WALTHAM, Mass. -- Earlier this month, after a loss in which his team's lack of a true rim protector was particularly evident, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens was asked if a defensive-minded 7-footer might be on his Christmas list.
"I haven't thought a ton about it," Stevens said at the time. "I think, certainly, in an ideal situation, what you're looking for are certain qualities as a team. A rim protector, whether it's a 7-footer or not, is extremely important in this league. A guy that really protects the rim from the dotted line in."
If he wasn't thinking about it much then, Stevens is thinking about it now. Amid Boston's recent defensive regression, Stevens admitted Saturday that he thinks about possible lineup combinations "every minute of every day." What's more, he wondered out loud if his team's performance this season might be different if it employed a serviceable rim protector.
"I'd be really curious to know, or to see from a defensive standpoint systematically, plugging one guy in there, what that might do to our numbers being where we are in a lot of different areas," said Stevens.
Here's our best guess: Boston would be a playoff team. Scoff if you want, but the Celtics' need for a rim protector is glaring and we'd wager to bet that having even a slightly above-average back-line defender to complement their power forward surplus would be enough to thrust them into the mix in a head-shaking Eastern Conference.
The Celtics defend the 3-point shot well and are sneakily one of the best transition defenses in the league, but they've really struggled to protect the basket, including on second-chance opportunities.
While Stevens said he's uncertain if he'll make any lineup tweaks over the final 10 games of the 2013-14 season, he did hint that he's intrigued by getting little-used Joel Anthony more floor time. The 6-foot-9 Anthony isn't the prototypical back-line behemoth, but he is as close to a pure center as Boston has.
With maybe nothing more than a curiosity about the future, Stevens could trot out Anthony next to someone like Jared Sullinger just to get an idea of the potential benefits.