Brad Stevens had taken a roster full of role players and one undersized but dynamic shot creator (Isaiah Thomas) and turned them into a 48-win team that was a threat to make the second round of the playoffs. It was an impressive effort where the sum was more than its parts.
However, it was about as far as Boston could go without adding a major talent.
The Celtics go their man, Al Horford. Not just because of his 15.2 points on 50.5 percent shooting with 7.3 rebounds a game, but because of his versatility and fit up front with what Boston is doing, coach Brad Stevens said to Vice Sports.
“We played [Atlanta] ten times [last season], so we had a pretty good idea of what they were doing and they had an idea of what we were doing,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told VICE Sports. “One of the reasons we went after Al really hard on day one was because we thought that he fit in really well with how we play.”
Horford plays center like a forward — he can step out on the perimeter and hit threes, he can put the ball on the floor and drive, he is a gifted passer, he can get buckets around the rim, and he’s a good defender. Horford is good at nearly everything.
Boston’s offense has been about playing with pace and space — which is why Horford fits with the Celtics. He can set a screen for Thomas out high then pop out to the ar, keeping the defender out of the paint and forcing rotations. Put someone smaller on him and he can post up. Bring the double and he finds the open man. He can be used in a lot of ways on offense and is dangerous at each.
Stevens is just the guy to take advantage of Horford’s skill set. If Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Jae Crowder can make the adjustments, if the Celtics can keep the ball moving, if they can continue to defend well, this can be the second best team in the Eastern Conference. The foundation was already laid. Horford was just the first big piece they needed.