Despite holding the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, with 19 regular-season games still unplayed and in Limbo due to the caronavirus outbreak and the temporary (hopefully) cessation of play, Danny Ainge is still not content having what he calls “equal depth” and lacking a “clear hierarchy”. Danny had previously broached his thoughts to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in an interview:
“I think I’d be a little more careful going into building another team that had such EQUAL depth. The Lakers have really good depth.”
“Last year, we had eight guys – nine guys – that all thought they were equal to each other. It makes it easier to accept roles when there is a clear hierarchy.”
Ainge clearly was looking at the Lakers’ Lebron James and Anthony Davis as Alpha-one and Alpha-two, respectively. The same may be said in regards to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Greek Freak is clearly the top player on that team. The problem lies with potential injuries. Take away Lebron, The Brow or Giannis from their teams and victories would take a major hit.
Not so with the current Celtics crew. Boston has had numerous injuries to various players, but the team has maintained a winning record.
There is no player on the Celtics that is completely indispensable. That can’t be said for the Lakers or Bucks. And Boston, as yet, has no clear leader. Nor is there a defined most-indispensable player. The 60’s had Bill Russell at the helm. The 70’s saw John Havlicek as the Alpha Player. In the 80’s, Larry Bird was the undisputed leader. Paul Pierce took over in the 2000’s, assisted by Kevin Garnett upon his arrival in Boston. A Celtics leader may come forward in the 2010’s, but currently, it has not happened.
There is nothing wrong with that. Winning cures a lot of ills, and the Celtics are doing just that. “Equal depth” and no “clear hierarchy” present no issues for Ainge’s team. In some ways they mimic the 2005 Detroit Pistons Championship squad. There was no clear leader among the five starters. Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun prince, Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace, aided by their bench, took out the Lakers led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
That Pistons team played as a unit with all five starters contributing equally. That is what I see with the 2019-20 Celtics. The Boston Core-5 contribute equally, but in varying ways. Can they go all the way this season? Yes, they can – and with very few alterations in the current lineup. “Equal depth” and no “clear hierarchy” can be an advantage. Let’s see if it works.
Follow Tom at @CelticsSentinel, @CausewayStreet