Just to kick things off, I need to say that obviously I recognize that if LeBron James ends up coming to the Bulls, then any impact that Tom Thibodeau’s coaching would have on fantasy stats will probably be obscured to the point of “who the hell knows?” That said, a lot of the articles I’ve read have said what a good defensive coach Thibodeau is (even Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said: ”Paul Pierce wasn’t known as a defensive player, Ray Allen wasn’t known as a defensive player, but he’s gotten Hall of Famers to do things they didn’t do for anybody else.”) so I thought I’d take a look at the the two teams’ fantasy stats to see if that defense translates into fantasy stats.
The short answer is: probably not.
The longer answer is: let’s look at what the Celtics do better.
On the defensive end, which is what Thibodeau is getting credit for, the Bulls actually beat the Celtics in Blocks. They lost Steals, but that can pretty much be attributed to the player who led the league in Steals last season: Rajon Rondo. Rondo’s 2.3 steals per game more than doubled the best Bull, Kirk Hinrich who only had 1.1 steals. I’m reluctant to give Thibodeau credit for Rondo’s league leading performance, especially when Kevin Garnett actually had more steals when he played for the Timberwolves than he’s averaged with the Celtics, and Ray Allen did the same when he was with the Sonics. (Yes, they both played more minutes with their former teams but not 50% more minutes)
So, I’m afraid that even if Thibodeau is a great defensive coach (and I’ll be happy if he is), it will probably only show up in the “intangible” version of defense that we don’t track for fantasy basketball.
What about the other categories?
The only other categories where the Celtics appreciably topped the Bulls were Threes, Free Throws, and Assists. Both of those first two wins can be attributed to the work of Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. I don’t think that Tom Thibodeau is going to turn Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng into Allen and Pierce. I wouldn’t complain if that somehow did happen, but it won’t.
Allen and Pierce both averaged more threes per game (1.8 and 1.5, respectively) than Kirk Hinrich, who led the Bulls with 1.4.
I was a little surprised that the Celtics were able to hang on to the Free Throw category with Rajon Rondo leading them with a 64% effective free throw percentage. Allen and Pierce were able to make up for that, though, with their 89% and 90% respectively. Garnett also had an 83% EFT.
The Celtics averaged 0.74 more assists per game (again, this is only the top 5 fantasy players) led by Rondo. I think if there had been more offensive support for Derrick Rose, he could have spent less time scoring 20 points per game and more time matching Rondo’s 9.8 assists per game. The next best Celtic was Pierce with 3.1, but when you have a PG who can distribute to Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett, he’s going to get a lot of Assists. I’m not trying to take anything away from Rondo, because you still have to be a good PG to take advantage of those options and opportunities, but if you put Derrick Rose in that situation, I think he’s be able to put together a similar performance.
Final Summation: I’m not trying to say Tom Thibodeau’s not a good coach, nor that the Bulls won’t be better because of him. I’m just saying that I don’t think his coaching will have a direct impact on the Bulls fantasy statistics.
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