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Call it Death Line-up, positionless basketball or Nellie Ball, Brad Stevens needs to go small at times

For those not around at the time, Don Nelson invented small-ball as a coach, thus it came to be known as Nellie Ball. When the Golden State Warriors employed it with much success, it was known as the Death Line-up. Celtics coach, Brad Stevens, would do well to lighten up his rather-predictable substitution patterns and follow suit at opportune times this coming season. Here's what Nellie Ball is all about, per Wikipedia:

Nellie Ball is an offensive strategy in basketball developed by NBA head coach Don "Nellie" Nelson. It is a fast-paced run-and-gun offense relying on smaller, more athletic players who can create mismatches by outrunning their opponents. A true center is usually not needed to run this type of offense. A large volume of three-point attempts is also a feature of Nellie Ball.

Critics of Nellie Ball claim it won't win Championships, and they re probably correct. But it can throw a big wrench into an opposing team's defense when used sporadically. The concept lies in having either a conventional center, or a small-ball five, that can hit a fair share of 3-pointers and draw out the opposing center away from the hoop to allow the four smaller guys to attack the rim. Nelson was a 5-time NBA Champion as a player with Boston but never won a Title as coach, but he was a 3-time NBA Coach-of-the-year and is one of the top-10 coaches in NBA history.

So how does this idea translate to Brad Stevens and the upcoming season? The three true bigs for Boston are Enes Kanter, Vincent Poirier and Rob Williams, none of which are accomplished shooters beyond the arc. Green Giant, Tacko Fall can't be included in this yet, but if the Green Giant food chain doesn't hop on the promotion opportunities here (assuming Tacko thrives down the road), they would be missing out. The center position for small-ball could end up being Daniel Theis, Jayson Tatum or rookie Grant Williams.

The remaining foursome would include Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum (if he is not at the five), Gordon Hayward, rookie Carsen Edwards and possibly rookies Tremont Waters or Max Strus, who are presently on 2-way contracts.

One other idea would be an altered version of positionless basketball. Don Nelson leaned heavily on offense to win games, but putting a shot blocker in, surrounded by a small-to-midsize foursome, would work on occasion. The main point here is for Brad Stevens to lighten up a bit on his strategies. The Death Line-up certainly worked perfectly for Steve Kerr and the Warriors (once again, per Wikipedia):

Nelson continued to perfect Nellie Ball in three later coaching stops. He again used Nellie Ball with the Golden State Warriors, where his offense was centered on the high-scoring trio of NBA All-Stars Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin, collectively known as "Run TMC" (the initials of the players' first names and a play on the name of the popular rap group Run DMC)

After the frustration of last season, nobody needs more of a break than Brad Stevens. No one is expecting miracles this time around, so it may be time for Brad to relax and experiment a bit without the worry of bad press. It is time for one of the smartest coaches in the NBA to be innovative and to loosen up. Can it really be two more months until training camp?

Follow Tom at @CelticsSentinel, @_Celtics_Center, @CausewayStreet and Facebook

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