being the brilliant man he is, predicted what was to come of Brad Stevens and his Boston Celtics well. They have indeed gotten much better.
I have gathered a few instances that show what he is truly capable of as a coach.
Situational awareness is something that every NBA coach should have, but nobody has a better sense for what’s going on in a game than Brad Stevens. During each game, there are at least 3 or 4 instances of him taking advantage of a matchup, tendency, or scenario on the court that nobody else even remotely recognized.
Here’s a huge example: Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last Saturday. Brad Stevens and the gang were in the last 8 seconds of overtime. They take a timeout to draw up a play that should score them the game-winning bucket.
They come out of the stoppage with a play that seems like nothing at first. Then you see Al Horford seal Robert Covington in the paint, which is a huge mismatch. Now, this play seems to be going somewhere. Marcus Morris then throws a gorgeous pass right into the rising hands of Horford, and he finishes at the basket, using the rim as a shield.
This play seemed like it would only require two people, but the other 3 guys on the perimeter were isolating Horford, making sure there wouldn’t be any help to keep the shot from happening. This is a prime example of the Boston Celtics coach noticing a mismatch and drawing up a beautiful play to expose it.
Having a role for every guy on the roster
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When you’re first getting into the NBA, you are probably looking for a role on a team. Some are shooters, others are defenders. Some like to orchestrate the offense, others patrol the paint. Brad Stevens is great at taking the skills that each of his players have and combining it with others to form the best lineups and situations for the team as a whole.
For example, Al Horford is one of the most versatile big men in the NBA. He’s a tremendous passer, great on defense, can crash the boards, and has developed a solid shot to compliment his powerful arsenal of post moves.
So, knowing this, coach Stevens puts him everywhere on the floor. Sometimes he’s playing as a point forward. Other times, he is in the corner for an open shot or down in the post defending his man or getting ready for a post move.
Another big example is Jayson Tatum. He was known in College for being an athletic, lengthy playmaker. He could get his shot no matter what. This makes him a sensational isolation scorer. Even though his offense is big on ball movement and looking for the best available shot, Stevens makes sure to give Tatum opportunities to make his own plays, whether it be by isolation or during a pick and roll situation.
This type of treatment is a big reason why Kyrie Irving had the best statistical season of his career this year. Brad Stevens made sure to give him opportunities to make plays, despite what his offensive system consists of.
These two factors are simple, but big reasons why Brad Stevens is truly the Coach of the Year, despite not even getting a single vote.