INSIDER – Defensive Improvement Case Study #1 – Boston Celtics 2007-08

The final 4 teams left in the Western Conference this year were the 4 best teams in the West in effective field goal % defense. ( Weighs three point shooting.) The top 5 defensive teams all made it to the round of 8 and the New York Knicks were the only team to make the Final 8 with a defense below the top 15 in the NBA. You must play defense to win in the NBA.

For the last three seasons, the Utah Jazz have finished ranked 23rd, 19th and 21st defensively in the NBA. If the Jazz are competing with the best in the NBA they must become a better defensive team.

Last year the Jazz allowed 104.7 pts per 100 possessions. To move into the top 15 the Jazz would need to allow 103.0 and to move into the top 10 they would need to allow 101 pts per 100 possessions.

Therefore, I reviewed the last 20 plus years of NBA stats and found the 16 teams to have made a substantial (about 5 pts per 100 possessions) defensive jump from one year to the next. Over the next few weeks I will look at those 16 teams to see what made their defensive jump possible.
Note: I have not included any lockout shortened seasons.


DEFENSIVE CHANGE: 2006-07 Boston allowed 106.9 pts per 100 possessions (16th). The next season 98.9 (#1 in the NBA)

INSIDE THE FOUR FACTORS: Were 20th in EFG% become #1, were 28th in fouling were still 23rd, and 10th in forcing turnovers and moved to #1. Pace of play didn’t change and offensive rebounding didn’t change.

PLAYER MOVEMENT: The 06-07 team started Pierce but only for 47 games with Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Deltone West, Sebastian Telfair and a gaggle of other players. In the off-season they had major roster turnover and added Kevin Garnett arguably the best defensive player of the generation and the entire culture changed. In addition, Rajon Rondo went from starting 25 games to being the starting point guard.

COACHING: No head coaching change – Doc Rivers head coach. On August of 2007 the Celtics added defensive guru Tom Thibodeau to their staff he had previously been with Jeff Van Gundy in Houston. Other members of that staff were Clifford Ray, Armond Hill and Kevin Eastman.

CONCLUSION: This one is really basic. Kevin Garnett and no Al Jefferson. However, the increase time with a long point guard in Rondo and the addition of Tom Thibodeau to the staff can’t be underplayed. Kevin Garnett was the defensive player of the year.