The Patriots have built the most formidable dynasty in the history of sports. They’ve done it two ways, by finding talent in players that other teams don’t want, and by acquiring players who have a questionable background. That background can be off-field issues or medical issues. There are many instances, and some have worked (Gronk), and some have not (Dominique Easley). One or two have even contributed a bit, but then flamed out, like Alfonzo Dennard, who was a starter for a time before being cut due to off-field issues, and Malcolm Mitchell, who had a decent rookie season and helped the Patriots win SBLI, but it’s unclear if he’ll ever be the same player after his knee injury last year. The Patriots typically don’t spend big in free agency, and, because they’re consistently good, they are typically drafting later in the round, they have to take chances on guys or draft guys under the radar. That’s just what they’ve done, and they’ve turned it into 5 Super Bowl rings.
The Celtics have started doing the same thing. What you really need is a coach and a system in which you believe strongly. The Patriots obviously have that in Bill Belichick, and the Celtics also have that in Brad Stevens. The thought is that Stevens can unlock something to get the best out of his players. Look what he did for the Evan Turner’s career, not to mention his bank account. He has consistently pulled talent out of places where many people didn’t think there would be. He did it with IT, Marcus Smart, and even the young guys on this year’s team. You also need a strong leadership group to show the guys coming in that nothing but their best will be accepted. The Patriots have worked extremely hard to build that in Foxboro, and the Celtics are building it as well. It’s why Al Horford and Marcus Smart are so important to this team. Horford is the veteran leader and Smart leads on the floor by going all out on every play.
So when there’s a guy sitting at the end of the first round, like Robert Williams, who has “lottery potential,” you snag him. You can figure out the issues with him, because that’s the culture in Boston. You either play hard every possession or you don’t play at all. If you don’t like it, you can sit at the end of the bench, if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky, you’ll be in the G-League getting your mind and body right until you’re ready to shut your mouth and know your role.
The Celtics have a long way to go to be mentioned in the same breath as the Patriots (even though I literally just compared them in the title), but the moves they have made recently have been very Belichickian. Find a guy who is an elite talent late in the draft and see if you can turn them into a good player, and contributor to your team. The Patriots have been known to take a risk on a guy with great talent over a mid-level guy who will probably never be an all-star.
The Celtics decided to take a similar route. There were guys available who would be fine players, and maybe even eventually start one day. They opted to go for the talented big who could have an immediate and lasting impact. I think it might be the best situation Williams could’ve ended up in, and, for the Celtics, they get a talented guy who could be able to contribute right away. It’s in these moments you should be happy to have Brad Stevens as your coach and Al Horford as your leader. You’d hope they’d start with some training about the time zones. That way, when the Celtics travel, he’ll actually be ready at game time.
Pat is the host of the Weekend Warrior Podcast
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