Danny Ainge was willing to deal Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green for Chris Paul for the same reason he pursued David West: he was trying to upgrade the offense.
He knows this year’s Celtics team — as currently constituted — cannot score efficiently enough to land a high seed or go deep into the playoffs. Last year’s Celtics finished in the bottom half of the league with an offensive efficiency rating of 104 points per 100 possessions and while Ainge should be lauded for getting value guys like Chris Wilcox, Brandon Bass and Marquis Daniels to bulk up the rotation, none of them are difference-makers on offense. (You could make the argument a healthy ‘Quis gives the Celtics a few interesting looks but he’s rarely healthy and he’s had an above average PER exactly once in his career: his rookie season).
Back in November, before Ainge put together the current roster, CelticsHub fielded some questions for the 5-on-5 at ESPN. We were asked what the Celtics needed most. Brian had this answer:
Someone capable of creating his own shot. Paul Pierce is the only guy currently signed to the active roster that fits this bill. There are a healthy mix of shooters on the roster, but Boston is in dire need of additional firepower off the pine to help take the onus off Rondo and the Big Three.
That pretty much says it all.
Bass may make a few more jumpers than we’re used to at the backup PF spot, Wilcox may get some garbage points on putbacks and Daniels may give the C’s some versatility, but without Rondo evolving into a number one option on offense, the Celtics won’t score enough to escape the second round of the playoffs. Because as great as Paul Pierce and Ray Allen remain as offensive players, it’s proving increasingly difficult for them to provide a high level of defense and sustain their offense game-to-game. This is particularly true of Pierce, who no longer has a chance to outplay, say, Lebron James in a series, on either side of the ball.
Doc Rivers has, in previous years, made overtures about Kevin Garnett working more consistently in the post. That could be fruitful because KG has a legitimate post-game he pulls out of mothballs now and then. However, Doc’s backed off that notion the last few weeks. If KG fades more to the perimeter, where Allen already spends most of his time, and Pierce doesn’t suddenly find his body operating like it’s 2001, incremental decline should be our expectation for an offense that was already subpar.
Going uptempo and going small make sense for a number of reasons but they sort of obscure the real point here. Doc is promising crazy lineups because he’s desperate: he knows he has to try something to jolt this offense.
I’d argue this team just doesn’t have enough offensive talent right now that these kinds of things will make a major difference. I also wonder if the major deal for a Paul or a West, which seemed so close just a couple of weeks ago, will now simply be delayed until the trading deadline. By then, the holes in this team’s offense should be more apparent, and those hoping for an uninterrupted run by this same core group may see the need to make a major change.