How can Boston’s defense be elite this season?

The Celtics finally have the rim protection they need to be a very good defensive unit.
Robert Mayer/Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics had a pretty solid defense last year, allowing 102.1 points per 100 possessions—which tied the Utah Jazz and Philadelphia 76ers for 12th in the league.

For them to do that without any consistent rim protection is a testament to Brad Stevens' scheme, everyone's hustle and the individual genius of perimeter defenders like Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder. 

But this season they want to be much better. And with the addition of Amir Johnson and Jordan Mickey, plus internal growth from Crowder and Smart, they certainly can. Here's a more specific look at how Boston's defense can improve, per SB Nation's Celtics Blog:

The Celtics will rely on their defense this season. Scoring the ball could be an issue, particularly when Isaiah Thomas isn't on the floor. But defense should never waver. They could be a special unit.

It starts on the perimeter. Boston boasts arguably the league's best defensive backcourt with Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley leading the way. Our own Kevin O'Connor discussed last month why Bradley can once again become an elite defender this season. Smart is also a tenacious on-ball defender who will only get better in his sophomore season. Smart was slowed by an ankle injury early last season, but he held opponents to 40.4% shooting from the field on shots he defended (DFG%) after the All-Star break.

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