Friday, November 3 – Celtics at Thunder
Pregame: Daniel Versatility is the Name of the Game Tonight in OKC
OKLAHOMA CITY – Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens love versatility. That word is the genesis of this season’s Boston Celtics roster.
The same can be said for their opponent tonight, the Oklahoma City Thunder, who possess as much, if not more, versatility and switchability than the C’s do.
Everyone knows that this new-look Thunder team is headlined by reigning MVP Russell Westbrook and newcomers Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. But the list of versatile players does not end there. Nearly every other Thunder player is long, athletic, and oversized for his position. In fact, Raymond Felton is the only player on the roster other than Westbrook who is shorter than 6-foot-6.
Ahead of tip-off against this matchup-nightmare of a team, Stevens outlined exactly what problems the Thunder pose to each of their opponents.
“They’ve got a few of the best one-on-one players in the last 15 years in the game, so that’s one thing,” Stevens said, referring to Westbrook, George and Anthony. “I think the other thing that often gets undiscussed with this team is how good they are on defense.”
Boston’s coach then went down the list of Thunder players who can defend multiple positions, in addition to Oklahoma City’s Big Three.
“They have a ton of ability to switch, especially when you talk about not only guys like Westbrook and George and Anthony,” he said, “but then you go into (Andre) Roberson, obviously, who I think is a tremendous defender, (Jerami) Grant who is a tremendous defender, (Steven) Adams who is one of the better center defenders in the league.”
It is no surprise, then, that Oklahoma City enters tonight’s game ranked second in the league in defensive rating – right behind the Celtics – with a mark of 95.9.
Billy Donovan, the head coach of the Thunder, has used his team’s versatility perfectly through the first two weeks of this season. He, much like Stevens, has a lot of toys in the chest to play versatile basketball at both ends of the court.
That’s why tonight’s game should be so incredibly entertaining to watch.
Yes, there is certainly star power, with perennial All-Stars on both sides of the ball, but those who watch the game on a deeper level than most must be fighting to contain their excitement for this game.
Boston and Oklahoma City are built upon versatility. Tonight, we’ll see which one can use that characteristic better than the other to notch a victory in front of a national audience.
– Marc D’Amico