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By the Numbers: Celtics Now Versus Celtics of Last Season

The fact that most teams in the league are making trades to position themselves for the future only highlights that the Celtics are playing for now, and that 2011, when you really think about it and look at the team’s age and salary structure, doesn’t look so appealing. This is probably why we all spend more time worrying about what’s wrong with this team than we do enjoying the sustained level of greatness it has achieved. This team, right now, has to win a championship. 

For all our worrying, the numbers show this team is almost exactly as good last year’s team, right down to the 44-11 record after 55 games.

Let’s start with the offense (all numbers are pre All-Star break for both seasons).

                           2007-8                       2008-9

PPG                        99.8                            101.3

Off. Effciency         110.2                          110.7

eFG%                      52.2                            52.5

FG%                        47.3                            48.4

Pace                       90.9                            90.7

TO/g                      15.1                            15.8

FTA/g                     27.4                            25.9

3p%                        38.1                            38.4

3PA/g                     19.3                           16.6

Conclusions: The only striking difference here is the drop in three-point attempts, something that is almost entirely the result of exchanging James Posey’s minutes for more of Tony Allen, Big Baby and Leon Powe. Pierce and Ray Allen are also taking (slightly) fewer threes this year. The result is a higher shooting percentage, more points per game and a team a smidge less reliant on jump shots (63 percent of all attempts this year are jumpers, compared to 66 percent last year). 

But the offense isn’t really any more efficient, because turnovers are up and free throw attempts are down–albeit by a small number. KG, in particular, is getting to the line less. After the jump, we check out the other end of the floor.


                                     2007-08                                  2008-09

Opp. PPG                        89.4                                            92.0

Def. Efficiency                98.9                                            100.5

Opp eFG%                      45.7                                             46.4

Opp 3P FG%                   31.5                                            33.9

Opp FTA/g                     24.9                                            26.2

Opp TO/g                      15.9                                             15.2

Conclusions:  The numbers are creeping the wrong way. This is still an elite defense–one that ranks first in the league in defensive efficiency and second in effective field goal percentage. But it’s not the historically elite defense of last season. Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s missing Posey and never having Tony Allen in the line-up on a consistent basis. Maybe it’s just some bad luck. Or, maybe the stars are just saving an extra gear for the playoffs. Is it even worth worrying about? I don’t know. 

Besides, the C’s have improved in one other major area, something that might make up for a bit of slippage on close-outs and rotations…

                                      2007-8                        2008-9 

ORBs                                  9.7                               10.9

DRBs                                 31.3                              31.9

Reb. Margin                       +2.5                             +5.6 

ORB %                                26.6                              28.4

DRB %                                74.4                              76.5

The Celtics have become a monster rebounding team. That rebound margin is number one in the league, and the defensive rebounding percentage is number two. 

Overall, then, this team is about as good as last year’s team. But will that be enough if Andrew Bynum is healthy for the playoffs and the Cavaliers add a major piece (please not Jamison, please not Jamison) in the next 12 hours? And is anyone (Davis? Powe?) ready to hit the clutch jumpers James Posey and P.J. Brown hit in the playoffs last year?

  • Pinky

    The Celtics definitely can't afford to be "about as good as last year's team", as the Lakers and Cavs have improved, and last's year's team had enough problems (winning in six and seven games is not domination) with those two teams before they improved.

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