In this week's NBA Power Rankings, Britt Robson makes an astute observation about the Celtics post-All Star Break:
Because the Celtics allow the fewest points per possession in the NBA and rank 28th in offensive efficiency, the assumption is that they are winning almost strictly with defense. But those numbers mislead, and they are a product of coach Doc Rivers' philosophy of getting back on defense rather than hitting the offensive glass. Boston has grabbed 480 offensive rebounds (7.9 per game), 110 fewer than anyone else and 213 below the league average. That's a lot of possessions that aren't extended. But since limping into the All-Star break at 15-17, the Celtics are 21-8 because, while the defense has yielded 1.5 more points per game in the second half, the offense has scored an additional 4.8. Most of the credit here belongs to Rajon Rondo, who is averaging 13.2 assists with a 3.57-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio since the break, and Kevin Garnett, who is taking 3.1 more shots per game while increasing his accuracy from 50.3 percent to 51.2 percent. Garnett and Brandon Bass are both shooting 48 percent from 16-23 feet for the season.
So, I have some beef with Robson ranking us 8th, but his point doesn't go unnoticed: the Celtics have been playing better on offense. Sure, they have given up more points, but it's only 1.5 per game and that could be a product of better teams, a tougher schedule, and tired legs. On the offense end, Boston has become very efficient with Rondo penetrating and finding open shooters or Avery Bradley, Greg Stiemsma, and Ryan Hollins cutting to the basket.
There's been a lot of talk recently of who'd we'd rather have today--Stiemsma or Perkins--but that conversation should be really be expanded to what it means having Garnett starting at center and Bass playing the 4. With two bigs that can stretch the floor, this allows Rondo more space and freedom to probe the paint. Stiemer's got a quick trigger jumper himself and is confident in shooting it. I lover Perk, but his J was something neither he or the team really felt comfortable about.
This all seems pretty simple, but it could be a signal of things to come, especially with what is expected to be an interesting summer. With Rondo now the focal point on offense, Danny will be in the market for players with a solid mid-range game and an ability to finish at the rim. Again, this sounds elementary, but I think that thinking could eliminate a lot of ball heavy wing players from the off-season wish list. For example, Danny might opt to go with someone like Carlos Delfino rather than an Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo, or Nick Young. With the way the team is playing, it might even make more sense to go after Chris Kaman and his face up jumper rather than overpay somebody like Roy Hibbert.
In the past, I envisioned this team post-Big Three as this running-and-gunning dynamo with Rondo at the point of attack, but the more I see this team flourish in the half court, the more I fall in love with the ball movement and finding the open guy. Hasn't it been refreshing not seeing Garnett and Pierce back their man down on the box and watching the offense stagnate?