National Basketball Association
Celtics show strength in depth en route to winning NBA Finals
National Basketball Association

Celtics show strength in depth en route to winning NBA Finals

Published Jun. 18, 2024 4:32 p.m. ET

Paul Pierce joined the celebration of the Boston Celtics' 18th title on Tuesday's "Undisputed," making it clear how ecstatic he was to see his former team finish off the Dallas Mavericks in the 2024 NBA Finals the night prior.

The Celtics icon brought an inflatable leprechaun onto the show's set to go along with a replica of the Larry O'Brien Trophy, his championship ring from 2008 and a cigar. As he donned a Celtics jacket, Pierce also invited Skip Bayless and Keyshawn Johnson to join him on a duck boat for the championship parade in Boston on Friday. 

Once he got past celebrating the title, Pierce shared his reasons why he thought the Celtics needed just five games to beat the Mavericks. He first pointed to Jaylen Brown, calling the Celtics wing "the best player in the world" after winning Finals MVP. 


"He just showed why, and I truly believe this, he's the best two-way player in the NBA," Pierce said. "You talk about the way he scores the ball — he averages between 23 and 25 points per game — but he should be on the all-defensive team. … [Other players] know that Jaylen Brown's one of the best two-way players in all of the NBA. It showed in the biggest stage and in the biggest moment."

Brown didn't have his best offensive showing in the NBA Finals, scoring 20.8 points per game on 44% shooting from the field and 23.5% shooting from deep. But he showed off his defensive prowess, recording a team-high 1.6 steals per game and had four blocks in the series. He mostly did that while guarding Mavericks star Luka Doncic and occasionally defended Kyrie Irving.

Pierce's praise for individual players didn't end at Brown. As he called for Bayless to apologize to Jayson Tatum, Pierce also proclaimed that the duo Derrick White and Jrue Holiday is the best backcourt in the NBA. 

"[White] might be one of the most underrated players in the NBA," Pierce said. "For the series, he averaged [13.8] points per game. That's huge for your third or fourth option. Actually, he could be your fourth or fifth option. If you throw [Kristaps] Porzingis in the mix, you've got Derrick White and Jrue Holiday who all flip [their roles] as third, fourth and fifth options. These are your third, fourth and fifth options. This team, moving forward, is going to be tough to beat."

The Celtics' guards, who both made second-team NBA All-Defensive this season, had strong moments offensively at different moments in the NBA Finals. Holiday scored a team-high 26 points on 11 of 14 shooting in the Celtics' Game 2 win over the Mavericks. White, meanwhile, made the most 3-pointers in the series with 17.

Are the 2024 Celtics a Top 5 NBA team of all-time?

The emergence of Brown and White to go with the additions of Holiday and Porzingis meant that Tatum didn't have to shoulder as much of a burden as he did in recent seasons. The Celtics' star's scoring went from 30.1 points per game in 2022-23 to 26.9 points per game this regular season. In the NBA Finals, Tatum scored 22.2 points per game, though he had a game-high 31 points in Monday's series clincher. 

Colin Cowherd credited Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens for putting a stronger supporting cast around Tatum, allowing the star to pick his spots rather than force the issue. 

"Their identity became team over Tatum, collaborative basketball and a very bizarrely deep roster in a time where it's hard to do what they're doing — eight guys that can catch, shoot, defend, dribble, pass," Cowherd said. "It's a cliché, but the Celtics became the ultimate ‘We over me.' It's nothing against Jayson Tatum. He's an elegant talent. But year after year, we kept looking at him to provide the moment and Brad Stevens, the guy who upstairs that coached him, recognized, ‘Hey, let's put less pressure on him and provide more offensive artillery so we don't have to put our microscope on Jayson Tatum in every big game.'"

Celtics key to 18th title: collaboration over one alpha guy

With the Celtics capturing the title on Monday, they've made their argument that they're one of the best teams of all time. They went 64-18 during the regular season and finished the year with the fifth-best point differential of all time (+11.34). They continued to play at a high level in the postseason, going 16-3 as they never trailed in a series.

Cowherd isn't sure if the Celtics are among the greatest teams of all time. He compared them to some movies that won Best Picture at the Oscars, saying that not all of them are an "all-time great picture." He believes this Celtics group is more of a "right team for the right time."

However, Cowherd appreciated the sacrifice Tatum took throughout the year and the collective buy-in the Celtics had. He compared them to another team in Boston that was synonymous with winning. 

"What I really like about this team is that they borrowed a little bit of the Patriots way," Cowherd said. "It is much more team over individual stars. It's sacrificing for the betterment of us. They're smart, efficient and [not] flashy. In a sport that usually rewards and worships the individual, I'm totally OK with that. This was a collaborative effort over alpha guy. Maybe that's the new NBA. I thought this was about cohesion and collaboration and less than about Jayson Tatum dependency."

FOLLOW Follow your favorites to personalize your FOX Sports experience
National Basketball Association
Boston Celtics

Get more from National Basketball Association Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more