For most of last night, Boston’s offense was humming like Crash Test Dummies. An offensive rating of 113.2 against a top-three defense? Thank you sir, may I have another! (That’s from The Animals House).
But there was still one unsettling hitch in the offense, one that could emerge as an issue throughout this new season. It showed up when Jason Terry played alongside Rajon Rondo.
Terry and Rondo shared the court for about 21 minutes last night. When they were on the floor together, Terry did what the nation expected of him and stashed himself in the corner, waiting in case anyone wanted him to shoot a three. Most of Terry’s offensive possessions when Rondo’s on the floor this season are going to look like this:
Like, exactly like that. Including the missing. Jason Terry’s overall 3-point percentage last season was 37.8: definitely a good shade below Ray Allen’s stupid 45.3, but serviceable. But in spot-up situations like those above, Terry’s percentage sags to 31.9. That makes him, as Allens go, more of a Tony.
Those numbers bring out two conclusions: 1) Jason Terry’s still a buttery scorer off the dribble, and 2) he’s probably not going to be as useful as Ray was in a Rondo-led offense.
Some overlap between Terry and Rondo’s abilities is not a surprise. Terry’s real value has always come when he’s the best offensive player on the floor, bringing the ball up and finding space for himself and himself alone, protecting the ball from both defenders and his own teammates. His assist rate was a titch below Paul Pierce’s last year. That’s how he produces. It looks like this:
Possessions like that are a blast when the alternatives are Jeff Green back-rimming a three or Jared Sullinger backing down somebody four inches taller than he is. But you’re not going to see much of those Terry possessions when Rondo’s out there, and Terry only got four minutes of floor time without Rondo last night. That’s not an anomaly: Rondo plays heavy minutes in important games and will continue to do so. So Terry’s stuck with a less-than-ideal role as a spot-up guy for the majority of his time on offense, and he can’t really afford a huge decline his shooting efficiency because he’s not a good defender.
I’m not sure what the solution is to maximize Terry’s value as he plays with Rondo. They may develop a few set plays where Terry and his teammates move off the ball to get him a mismatch, then Rondo finds him and lets him go to work: he still kills bigger, slower defenders from the perimeter. But Rondo’s game isn’t exactly finding his teammates in places for them to dribble around for ten seconds. And whenever Terry’s creating a shot among the starters, he represents something of a redundancy, because Paul Pierce is still Terry’s superior as a creator. If somebody’s going to be called on to produce offense out of nowhere, I’d prefer it be Pierce to Terry.
Terry’s best use, for now, is probably just keeping Boston in games when Doc wants to limit his starters’ minutes: he could bench Paul and Rondo for long stretches and still have a true scorer on the floor, one operating in his ideal capacity. But those moments will be fewer in spotlight games like last night’s and the playoffs, which means Doc’s going to have to find a role for Terry that extends beyond regular season schedule filler.