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Garnett, Durant & The Importance Of Shot Creation


On the May 26 BS Report, ESPN’s Bill Simmons and Ric Bucher spent time talking about Oklahoma City’s struggles to get key scores down the stretch against Dallas. Bucher attributed it in part to the difficulties of getting Kevin Durant the ball, and how OKC’s top-scorer wasn’t physically strong enough to avoid being pushed around the court, and out of his preferred areas.

They also talked about Carlos Boozer’s failures against Miami. Boozer is still taking deserved heat for his porous defense, but the power forward shot only 40.7% for the series. Three games of five, Boozer failed to exceed ten shots. This isn’t entirely his fault, as Simmons and Bucher noted, as the Bulls weren’t exploiting the high screen-roll that Deron Williams and Boozer used so effectively in Utah.

But these failures to get the ball to key, expensive players may remind Celtics fans of game four of the Boston-Miami series.

We seem to have committed to a narrative where Kevin Garnett had an incredible game three (28 points, 18 rebounds) and then found himself gassed for the remainder of the series (he was 7-23 the final two games despite hauling in 21 rebounds).

There’s some truth to that story but if you re-watch game four, you’ll notice how hard the Heat worked to deny Garnett the ball, sending weakside defenders to apply pressure, pushing him off his spots and crowding him. The Lakers did the same thing in the 2010 finals and as a result, Pau Gasol outplayed Garnett. This is distinct from the 2008 finals, where KG routinely managed to get deep position on Gasol.

With all three of these elite players, you can seriously impede their offense by just keeping the ball away from them. The same holds true of Ray Allen, but for different reasons: a relatively weak handle and lack of explosiveness for his position.

Certain players are harder to deny. Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook (all of whom had their names bandied around as MVP candidates at one point this season) can pick up the ball just across the half-court line and do damage with it.

Of course, this is partially due to the way the game is officiated now. A defensive player can get away with more physicality pushing a big off his spots than can a perimeter defender, who isn’t permitted to hand check, or even extend his arms. For example:

If championship teams almost always require two superstar players, it seems increasingly crucial to have at least one of those two be a shot-creating scorer with a great handle. That’s not, by the way, an argument for late-game clearouts for your scorer to go one-on-one (or one-on-five), but a reflection of the difficulty of generating good looks against elite NBA defenses that routinely choke off individual offensive stars. This is why Paul Pierce remains Boston’s best offensive player. He can dribble, shoot, drive, and finish. He’s not the world’s greatest passer, and he’s aging, but he remains a difficult cover, especially given his strength.

All this lends itself to an argument for and against Rajon Rondo as the leader of the next prospective Celtics’ title contender. Rondo can take almost anyone off the dribble, and once by them, can draw the defense and find the open man. But he doesn’t fit in that above group of MVP candidates because of his shooting deficiencies and stretches of tentative play on offense.

If you think Rondo can overcome his offensive problems (and let’s not kid ourselves — they are significant), then you could move forward with him in confidence. A Rondo with a reliable jumpshot, who shoots 75% from the line, could easily be first-team all-NBA.

But if you think Rondo’s headed for another five years like his first five, you have to seriously consider moving him for an offensive upgrade. Because if winning titles is your goal, the incremental upgrade at the top of your roster is probably worth it. There’s a difference between a star who rates an A- and one who rates an A+. Just ask Larry O’Brien.

  • James

    Blasphemy! Rondo for President!

  • Batman

    What upgrade can we feasibly get for Rondo that is a plus for us though?

    • I_Love_Green

      Chris Paul, D-Will.

      • Batman

        Right but those aren't feasible

        • bojo

          why not? both nets and hornets are in risk of losing them and getting nothing in exchange via free agency. why not get a top 5 PG locked in till 2015 + a draft pick or two.

          it wasn't feasible to get d-will from nets last year.

          • Renato Afonso

            I believe that the lack of good offensive players on those teams means that they probably don't want Rondo as well. Both the Nets and the Hornets have problems on knocking down the open jump shot, so why would they need a PG who can't shoot the ball to keep the defense honest instead of having the opposing defense collapse the paint at all times? Wouldn't they be better if they tried to find someone else via free agency or draft? Rondo makes sense on a team who's missing a piece to contend, but those teams have no one the Celtics would accept for Rondo and those that the Celtics' fans covet (D-Will, CP3) wouldn't be traded for Rondo+picks.

            We (fans) keep forgetting that the other teams also see the flaws in our players. They may not discuss them as often as we do, but they are aware of them. I'd say it's easier to keep Rondo (cheap contract, by the way) and surround him with good shooters than to trade Rondo for a top 5 PG in the league.

  • dtla la

    This is the kind of thinking that we need, honestly.

  • janos

    Is pretty good utube ryan but can you get a more zoom? I seen all sort of utube better zoom than that. thank you.

  • Jason

    Well something on offense has to change. This team shouldn't be a middling offensive team, not with their variety of weapons and shooting all over the floor. I wouldn't mind a move away from letting Rondo control the offense so much. Short of Chris Paul and Nash, nobody handles the ball more but while those guys have led top 5 offenses, with less surrounding them, Rondo's handiwork the past two teams have resulted in 15th and 18th rated offensive efficiencies.

  • Jeremy

    And this is why I love the NFL. A guy can't flop there the way Durant does in the NBA. Its almost embarrassing to see a grown man just fake a foul so badly AND still expect the call to go his way EVERY time.

  • I_Love_Green

    Damnit I just watched the 08 championship DVD, and it made everything worse. I just want next season to start already.

  • kricky

    Great post again Mr. Hayes.

    RR is the conundrum. Whether to keep him or trade him now and blow things up. With the Big 3 aging he will be asked to carry a bigger and bigger offensive load. Is he up to the task? That is the big question.

  • phreesh

    I think Rondo is great in Boston. Instead of trying to upgrade a great (if limited) player with a great contract, why not upgrade the other positions? I think the play of the Celtics with a healthy Shaq may point the way forward. Get a solid low post player to add to the medium-to-long range games of Piere, Ray, Green and (to a limited degree) Garnett.

    If you want a high calibre player, maybe move Garnett for someone more comfortable in the low post. But, you lose your defensive leader and a lot of your team's identity.

    Also, I would add Stoudemire to your list of players that can be stopped by denying them the ball. The Celtics took a lot of the Knicks' game away by continuously denying STAT the ball after game one.

  • Morpheus

    Short of a miracle, that ain't happening. How does one get worse at the FT line as a pro? Especially for a guard. He doesn't finish as well as he used to in the paint anymore either. I can't see how a player can make a substantial improvement to his jumper, after 5 years in the league, when your FT percentage has dropped from 60%(still poor) to 56%?

    With Pierce aging and really the only player capable of creating his own shot, Danny needs to look at getting a player who can create off the dribble and knock down shots, which is easier said than done.

    Enter, Austin Rivers.

    • Batman


      He took more shots this year at the rim and finished even better
      But everything else is agreeable

      • Morpheus

        Yeah, that's on layups. I 'm talking about the paint area, 3-9 Ft out. Look at the drop. I mean i really wish Rondo could improve his shooting, but i've been saying that for 3-4 years.

  • I_Bleed_Green

    Rondo is in a good situation in Boston with all the shooters around him. Wait until the big 3 is gone, his weakness will be exposed even more, and no team will want him. I'd say trade himi now when he still has some value. The reason Rondo is not elite (and not even an All-Star IMO) is because you can't put him on any team and expect him to be good. Elite players are the ones who you can put on any team and they will perform at the same elite level (i.e. Lebron, Wade, Deron William, D-Rose etc..)

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