Celtic 5-man units. The numbers so far.

In explaining his reasoning for The Trade, Danny Ainge alluded to how well the Celtics had played with players at the 5 other than Kendrick Perkins.  I'm sure then, that many of you have been wondering, "Well, how well is that?".  

Since then, a lot of articles and blogs have been bombarded with rebounding totals, points per game, etc.etc. for Kendrick Perkins, Nenad Krstic, Shaquille O'Neal, Glen Davis and every big man this side of the Mississippi.

The problem with those individual numbers is that they don't always tell you much because they have no context.  They don't really give insight into Danny's thinking.

When your goal is to field a winning TEAM, it is important to not get too focused on individual numbers.  Instead, you want to look at how the various players have performed as members of your team.

After the jump, here are some numbers that illustrate how the various 5-man units that the Celtics have put on the floor this year have performed.

Without further ado:

Unit Min Off Def


per 100




% Close



% Close


Rondo-Allen-Pierce-Garnett-Davis 359.3 1.13 0.98 15 50.3% 44.9% 33% 31%
Rondo-Allen-Pierce-Garnett-S.O'Neal 265.9 1.17 0.99 18 58.2% 43.5% 42% 27%
Rondo-Allen-Pierce-Garnett-Perkins 169.7 1.14 1.00 14 50.4% 43.5% 30% 34%
Rondo-Allen-Pierce-Davis-S.O'Neal 160.3 1.22 1.07 15 55.6% 46.9% 29% 31%
Robinson-Allen-Pierce-Garnett-Davis 117.2 1.06 0.91 15 47.7% 38.5% 28% 25%
Robinson-Allen-Pierce-Garnett-S.O'Neal 110.1 1.11 0.90 21 51.5% 37.6% 35% 24%
Rondo-Allen-Pierce-Garnett-J.O'Neal 82.1 1.03 0.98 5 43.5% 40.1% 23% 35%
Rondo-Allen-Pierce-Garnett-Erden 79.3 1.14 1.04 10 55.5% 44.8% 36% 35%
Rondo-Allen-Pierce-Garnett-Krstic 68.6 1.23 0.93 30 54.1% 41.6% 32% 30%
Robinson-Allen-Daniels-Davis-Erden 56.5 1.09 1.27 -18 51.8% 53.0% 33% 27%
Robinson-Wafer-Daniels-Davis-Erden 53.1 1.01 1.00 1 46.5% 47.4% 41% 27%
Rondo-Allen-Daniels-Garnett-Davis 41.1 0.97 0.92 5 42.6% 43.4% 26% 23%
Robinson-Daniels-Pierce-Davis-Erden 31.0 0.87 0.85 2 36.6% 31.4% 17% 33%
Robinson-Wafer-Daniels-Harangody-Erden 27.6 0.86 1.11 -25 37.7% 51.4% 28% 38%
Rondo-Allen-Daniels-Davis-Erden 27.0 1.02 0.85 17 50.0% 43.2% 42% 32%
Robinson-Allen-Pierce-Davis-S.O'Neal 26.4 0.88 1.03 -15 48.6% 46.2% 49% 33%
Bradley-Wafer-Daniels-Harangody-Erden 22.7 0.90 0.96 -6 44.1% 38.5% 24% 41%
Rondo-Allen-Daniels-Davis-J.O'Neal 21.5 0.99 1.34 -35 43.2% 57.6% 30% 36%
Rondo-Allen-Pierce-Davis-J.O'Neal 21.2 0.84 0.91 -7 47.1% 41.7% 21% 33%
Rondo-Daniels-Pierce-Davis-Erden 20.4 0.92 0.94 -2 42.3% 36.0% 46% 32%


The key:

Unit : the 5 players on the floor

Min:  The number of minutes played.

Off:  The offensive points scored per possession.  Higher is better.

Def:  The defensive points allowed per possession.  Lower is better.

Margin per100:  The scoring margin per 100 possessions.

eFG%:  The effective Field Goal percentage.

Opponent eFG%:  The effective Field Goal percentage by the opponents.

% Close shots:  The percentage of shots taken close to the rim.  Higher is better.

Opponent % Close Shots:  The percentage of shots taken by opponent close to the rim.  Lower is better.


When I look at this, its pretty clear that our most effective 5 man unit all year has been The Big FiveRajon Rondo + Ray Allen + Paul Pierce + Kevin Garnett + Shaquille O'Neal.  

Of the units with the most minutes, it has generated the widest scoring margin by being better offensively than the units with either Glen Davis or Kendrick Perkins in them without giving an inch on defense.   In fact while the defensive efficiency ratings with Shaq are just as good, arguably the impact on the opponent's shooting is even better.  With Shaq in the 5, opponents shied away from the rim, shooting only 27% of their shots from in close.   Correspondingly, their eFG% was as low (43.5%) with Shaq as it is with Perkins.   And with Shaq in the post, our offense is clearly much more dominant, able to take 42% of our shots from in close, resulting in an astounding eFG% of 58.2%!

But I think we all knew that.  That's 4 HoF players plus Rondo - arguably one of the top 2-3 PGs in the NBA today.

What if Shaq is not available?  Lets look at some of the other lineups.

Well, one nice thing that this table shows is that Glen Davis has been doing just fine filling in at the 5.   Even though opponents shoot at a shade higher eFG%, probably because Davis is not a great shot blocker, overall, they are generating slightly fewer points against per possession.   This is probably due to Davis' abilty to stop possessions by taking a charge.  That results in a turnover by the opponent and thus zero points on that possession.

With our late, great Perkins, the starters did put up very nice numbers.   But not really better than the numbers put up with Shaq or Davis.  In particular, the defensive numbers just aren't that different.

Not surprisingly, when you pull KG from the starters - THAT is when you first see a real jump in the defensive numbers.  

What IS surprising is that if you take KG out and leave Davis in with Shaq (at the 4 and the 5, respectively) the unit is still very, very good - primarily because of offense.

Sliding down the table a bit, at 68.6 minutes played, we come to our more recent vintage starting 5, consisting of The Big Four plus Nenad Krstic.   The sample size is not as large, and certainly has been against some less than stellar teams.  But if an expectation is that they should crush poor teams, well then, this unit has delivered on that expectation.   With a whopping Margin Per 100 of +30 points, this has so far been the most dominant lineup we've fielded, generating both extremely good offensive AND defensive efficiency numbers.

Against tougher competition, it is impossible to say whether those trends will continue.  On one hand, the opponents will be, as stated, tougher.  On the other hand, with time it is hard to think that this unit won't get more and more efficient working together.

One final bit that deserves mentioning.  With a healthy sample of 227 minutes played with the Big 3 and either Shaq or  BBD in the post, Nate Robinson actually played,  I think, much better than a lot of us give him credit for.   On the other hand, without all three of the Big 3 on the floor, Nate's play was much worse.   I think what was happening was clearly that with those guys all on the floor, Nate played more in control, deferring to their leadership.  With very positive results.   This is not to say we should have kept him.  He would not be the starter on this team.  We need a bench PG who can play better with the bench players.  But it does indicate that Nate does have talent.

I hope you all find this interesting.  I will try to revisit this topic later on when we have more numbers with the new guys.


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