In a proper context—the 2012-13 Boston Celtics—comparing Jason Terry with the predictable production that Ray Allen would’ve likely created is a needless exercise. The former is not replacing the latter from a strategic standpoint. If he were, the Celtics would be a lost hiker, wandering the forest in aimless circles, hands pressed to the sky wondering why no progress has been made.
At this point in his career, Allen is able to bring only one really effective object to the battlefield (IED’s plotted from behind the three-point line) while Jason Terry—no young man in his own right—still comes fully equipped with a duffel bag full of varying weaponry at his disposal. To waste it by trying to replicate what Allen would’ve promised would be wasteful.
Both will go down as two of the best shooters who ever picked up a basketball. Both have made major contributions to a championship winner, and tasted the sourest of Finals defeat. Both were unrestricted free agents heading into this summer, and both chose to part ways with the organization that served as a platform for their most ultimate success. Being that both are well into their 30s—at positions that require miles upon miles of resistant-free running—the multi-million dollar, multi-year contracts each of them signed will probably be their last.
Allen is gone, and Terry is here. This we know. What’s to surmise from the change is one certainty: From a basketball point of view, there’s almost no chance the Celtics are labeling Jason Terry as Ray Allen’s replacement. I know he said during his introductory press conference that he’d do absolutely anything the team asked of him both on and the court, but if Terry’s called upon to constantly run around stagger screens and become the focal point of obvious misdirection plays based on him catching the basketball and then shooting it, I’d be surprised if nary a single word of protest bubbled up from one of the proudest, and smartest, players in the league.
To use him in the same capacity would be a slap in the face to all things “versatility”. Jason Terry wants the ball in his hands just as much as the Celtics want Jason Terry to have the ball in his hands. This is what will happen, and in the end, both parties will be thankful in how the clutter-stained process of free agency managed to work itself out.
The Celtics now have access to not only one of the most respected shooters in the league, but a fatally dangerous pick and roll instigator. After riding the play with Dirk Nowitzki by his side all the way to a title, Terry now finds himself with two new teammates with the exact same skill set. Alongside Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett, running the pick and roll in a green jersey will be as seamless a transition as any incoming free agent will have with any new set of teammates in a long, long time.
According to Synergy, over 25 percent of Terry’s offensive production last season came as the ball handler running a pick and roll. Here are a few clips that show just how much of a defense’s attention Terry grabs when he receives a high screen.
Because they’re two of the most feared shooters in NBA history, whenever Nowitzki slips a high screen with Terry as the ball handler, defenses are immediately resigned to helplessness. In this situation, Dirk’s defender (or Bass and Garnett’s next season) is forced to either stand by him, allowing a split second of opportunity for Terry to get a step on his man. Effective options are few and far between, and the best result is either a wide open shot for Dirk, or Terry squirming into the lane and finding a teammate ready to score (another benefit of having Courtney Lee, the league’s deadliest corner 3-point shooter last season) or getting all the way to the rim and tossing in a floater.
Now, here is where the most engaged Celtics fan might point out that on Dallas, Terry HAD to handle the ball. In Boston, there’s a player named Rajon Rondo who’s usually tasked with that responsibility, and things work out just fine when decisions fizzle through his brain before anyone else’s. Being that there’s a likely chance Terry and Rondo end up playing quite a bit together over the next few years, how will this all work itself out?
Here are my thoughts: With Terry on the court, Doc Rivers now has the option of playing Rondo—one of the most athletic, intelligent improvisers I’ve ever seen play basketball—away from the action for the first time in his career, and to tell you the truth, it’s pretty exciting stuff. With his reputation as a below average shooter (a false one, I might add) still permeating throughout the league, defenders tend to help off Rondo with just the right amount of carelessness to allow him the proper avenue of finding shots closer and closer to the basket. Not to say that Rondo off the ball should be the team’s primary offensive game plan, but one of the most underrated parts of his game is an ability to scurry into open space, especially along the baseline. At the very least it makes this team more difficult to defend, more so than they’ve been in the last four years.
When you splash a player as dangerous as Jason Terry into any offense, doors open for everybody else. The result in Boston? Expect a once predictable Celtics offense to slowly but surely grow some complicated layers.