This NBA offseason has been probably the most complex one in the history of the league with the 13 teams that had head coaching changes and the Boston Celtics have made arguably the most underrated change in hiring Brad Stevens.
Brad Stevens has signed a six-year contract with the Celtics after having successful seasons as the head coach at Butler. Stevens has won 77 percent of his games and led the Bulldogs to the National Championship game twice. Stevens has had a remarkable career at Butler and has received a lot of praise for his team-first and defensive mindset, but he will face many challenges in his first season with the Celtics.
Just like any other basketball coach, Brad Stevens had to game-plan accordingly in the Horizon League and the Atlantic-10. However the teams in those leagues didn't have a lot of star-caliber type of players and the NBA's Eastern Conference has some of the greatest players in the basketball world that Stevens will have to plan very carefully around. Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and Paul George will give their opponents headaches on any given night.
The Celtics have a lot of good quality defenders, but with the exception of Avery Bradley, the Celtics don't have any other one-on-one defender that will take a superstar out of his element. Stevens has been able to adapt to opponents very well at Butler, but he will have to keep solid game-plan strategies for his opponents as well as the superstars that will average around 25-30 points per game.
One major issue the Celtics had last season was the ability to score quickly and effectively. The Celtics only scored 96.5 points per game last season and that was including Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in the lineup. Rajon Rondo will aid with the assists and Jeff Green has full potential to score often on a nightly basis, but neither one of them are used to putting up 15-20 shots per game. Brad Stevens has the offensive mindset of passing the ball around to create easy ways of scoring, so hopefully he is able to stress this strategy to the team to get everybody involved on offense and he will find ways to score.
Probably one of the biggest challenges any college coach transitioning to the NBA is surviving a rigorous 82-game schedule. Brad Stevens has led Butler to two National Championship games, those two seasons combined for 60 games total, which is still not even close to a normal NBA schedule. Any NBA team will start planning for the NBA draft in March or April, which is still in the middle of the season and it can get in the way for teams trying to push for the playoffs.
Danny Ainge and the rest of the Celtics front office has done a very good job of scouting new potential draftees while Doc Rivers and the coaches still kept the Celtics fighting until the end, so Brad Stevens will be in good shape in that regard. But for most other rookie coaches, it can take a toll on them towards the end of the season and could cause them to lose focus on the tasks at hand. Just like any other sports team, the Celtics will face some tough stretches for sure and Brad Stevens will have to remain patient and resilient during those stretches and keep the team running like a well-oiled machine.
In sports, the relationship between the coaches and players are very sacred. In this case, Brad Stevens will have to stay on the same page with the future of this team and his name is Rajon Rondo. This is going to be new for Rajon Rondo too because Rondo has only played for Doc Rivers his whole career and has had the veteran presence of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett ahead of him in the captaincy department. The importance of the Brad Stevens and Rajon Rondo connection is going to be just as vital to the Celtics this season or the season could go south very quickly. Good news for everybody however, Brad Stevens and Rajon Rondo have met up several times during the summer and they have gotten off on the right foot so far. I'm sure that during the season there will be some times of struggle and frustration, but it's important for Stevens and Rondo to be sure to put the teams needs ahead above all.
Brad Stevens will have a logjam to resolve at several positions and he will have to determine all different types of roles for each player on the team. Stevens will just have to stick to his guns and use his smart basketball mindset to determine what is best for the Celtics in a particular situation. Many critics have been pushing the players questioning Stevens' authority to run the team and the players will eventually develop high egos. The Celtics haven't had too many players with high egos in the past, but they will have a lot of time to adjust to the coaching style of Brad Stevens and earn more minutes given time.
It will indeed be a very long and learning season for Brad Stevens and the Celtics. For a young team and a rookie coach, there's going to be a lot to learn and many challenges ahead. If Brad Stevens had a bad track record and the players didn't like him, the Celtics wouldn't have hired him in the first place when they are trying to build for a bright future. I will admit that it was very hard for me to accept the fact that the Celtics have overhauled the roster, but I like the direction the team is going and very interested to see the Celtics in action in the coming weeks.