The Celtics are more than 20 percent into this year’s campaign and needless to say, they have had their fair share of problems despite their 13-4 record. Whether it’s Rasheed’s outside shooting, Kevin Garnett’s physical problems, or the team looking vulnerable at times defensively, there have been many things for Boston fans to gripe about.
For the time being, the Celtics have appeared to right the ship, building a four game winning streak, while beginning to look like the C’s of old on both ends of the floor. However with all these improvements, there has been one vital part of the team’s offense that has regressed dramatically in the early stages of this year. Perhaps even more surprisingly, no one has been talking about it. The problem you ask? Ray Allen’s outside shooting.
Before we go any further, let’s take a look at the numbers. Despite the limited sample size, these should help us dig into the question of whether Ray’s shooting woes are merely a slump or an early indicator of the aging shooting guard falling off a cliff that Zach Lowe warned us about last year.
2009-10 Shooting Statistics for Ray Allen (17 games)
46.4% FG Percentage
30.1% 3pt Percentage
56.2 % True Shooting Percentage
51.7 % eFG Percentage
4.4 3 point attempts per game
45% FG Percentage on long 2 point jumpers (16-23 feet)
Let’s compare these to Allen’s numbers from last year, along with some career percentages.
FG Percentages: 48% (2008) 44.8% (career)
3 pt Percentage: 40.9% (2008) 39.7% (career)
True Shooting Percentage: 62.4% (2008 2nd in league) 57.4% (career)
eFG Percentage: 57.5% (2008 5th in league) 52.3% (career)
3 point attempts per game: 6.1 (2008) 5.9 (career)
FG Percentage on long 2 point jumpers: 49% (2008)
So based on those numbers, let’s take a closer glimpse to see what conclusions, if any, we can draw on Allen’s struggles thus far this year.
Three-Point Shooting Problems
That’s really the biggest thing that concerns me out of all of these numbers. The ten percentage point drop off from both last year and Ray’s career average from downtown really stands out from the rest. The numbers are even worse for Ray recently from long range as he is averaging 24.4% in the last 10 games from deep.
So for all the whining people have made about Rasheed Wallace’s 3-point shooting rightfully so, I may add as you can count me among the sharper critics, remember this: For as bad as Wallace has been this year, Ray Allen is only four percent better from behind the arc in the last 10 games.
And when you look at the entire season, the numbers are even more disturbing as Sheed is now shooting 28 percent from 3-point range and Ray is shooting 30 percent. That’s scary bad for a shooting guard.
So what does this all mean you ask? Has Ray lost his stroke entirely? It’s far too early to say that. It’s not beyond Sugar Ray to go through extended shooting slumps in a Celtic uniform, most notably in the 2008 NBA Finals run where the marksmen shot 9-of-51 from downtown over a 13 game stretch through rounds 1-3. Allen found his range again in game 5 of the Detroit series with a hot stroke that helped carry the C’s eventually to a Finals win.
To be perfectly blunt, those numbers really explain a lot why the team was pushed to the brink in those series against the Hawks and Cavs. It’s not easy to win playoff games when your team likes the shoot the 3 ball, but your best shooter isn’t making any shots. In any case, it’s somewhat reassuring to know we’ve seen a slump like this from Jesus before.
That being said, there have been few glimpses of any consistency from deep for Ray Ray this year. He has only made three or more treys in just 2-of-17 games this year, an alarmingly low number for one of the best pure shooters in the game. His struggles have also shown in his long two-point jumpers as his shooting percentage has dropped from 49 to 45 percent on 16-23 footers. Thus, there are really no good signs there that Ray has shown signs of finding his range.
The Good News
Despite his early struggles, there is still plenty to be excited about concerning Ray’s overall play this year. First, Ray has reduced his 3 point attempts to just 4.4 attempts per game with his long range problems thus far. He is clearly still trying to shoot his way out of it, but isn’t shooting the team out of games by launching unsuccessfully from deep.
A lot of people I’ve watched game with this year have also commented to me how it looks like Ray is going to the hoop more often. Well guess what? The numbers show he is. According to 82games, Allen has taken 27% of his shots this year from close range, up 8 percent from last year’s numbers. So not only is Ray taking less 3’s, he is not settling for long two-point jumpers and is instead taking the ball to the basket more to get a higher percentage shot. Kudos to the 34 year old for adapting his game accordingly while he is slumping.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s evident that Ray’s shooting struggles haven’t had an overly negative effect on the team’s offensive play as a whole. In fact it’s quite the opposite. Allen is far and away the leader on the team in overall +/- with a terrific +142 to his name, besting the closest Celtic in Rajon Rondo by 42 points. Thus even though Allen is facing a few bumps in the road with his shot, it is clear opponents still must respect it and number 20 is opening up the floor for his teammates just as successfully as he ever has.
I guess the best news in looking at all this info is that Ray’s career low for a 3 point shooting percentage in a season is 35.1%. So even if he was to fall off a cliff this year shooting the ball from downtown, Allen would have fall from a skyscraper for him too fall much below that number.
The guy is out of sync right now, that much is clear. He will recover from it numbers wise, but just how close he returns to his last year and career form is anyone’s guess. Any semblance of a return to form will help the C’s offense which has drifted close to mediocrity statically (11th in league in Offensive Rating) thus far this year.
The fact of the matter is given the team’s salary cap situation next year the team is in all likelihood relegated to bringing back Allen for another year or two if it wants to continue to compete for a Championship. A sharp drop off in Ray’s shooting numbers over the entire year could make Danny Ainge think twice about bringing him back.
However, if teams continue to respect his marksmanship from deep, the openings Ray creates for his teammates on the offensive end makes him a very valuable commodity to keep around. Despite his struggles this year, teams have shown no signs losing their respect for his shooting abilities.
Here’s hoping that he starts making a few jumpers more consistently before Ray’s opponents reconsider their defense on him. The Celtics will be a much more dangerous team for it. Given Allen’s struggles though, it’s impressive to consider that this team is 13-4 right now, given how much better they could be playing.