After the Celtics turned the ball over just three times in the first half yesterday against Orlando, Greg Payne of CelticsBlog tweeted a question: Did the return of Marquis Daniels, the C’s steady back-up point guard/shooting guard/small forward, have something to do with the decline in Boston’s turnovers?
I had been wondering the same thing before the game. Here are the C’s turnover figures in games with and without Daniels, not including Sunday’s loss to Orlando.
With Daniels (19 games): 15.1 turnovers per game
Without Daniels (28 games): 16.1 turnover per game
That’s not much, but it’s also not nothing. If the C’s season-long turnover average were 16.1 per game, they’d be leading the league in turnovers per game despite playing a very slow pace. Cut out one turnover, and the C’s would rank about 20th in raw turnovers per game—still bad, but not far from league average.
Of course, Golden State turning the ball over 15 times per game isn’t the same as Boston turning the ball over 15 times per game; the Warriors play fast and use about nine more possessions than the C’s, so if the teams’ raw turnovers are equal, it means Golden State—Golden freaking State!—takes better care of the ball than Boston. (And they do).
But let’s get back to the Daniels Effect.
Does his presence make a difference? Maybe. One fewer turnover per game is (I think) statistically significant. The sample size here (47 games) is small enough that the one-turnover difference could just be random, but Daniels has always had a very low turnover rate—certainly a lower rate than Tony Allen and Rajon Rondo, two of the guys who handle the ball more often with the second unit in Daniels’ absence.
But let’s be generous and assume that the one-turnover drop is in fact due to Daniels’ care for the basketball. That’s nice, but it’s clear that Marquis alone doesn’t turn the Celtics into a low-turnover team. A team that plays as slow a pace as does Boston shouldn’t cough the ball up 15.1 times per game.
And Sunday’s debacle against Orlando underscored that Marquis is not going to solve this issue—not even close. The second unit didn’t commit a turnover until Tony Allen traveled with four seconds remaining in the 3rd quarter. That was Boston’s 11th turnover of the game and their eighth of that hideous 3rd quarter.
The rest? The starters committed those.
So, yes, welcome back the Grand Marquis and all the unique skills he brings—the ball-handling, the knack for making the right off-the-ball-cut, the ability to post up smaller defenders and an uncanny resistance to pump fakes.
But don’t expect Boston to suddenly become the Hawks in terms of turnovers. For that to happen, everyone else on the team has to value the ball like Marquis does.