• Until this year, he was a dependable three-point shooter. From 2003 to 2009, Finley shot at least 36.4 from three every season and shot better than 39 percent four times. He’s down to 31.7 percent this season, but he’s attempted just 41 threes. Is the J still there?
• Don’t expect him to attack the rim. In 2008, 93 percent of his shots were jumpers, according to 82games.com. In 2009—when Finley, at age 35, played more than 2300 minutes in 81 games—90 percent of his attempts were jumpers.
• Don’t expect great defense. The Spurs defense gave up 7.3 more points per 100 possessions with Finley on the floor in 2007, 3.35 more in 2008, 7.5 more in 2009, and 7.2 more in limited minutes this season, according to 82games and Basketball Value.
His numbers at Basketball Prospectus are more encouraging, showing Finley’s direct counterparts—i.e. the other team’s small forward or two guard, depending on where Finley was slotted—produced below their normal levels against Finley last year. But that could have as much to do with San Antonio’s excellent ’09 team defense as it does with Finley.
• Don’t expect many rebounds, assists or steals.
Finley’s grabbing fewer than 10 percent of available defensive rebounds so far this season, a mark that would rank him in the bottom-five among forwards in the league, right alongside Jared Jeffries, Brian Scalabrine and Al Thornton, according to Basketball Reference. That rebounding rate is even below average for shooting guards, according to Hoopdata.
So a shaky rebounding team is adding a shaky rebounder.
Finley’s assist rate of 6.9 (meaning he assisted on 6.9 percent of San Antonio baskets while on the floor) ranks near the bottom of the league among guards, according to Basketball Reference.
Basically: The C’s are getting a guy with one NBA skill, and the Spurs apparently decided that either that skill was no longer there or Finley’s other skills had eroded to the point that the team couldn’t justify playing him.
But the C’s could use a guy with that skill. Between Tony Allen, Rajon Rondo and Marquis Daniels, the C’s have three guards or guard-ish players who either can’t shoot jumpers or are (at times) unwilling to shoot jumpers. Daniels is shooting long twos better this season than ever before, but he’s only a career 30 percent shooter from that range, according to Hoopdata.
When two of those three guys are on the floor, the area below the foul line can get pretty crowded, and that makes it harder for guys to drive to the hoop or score from the post. It makes the screen/roll less effective. Finley is here to space the floor, and if he can’t manage to do that, all the C’s have lost in the learning process is the veteran’s minimum salary and a small number of regular season minutes.
The signing of Finley recognizes two fundamental things about this team:
1) The Celtics are a below-average three-point shooting team. They’ve hit 34.8 percent of their threes this season, down from 39.7 percent last season. (Hi, Sheed!);
2) The team’s offense is a bigger problem than its defense. The C’s defense has been ranked #1 or #2 in points allowed per possession for the entire season; the offense has hovered between #13 and #16 for the past month.
The team can struggle scoring the ball, and adding a guy who can shoot and doesn’t turn the ball over could help. Could.
Who loses minutes? Somebody has to, but I suspect there’s no easy answer, and that Doc will divide the minutes based on match-ups and the flow of each game. Can Nate-Daniels-Finley work? Sure. Nate-TA-Finley? Sounds do-able. Rondo-Nate-Finley? Might be a little small, but would be fun as heck to watch. Rondo-TA-Finley? Rondo and TA have played a lot of minutes together with Ray Allen, so Finley could slide into Ray’s spot there and save Ray a few minutes.
Lots of possibilities, lots of interesting things for us to watch over the season’s final 20 or so game.
Welcome, Mike Finley. Now make some damn shots.