Boston Celtics

Why JJ Redick is picking Celtics to win the Eastern Conference

"This guy is a total difference-maker for them."

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The Boston Celtics rolled into the NBA All-Star break with a league-best 43-12 record, so it's no surprise they're JJ Redick's pick to win the Eastern Conference.

The NBA player-turned-analyst didn't hesitate to take the C's during his Tuesday appearance on ESPN's First Take. In his explanation, he identified a key offseason addition who has turned into an X factor for Boston.

"The reason I'm taking the Celtics, it's not because of Jayson Tatum, it's not because of Jaylen Brown. If anyone knows me and has followed me over the last year and a half, it's not because of Derrick White and my love for him. It's because of Kristaps Porzingis.

"This guy is a total difference-maker for them. He has given them a new dynamic for their offense and he's providing the same defense essentially that Rob Williams was giving them."

Redick pointed out a specific part of Porzingis' game that has resulted in success for the new-look Celtics this season. He believes if the Latvian big man continues what he's done to this point, he'll make Boston a force to be reckoned with come playoff time.

"(Celtics head coach) Joe Mazzulla at the beginning of the year, he talked about wanting to post-up mismatches more with Tatum, Brown, Porzingis," Redick added. "Right now, the Celtics have essentially tripled their frequency in post-ups. They are hunting out mismatches. When we start talking about late-game stuff, Kristaps Porzingis unlocks their offense.

"You want to run an after-timeout play with 17 seconds to go? He unlocks what they could do on the offensive end. Kristaps Porzingis -- we have 10 years of tracking data -- he's having the most efficient season posting up the basketball in the last 10 years. That's over (Nikola) Jokic, that's over (Joel) Embiid. And why is that? Because he's posting mismatches.

"You go down the list of his most frequent guys that are guarding him in the post and it's all perimeter guys. When he rolls into drop coverage he's getting behind the defense, that two-man action with Jaylen Brown on the left side, Jaylen Brown going to his right hand, him getting behind the defense, it's great action for the Celtics. He has completely changed their team. So when we start talking about playoffs and matchups, it's Kristaps Porzingis. To me, he's the most important third option in the NBA."

You can watch the full segment below or on YouTube:

Along with veteran guard Jrue Holiday, Porzingis has been everything president of basketball operations Brad Stevens and the Celtics hoped they were getting when they traded for him. The 28-year-old is averaging 20.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks while shooting 53.1 percent from the floor (36.8 percent from 3) through 40 games played.

Porzingis' health will be one of the Celtics' biggest concerns over their final 27 games of the regular season. He entered the campaign with an extensive injury history and has missed some time for the C's with minor back and ankle ailments. For all the reasons Redick stated, Porzingis' presence in the postseason very well could be the key to Boston unlocking the elusive Banner 18.

The Celtics will resume their quest for a title on Thursday night when they visit the Chicago Bulls.

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