The left behind effect - how will the Celtics players adjust to the stars leaving?


Without Pierce and Garnett, will the Celtics players take a step forward or backward?

I started thinking this week about the potential impact of the Celtics moving on from Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. It seems that each individual player and the team as a whole could go in any number of different directions. Everyone assumes the team as a whole will take a step back (assuming each individual player doesn't take a big leap forward). But it gets interesting when you focus on a few individual players.

Will Rajon Rondo step up some area of his game (namely scoring) to fill some of the gap? Or will his overall game suffer from a lack of Hall of Famers making baskets?

How about Jeff Green? He stepped up his game late in the year so it is assumed (hoped) that he'll be able to pick up more of the scoring load. Then again, he's never been a number one option before so we don't know for sure if he's suited for that role. There's an added subtext that he had his best months after Rondo was hurt, but that could very well have been coincidental.

Then there's Avery Bradley who's offense seemed to take a bit of a step backwards last year (his PER dropped from 11.3 in 2011-12 to 8.9 in 50 games this past year). Will a full year and a potentially bigger role open up his offensive impact or will he continue to be a designated stopper?

I wanted to look back at a few recent examples of teams losing their stars and see how the players reacted to that event. Obviously (disclaimers alert!) ever team and situation is unique and can't be used to predict the future. With that said, it doesn't hurt to study the future so we aren't as surprised by what's coming next.

The two I picked are the Cavs after LeBron James left and the Magic last year (post Dwight Howard). Neither team boasted a player of Rondo's magnitude staying behind, but they did have some quality players left to carry the team into the rebuilding years.

In 2009-10 the Cavs had Antwan Jamison, Mo Williams, Anderson Varajao and Shaq to pair with LeBron. Shaq moved on when LeBorn did and Varajao was hurt much of the following year, so we'll just look at the first three.

Antwan Jamison

2009-10: 18.7 PPG, .461 FG%, 8.4 RB, and a PER of 17.3
2010-11: 18 PPG, .427 FG%, 6.7 RB, and a PER of 16.9

Mo Williams

2009-10: 15.8 PPG, .442 FG%, 5.3 AST, and a PER of 16.2
2010-11: 13.3 PPG, .427 FG%, 7.1 AST, and a PER of 13.9

Quick analysis: It seems that at that point in his career, Jamison was what he was going to be regardless of who he was playing with. His numbers slipped a little bit, but nobody was really expecting him to be a star. Mo Williams, on the other hand, kind of fell of a cliff. His assists were slightly up (LeBron held the ball a lot) but the rest of the numbers were down.

In 2011-12 the Magic featured Jameer Nelson, JJ Reddick, Big Baby, and Ryan Anderson working around the Dwightmare. Anderson moved on but the other three remained. Here's how they fared.

Jameer Nelson

2011-12: 16.1 PPG, .427 FG%, 5.7 AST, and a PER of 14.7
2012-13: 14.7 PPG, .392 FG%, 7.4 AST and a PER of 14.4

JJ Reddick

2011-12: 11.6 PPG, .425 FG%, .418 3P%, and a PER of 15.1
2012-13: 14.1 PPG, .434 FG%, .366 3P% and a PER of 14.7

Big Baby

2011-12: 9.3 PPG, .421 FG%, 5.4 RB, and a PER of 13.3
2012-13: 15.1 PPG, .448 FG%, 7.2 RB and a PER of 15.1

You'd think that without Dwight Howard around, Nelson would try to score some more (as people expect Rondo to) but instead he shifted into more of a distributor role. Reddick scored a few more points but saw his 3 point shooting percentage dip a bit. Big Baby was the one that had the largest uptick in his numbers due to a much expanded role.

So what does any of this have to do with the Celtics? I'm not sure but it is interesting data to consider.

Aside from Jeff Green, will anyone on the Celtics take a jump up in production the way Big Baby did? Will Rondo double down on his passing and not worry about scoring as much? (I don't think that would be wise, but nobody in Waltham called to ask me) Who's most likely to take a step backwards in production? Brandon Bass perhaps?

There was one recent situation where a star was left behind by another star. Dwyane Wade won a title with Shaq and a few years later he was gone and the Heat won just 15 games. However, that year included 33 games of Shaq before he got traded and a Wade injury that limited him to 51 games. So I'm not sure how much benefit it is in analysis.

So what do you think of all this? Feel any better or worse about our expectations for our "left behind" players? Will they each step into bigger roles or step back based on too much being asked of them?

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