The importance of inside scoring - why I think this team is upgraded.

So at this point, it looks like Danny has probably finished all his moves. There is still a slim chance he may pull something else off, but any further moves become very, very difficult. Not only is Danny more constrained by CBA rules (he can't move folks that he has just officially signed for 90 days) but so also are other teams with many of their players.

So my assumption is that at this point, this is our probable roster going into the 2011-2012 season:

C: Jermaine O'Neal, Chris Wilcox, Greg Stiemsma

PF: Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, JaJuan Johnson

SF: Paul Pierce, Jeff Green, Marquis Daniels, Sasha Pavlovic

SG: Ray Allen, Avery Bradley, E'Twaun Moore

PG: Rajon Rondo, Keyon Dooling

A lot of folks look at that and are not excited. They ask, "Wilcox? Stiemsma? Bass? Who are these guys?" and "Where is the big name scorer Danny was supposed to add?" Further, they complain that with Rondo and his supposed outside scoring deficiencies, that our offense will continue to stagnate like it did in the second half of the season last year.

My contention is that the above DOES represent a signficantly upgraded team on offense and that the reason why has to do with the 'no name' interior big men we added. I'll explain my reasoning after the jump.

First off, let's deal with some myths.

The first one is that Rondo has no outside shot. This is simply and provably not true. He took the 2nd most of his shots from 16-23 feet last year and shot a very healthy 41%. You can argue that he benefits in that from defenses 'sagging off' of him, but that doesn't change the fact that those shots went in for him at a rate much higher than many 'name' shooters like Russel Westbrook, Dwayne Wade and others. It's also important to note that that number was not a small-number statistical fluke because he has shot well from that range for most of his NBA career.

Still, critics contend the problem then is that Rondo still doesn't take enough _volume_ of shots, instead trying to boost assist numbers. That is basically a contention that Rondo is somehow 'selfish'. I would argue that what he is doing is trying to maximize the scoring efficiency. On each possession of the ball you only get one 'first shot' and you want to miss that shot as little as possible because whenever you miss a shot, the defense tends to grab it 2/3 of the time. While Rondo was definitely better than average at that outside jump shot, it was always a better idea to try to get an even higher percentage shot off -either by feeding someone inside - where FG% shoot up to ~65% or to dish on the outside to someone like Ray, KG, Paul or Jeff Green in THEIR best shooting locations. If the team MUST take a shot from that range, you wanted it from a guy like Jeff Green (51%), KG (47%) or Ray (46%). But by far, the preference is to generate scoring at the rim. When you take shots at the rim, more go in than miss. That means fewer end up in the hands of the defense.

So, you don't necessarily need scoring to come from Rondo to boost your offensive output. What you _need_ is whatever helps you take, as a team, more high percentage shots and fewer low percentage shots.

The road to higher percentage shots is NOT through taking more outside shots.

The most dominant 5-man unit in the NBA last year was Shaquille O'Neal + Big 4 in the first half of the season. That unit had the biggest net possession efficiency because it was both lock-down on defense and unstoppable on offense. And that did not at all require any sort of volume scoring by Rondo.

The reason that unit was so successful was very simple: Team's could not use their bigs to double team both KG or Shaq without the other being covered by a wing and even if they sagged a wing to help double on one of them then that left the other single covered, not to mention left Ray, Paul or Rondo open. When teams sagged off Rondo, he had a clear passing lane to either Shaq or KG inside. When they didn't, he blew by them and either laid it up or dished out as the defenses collapsed.

Unfortunately, of course, Shaq got hurt and what could have been an easy ride to a title evaporated. Now, when Jermaine O'Neal or Semih Erden were in at C, we weren't quite the same dominant force, but both those guys still commanded enough attention inside that their defenders could not abandon them. Both JO and Semih were long enough they were not easy to block and good enough touch shooters so you could not leave them alone down low. Thus double teams on KG had to come from smaller defenders leaving Ray, Paul or Rondo alone. So even with JO or Semih in at C, our offense still could generate points.

So then we come to Glen Davis. When we had BBD and KG in together, initially it was okay. In fact they were damn good. In the first half of the season, BBD would bang inside and played within the offense, keeping the ball moving until it found the best shot. In the latter half of the season, though it was less and less effective. BBD gained more and more weight, hurt his knee, had no lift inside and could not score inside because he'd get blocked. And so he'd shift more and more to the outside and the ball would sink into his hands and he'd take a low-percentage _even though uncontested_ shot from 18 feet!

People complain about how team's would 'sag off Rondo' - but that wasn't the main problem. We have numerous plays for defeating the under-screen defense on Rondo. Red's Army posted a real nice article detailing how we do this. The problem was that defenses would ALSO sag off BBD whenever he popped outside. BBD was/is a FAR WORSE shooter than Rondo from outside AND is not a threat to suddenly blow by you on the dribble. Teams began to sag off BBD and dare him to shoot. This let the defense drop his big into the paint to help double KG and otherwise clog the paint.

So BBD would find himself alone outside, wide open and would take those shots. Lots of them. He took the biggest share of his shots from 16-23 feet. Unfortunately, he shot _terribly_ from that range. Just 35%!!! To give you some perspective, practically EVERY one of our main-rotation players can shoot that shot at a MUCH higher percentage. I gave you some numbers up above. League average from that range was 39.4% . BBD very simply was killing our efficiency.

I can't stress how schizoid BBD's season was. In the first half, we were practically as good with him in the lineup as with Shaq. In the second half, it was just awful. Now, part of that was utilization and matchups. Early in the season, BBD joined the Big 4 often as PF off the bench, with KG shifting to C against non-dominant C's. But with Shaq, JO & Semih out, BBD was more and more on the floor with KG against starting unit bigs. That combined with his own weight gain and knee injury probably is what lead to the sudden down spiral of his game.

So BBD went from potential 6th Man winner to problem child, we lost Shaq after half a season, JO ended up missing most of the regular season, Semih's shoulder became so bad even he could not play, Perk came back back briefly but wasn't really very effective - especially on offense - and got injured again just as BBD ALSO got injured. We had no true center anymore. We made the trade and had a momentary uplift with Krstic but then HE got banged up! The second half of the season our efficiency steadily got worse and worse. And it was largely because of no offensive presence in the post.

So now we come to this year's new squad. BBD is gone. Shaq, Semih, Krstic & Perk are also all gone. Our crew of bigs this year includes:

Greg Stiemsma     6-11  260  C

Jermaine O’Neal 6-11 255 C/PF

Kevin Garnett 6-11 253 PF

Chris Wilcox 6-10 235 C/PF

JaJuan Johnson 6-10 221 PF

Jeff Green 6-9 235 SF

Brandon Bass 6-8 250 PF

Now, that crew includes a lot of individual question marks. But it also includes a lot of length and size. That's five guys listed over 6-10. I'm going to submit that overall, if healthy, that crew of bigs represents a serious upgrade for our offense over what we had in the second half last year.

Ignoring KG, the four guys I expect to get time at C are JO, Wilcox, Stiemsma and Bass.

JO did not show a lot of offense last year, because he just didn't have enough time to get in the flow of things offensively, but he normally is a pretty good offensive post presence that may not be 'Shaq-like', but if healthy, he definitely cannot be ignored in the post. Over his career, he has always been a very good shooter (mid 40s%) at all ranges out to past 16 ft and he can definitely finish at the rim when in close.

Similarly, Wilcox and Bass are both very good offensive players. Wilcox is a decent jump shooter, not as good as JO or Bass, but he is fantastic at the rim. That alone means that if team's try to cheat off him to double KG, he's going to kill them inside.

Because, like BBD, Bass is undersized, he also tends to pop outside a lot and takes a large share of his shots from 16-23 feet, but unlike BBD, Bass is a very _good_ outside jump shooter. He hit that 16-23 footer at a 47% clip last year! So unlike BBD, he will force his defender to come out with him which _benefits_ our offense.

Stiemsma is an X-factor. What little we do know is mainly about his defense, but he moves well in the post and has the size and length to finish at the basket and if given the ball inside he is not going to get blocked easily like BBD was. So even HE cannot be simply ignored on offense. This kid is huge and strong. If his man tries to cheat and double on KG, Rondo can oop-to-him and he will finish over any smaller defender. So if nothing else, Stiemsma will force defenses to play honest.

On the other end of the court, there is legitimate question about defensive drop-off from Wilcox and Bass, neither of which are known as great defensive centers. Bass, when at the 5 should mostly be situational though. I doubt Doc will have him there against really big Cs. And I expect both of these guys to benefit from playing with KG and Jermaine, two of the best defensive bigs of the last decade. Stiemsma comes with excellent defensive credentials (albiet from college and D-league) and I think he's going to be fine on defense.

Having bigger - and healthier - bodies in the post on defense should be good for our defense. And we all know that getting stops on defense is another key to getting our offense running.

In other words, a healthy JO plus Wilcox+Bass+Stiemsma at C (not to mention having JaJuan's length at PF off the bench) should result in a significant upgrade in our inside scoring over what we had in the second half of last year. Obviously, the word 'healthy' is a key factor in that statement.

The key to a high-efficiency offense is, as I said, scoring (or at least the THREAT to score) inside. In the first half of last year, we were ridiculously dominant in that. Then Shaq, JO & Semih got injured, Perk got injured, BBD got fat and injured and the wheels just slowly came off.

In closing - It's interesting to note that KG's biggest offensive explosion in the playoffs came in the Miami game that we got 8 1/2+ minutes from Shaq and another 21 1/2 minutes from JO. And only 10 minutes of BBD. Just 30 minutes of O'Neal Brothers and *BOOM* KG erupted for 28 pts and we won that game by 16 over Miami.

Sadly, Shaq only managed another 3 minutes the rest of the way.

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