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It’s the Offense, Stupid

 

A. Sherrod Blakely pointed out something last week that we’ve brought up before: Danny Ainge’s signings this off-season showed an understanding that the Celtics offense was too often a liability in 2010. We mentioned it when the C’s re-signed Nate Robinson and added Von Wafer and Shaquille O’Neal—two defensive question marks (and that’s being kind to Robinson) and one pick-and-roll sieve.

The move to sure shore up the offense raises two questions:

• Will the C’s score more efficiently?

• Will they do so at the expense of their defense?

We should expect a small drop-off in the C’s defensive efficiency with key players aging and the departure of Tony Allen. If Boston can minimize that drop-off and get the offense back to 2009 level efficiency, the team can be a legit title contender.

But Boston fans have to face it: The offense got significantly worse in 2010. The C’s put up 107.7 points per 100 possessions last season, the 15th best mark in the league. They were average, and they were one of the worst offensive teams ever to make the Finals. A year earlier, when KG missed a third of the regular season, Boston scored 110.5 points per 100 possessions—good for 6thin the NBA.

How big was that drop relative to the rest of the league?

Only 6 teams saw bigger offensive declines in 2010:

New Jersey:  -7.7 points/100 possessions (traded Vince Carter, lost Devin Harris for significant time).

Chicago: -4.9 (lost Ben Gordon to free agency, had Vinny Del Negro as head coach)

Minnesota: -4.4 (installed triangle offense as Al Jefferson recovered from knee surgery)

Indiana: -4.4 (got nothing from point guards; Danny Granger missed 20 games)

Los Angeles Lakers: -4.0 (integrated Ron Artest, survived Kobe and Bynum injuries, dropped from a very high perch and returned there in the playoffs)

Portland: -3.1 (massive injuries)

Boston -2.8 (?)

The league as a whole scored 0.7 fewer points per 100 possessions in 2010, but still: Boston’s drop was relatively steep.

Why did it happen? Here are some of the reasons, and they won’t surprise any regular readers of this and other sites:

• Three-point shooting. The C’s hit 39.7 percent from deep in ’09, the best mark in the league and one of the dozen or so best team three-point shooting seasons in league history. They dropped to 34.8 percent in 2010, a mark just below the league average.

Ray Allen put up his worst three-point percentage since the lockout season in 1999, Eddie House couldn’t duplicate his ’09 performance before the C’s dealt him to New York and Rasheed Wallace gave us one of the very worst individual long-range shooting seasons in league history.

Can we expect a bounce back this season? Wafer hit 39 percent from deep for Houston in 2009, and Robinson, with the proper discipline, should be able to approach 40 percent. Delonte West is a capable three-point shooter, but you don’t design plays for West to jack threes.

You design those plays for Allen. A small rebound from Ray would be huge. Does he have it in him at age 35?

• Offensive rebounding. The team fell from 8th to 28th in offensive rebounding rate, and the fall-off should not have surprised us. Older big men tend to focus on jump-shooting and defense, and that left Big Baby as the only member of the 2010 C’s capable of grabbing extra possessions. Exchanging Leon Powe for Rasheed Wallace was the equivalent of exchanging the league’s best offensive rebounding big man for the league’s “worst” offensive rebounding big man. (The use of quotes there is a way of defending Wallace, since grabbing offensive boards never really meshed with his style of play, not even during his prime).

Davis was an elite offensive rebounder last season, and that should continue. Shaq remains a (slightly) above average offensive rebounder, and that is one area where he can really have an impact in Boston—especially if he’s in decent shape. (Ahem).

• Turnovers. The Celtics have been among the three most turnover-prone teams in each of the last three seasons.  They will not suddenly become the Hawks or the Mavs, but giving away two or three fewer possessions per game would add a couple of points to the good guys’ score every night.

There is hope here. Jermaine O’Neal and Wafer are low-turnover players, and West, though not exactly careful with the ball, isn’t Tony Allen, either. Rondo could divvy out his high-risk passes more prudently, and Perk needs to cut the traveling calls. (The illegal screen calls on Perk are a reality we’re just going to have to accept as the collateral damage from an offense that asks a big center to set dozens of deadly screens every game).

There are of course things individual players can do to help the team’s offense. We can hope Paul Pierce’s percentage from mid-range jumps back to his career norms. Rondo must improve his free-throw shooting, and I’ll continue to wage a hopeless battle against Nate Robinson’s heat checks.

But the main team-wide issues are listed above. It’s a tribute to Boston’s defense—both players and coaches—that the team nearly won the title last season despite scoring just 104.9 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. It’s probably wishful thinking to hope they can pull that off again.

Defense might be a bit more important than offense when it comes to winning championships, but offense matters, and Danny Ainge and his team recognized that and did they best they could to address it.

  • wildsheepchase

    I think a lot of the drop in offense has to do with ray ray’s shooting. I remember seeing him missing a lot of those open threes that he used to make in the previous two years. Especially in the finals when he shot miserably from the 3 point land (except for the record-setting game 2). The way our offense is set up, ray’s 3 point shooting is so important as it spaces the floor. Also, it seems like his 3 point shooting is the option most teams allow when they have to pick their poison, instead guarding heavily against pierce’s midrange game or kg’s post up. Granted, Ray did help the team by making more midrange shots last year than the previous years but he really needs to start hitting those open 3s if the celts are to return to pre 2009 offensive form.

  • pam

    im genuinely worried about our defense. we lose tony allen and also lose perk for almost the entire season.
    unless marquis steps up like we hoped he would last year we are really in trouble defensively at the wing and possibly against a mobile center

  • Ross in Maine

    Offense: the OTHER Green.

    Been following Ray closely, and I don’t’ believe that he missed a higher % of open shots this past year. Perhaps the Hub Geniuses can ferret out some shooting data for Ray at hoopdata.com? I think Ray’s issue was the lack of space on the floor and being forced to take more threes when he was not open.

    Other short falls: Rondo; PP’s mid-range shot; lack of 48 minutes of serious post up threat.

    I hope the O’Neal(s) have filled most of those holes.

    Rondo: I want 300 ft’s a day from you! Did anyone notice that after working with the free-throw shooting specialist coach, RR’s fts improved drastically, then, for reasons unknown, slowly slid back to poor as the season went along?

  • CsFanInArkansas

    Is there any possibility of trading Ray Ray for a younger guy that could play the 2 or 3 (i.e. Danny Granger, Josh Howard) ????

    Or, are we just sticking with Ray until he retires??

  • http://CelticsHub.com Zach Lowe

    Why would the Pacers trade Danny Granger for Ray Allen? As for Josh Howard, the Wiz would have to include other pieces to make the salaries match, and I’m not sure what use the Wizards have for a 35-year-old shooting guard.

  • CsFanInArkansas

    @ Zach Lowe: I was just throwing a couple names out of younger guys that can play the 2 or 3 position.

    My point in bringing that up in the first place is: Why, with all of our new depth at guard, could we not use a huge name like Ray Allen and go get a (GOOD) younger, athletic guard that can play the 2 or 3?
    And, if the rest of the league doesn’t think it’d be worth having the shooting and leadership of Ray Allen on their team for a couple years, why do we?

    I love Ray! I want to see him retire a C…but it seems like we could have Delonte/Von/Ray’s trade counterpart competing at the 2 spot OR have Delonte/Von competing at the 2 spot and get a guard that can play the 2, but be PPs primary backup (someone that can score – and defend against the likes of LBJ, Kobe, etc…).

    I feel like our additions this offseason (along with a full year of Nate) will be able to pick up the offensive production that Ray provided, and we could get a serious boost to the small forward position.

    Thoughts?

  • DeVelaine

    @Zach: New font, or is WordPress being silly? Just looks way smaller than everything else on the screen to me is the only reason I ask.

    A few thoughts I have on this and other random things as they struck me today.

    1. Statistical “blip” years happen. Both ways. While the team is getting older, I don’t see them just “losing their shot” like the typical shooting decline seems to indicate. That sort of thing is more like an ingrained behavior, and I have a feeling that if I could find the numbers to support it, shooting declines that happen with age are probably the result of not being able to get as many shots in close, as well as less time on the court. Which basically tells me that we are going to see a “rebound” year. Now if we can just get BBD to pass after he collects an offensive rebound instead of attempting to put it back in…

    2. While I understand how much of a defensive issue some players can be, it’s still something that can be learned if the player buys in to the system. Loved watching House play, but it was fair to say that the only thing he was really good at on the defensive end was staying with his man. Nate’s the same way. And if Boston’s system can mostly hide the normally glaring deficiencies of those two, I’m not so worried there. Shaq is another story…

    3. Speaking of Shaq. I’m less concerned about him being in shape as opposed to Sheed. Shaq has a better work ethic than Sheed does. And size is something you can’t teach or lose. He’s a big body designed to clog up the opposing paint and make life miserable for people down there. Pick and rolls, yeah, sure. But I suspect he’s going to be a nice showing in the paint

    And I also wonder if I might be the only person who thinks Shaq picked #36 for his birthday (March 6th) just because he couldn’t get any of the other numbers he’s worn in the past.

  • Rangatiratanga

    @Ross i’m pretty sure every Cs fan noticed that for reasons unknown.He was hitting around the 75% mark on FTs against Miami and Cleveland,then stonewalled against Orlando and LA.I think it’s called “the choking factor”.
    RR isn’t the only one responsible for our offensive drop.KG not posting up like he used to and resorting to mid rangers,Ray Ray and PP aging, obviously had their hands in the cookie jar.

  • legs-diamond

    D west will get a lot of minutes: will quickly learn Ray Allen’s offensive patterns, will play effective scrambling defense, and will be a good high speed partner for Rondo.

    Shaq comes off the bench: he’ll keep the second unit in the game, but is basically now a one-trick pony (though still a remarkable trick). Given this, can Jermaine O’Neal do Perk’s job of covering the pick and rolls and coming out to set the picks to give Paul and Ray (etc) open looks?

    Unfortunately there still is no Posey type to back Pierce on the team, and it has been a long haul for Paul and the C’s at this position. Pierce cannot be respnosible for big minutes anymore.

    Celts will try to get to 50 wins, make a midseason pick-up and try to repeat their stunning playoff run of last season.

  • c.rock

    fIRST OF ALL, iM NOT HERE TO PUT DOWN OTHERS VIEWS. bUT IN RESPONSE TO TRADING rAY RAY FOR A “YOUNGER” GUY, YOU CANT BE SERIOUS!! iTS A FACT THAT rAY RAYS IN IMMACULATE SHAPE!!!! tHE DUDE IS IN THE SAME SHAPE AS HE WAS AT 24,LITERALLY!! HE UNFORTUNATELY CAN BE A BIT STREAKY AT TIMES BUT!! MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT rAY IS STILL IN THE ELITE CLASS IN THE LEAgue, period!! Trading Ray would severly hurt the c’s. He is a serious threat in and out! he spreads the floor andwears out opponents every nite running all them screens! Ray is still the man!

  • c.rock

    With the addition of Shaq n j.o wewill clinch banner 18!! the fact of the matter is we lost due to our lack of size and rebouding… the second chance oppt… literally killed us at the end of theday. Sheed unfortunately lost his love for the game a few years back. if Sheed shared the same passion 4 winning as k.g he couldve made a big, big difference for us! im excited about this year and i believe in mu heart the c’s will prevale

  • http://www.x.se/qwb2 lacoste women s

    You lost me, buddy. I imply, I suppose I get what youre saying. I get where youre coming from. But you just seem to have forgotten that you can find folks out there who can see this issue for what it definitely is and effectively not agree with you. You seem to alienate a whole bunch of persons who may well have been fans of your internet site.

  • http://www.mostyummy.com/index.php?section=HT+~+Massage Stone Massage Guy

    It wouldn’t be a calamity to get an invitation to Mr. Bryant’s All-Star Bash. I wouldn’t even mind a seat at an All-Star Weekend Party thrown by Devin Ebanks~ I am not too picky when it comes to My Team… LOL.

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