Needless to say, the team's first 20 games were a substantially different set of circumstances to analyze. The team's 5-15 record in the second quarter of the season is more in line with the expectations for a Rondo-less team made up of mismatched parts. With numerous trades already in the books and the deadline fast approaching, this analysis will be brief. Winds of change are surely blowing.
TEAM STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN:
- Boston is getting up more shots overall: 5% increase in total shots
- "Mid-range" shooting has been the largest increase: 11% increase in total shots
- Both "Paint" and "Three Point" shooting has dropped in efficiency: 3% and 4% respectively
- Boston decreased total number "Paint" shots allowed by 5% on nearly identical conversion rate
- Boston increased the total number of "Three Point" shots allowed by 21%, with a 4% increase in conversion rate
- Total shot differentials for "Paint/Three" attempts is roughly 3/game in favor of opponent on superior conversion
Overall, Boston has gotten its rebounding and turnover problems under control and down to competitive levels. However, the team is completely ineffective at converting from the interior and the perimeter, which is being compounded by their opponents substantial advantage in conversion percentage, shot volume, and free throw differential. Simply put, Boston's offense is getting less shots in the most critical offensive areas and are converting their shots at a lower rate. This is how you go 5-15 over the next 20 games.
The largest areas of concern are the sizable increase in both volume and conversion of "Three Point" shots from opponents. Boston started the year as a stout protector of the perimeter, but it appears that their strategy for securing defensive rebounds has contributed to their downfall. Boston has been able to cut down on second chance opportunities, partly, by having all 5 of their players involved in the defensive rebounding action. Player's aren't staying at home when the ball gets inside and the extra step or two is creating better looks for the opponent.
It'll be interesting to see if Kris Humphries' increased playing time can help allow a little more perimeter diligence from the back court personnel. The Humphries/Sullinger front court has plus rebounding potential and may be able to compete on the defensive glass without jeopardizing the proximity of the perimeter defenders to their assignments. For now, the focus should be on limiting fouls. Boston's opponent's have seen a dramatic increase in the number of free throw attempts they are generating, as scary thought when coupled with the team's inability to control the three point line.
Jeff Green: |%POINTS: -1 | %FGA: +2 | %FTA: -13 | %REB: +4 | %BLK: +14 | %STL: +11 | %FOUL: +4 | %TO +5 |
Green's decrease in raw scoring and supposed lack of aggression is not supported by the numbers over games 21-40. While Green's conversion rate has dropped in all three spacial zones, his raw attempts from inside the paint have increased as has his ratio of paint-to-three attempts. The largest drop off has been in the percentage of free throw attempts he is generating. It's easy to surmise that there were easier opportunities to be had when both Crawford and Sullinger were peaking during games 1-20, as the decrease in field goal percentages contrast with the increase in attempts. Green is not a "star", but the early data suggests that his individual performance offensively may improve when there is more talent around him and that he's contributing more in other areas of the game when the team struggles.
With less production from the rest of his teammates, Green has found less possessions ending in free throws and more contested jumpshots and closed driving lanes. However, the percentage of "hustle" stats has increased in a number of key areas, showing an increase in activity level over the team's recent struggles. Some of this increase can be attributed to a decrease in the productivity of the others around him, but it certainly refutes the notion that he has been more passive with his recent play. If the team holds onto him and acquires a more potent scoring threat, expect to see an increase in raw production and efficiency from Green.
Jared Sullinger: |%POINTS: 0 | %FGA: -1 | %FTA: +4 | %REB: +1 | %BLK: -12 | %STL: -4 | %FOUL: +2 | %TO -4 |
Sullinger's injured hand has likely contributed to his significant decrease in offensive efficiency from inside the arc. His attempts from both "paint" and "mid" range areas has dropped significantly, even as his attempts have jumped. Some of this inefficiency can be attributed to the increase in defensive attention Sullinger has seen recently, as double-teams have become more frequent and individual defenders more diligent in their scouting.
Sullinger has done an admirable job overall playing out of position as an undersized center. But, the degree of difficulty for his continued scoring effectiveness may be difficult to overcome at his current level of physical conditioning. He is already banging with larger, longer bodies after an offseason spent rehabbing. Improvements to his perimeter game will likely be the best area of focus to keep an eye on until he has the chance to improve his physical composition and play alongside a true center that demands some of the defensive attention he's receiving.
Avery Bradley: |%POINTS: +3 | %FGA: 0 | %FTA: +5 | %REB: +2 | %BLK: +4 | %STL: -6 | %FOUL: -7 | %TO -4 |
Bradley has shown the most improvement from Q1 to Q2 out of the core group. His ability to generate free throws is still sub-par, but he has increased his ability in this area to some degree. His ability to generate points when his shot isn't falling is one of Bradley's biggest developmental needs. As it stands now, he is entirely too reliant on his jump shot. Bradley is an excellent shooter from the corner three and off the dribble. He has become increasingly effective at using screens to free up his shot and work his way into the paint. However, his "at-basket" conversion rate is only average at a shade under 60% - up from 53%, which is encouraging.
Despite excellent speed an improved strength, Bradley doesn't often "explode" to the basket. He tends to favor quick moves and avoid contact instead of using his 38 inch vertical and 190 pound frame to burst "up" and "in" to back line defenders. Bradley put a lot of work into his body this offseason and may be able to carry a weight around 205 in a couple of years. As he grows, he must learn to use power to initiate contact and force referees to make calls. For this season, Bradley would do well to work on his "in-between" game - improving on floaters/runners in the lane to take advantage of the space between beating his initial man and facing the help defense.
Jordan Crawford: |%POINTS: -1 | %FGA: +1 | %FTA: 0 | %REB: -1 | %AST: +1 | %STL: -12 | %FOUL: -2 | %TO +2 |
Crawford's performance from Q1 to Q2 took the most precipitous hit. The easiest way to sum up his decent is simply to say that "degree of difficulty" caught up with him. Crawford shot an unbelievable 59% from the non-basket "paint" area. His ability to convert jump shots in motion going toward or away from the basket was an amazing testament to his raw ability. Crawford was also able to hit an unusually high percentage of three point shots while being challenged or working off the dribble.
However, over Q2 of the season, Crawford's collective "Paint/Three Point" percentage dropped 19% while his total shot volume increased by 30% from three and his trick shots in the paint found their mark 20% less frequently. Simply put, Crawford was an engine that propelled the Celtics to a surprising start to the year, but was trending in the wrong direction offensively. His overall progress as a player was greatly negated by the team's order of priorities in terms of backcourt talent evaluation and pending contract status.
By far, the biggest slippage has been defensively. Part of this can certainly be attributed to advanced scouting having the time to digest their first chunk of footage on Brad Stevens and his defensive strategy. There is also a decent amount of circumstantial evidence suggesting that the downturn in defensive effectiveness coincided with the beginning of trade rumors and subsequent moves made thereafter. Couple these with the pre-existing deficiencies in personnel and you have a recipe for regression.
It is quite possible, perhaps even likely, that Q3 will involve a significantly different group of players. We are already seeing increased roles for Phil Pressey, Rajon Rondo, and the newly acquired Jerryd Bayless. In the interim, it will be interesting to see who responds positively to the current situation and who does not. Defensive intensity is much harder to maintain in the face of adversity. The organization has clearly - rightfully - made moves that signal a lack of urgency regarding this season's results. It is quite possible that a sense of apathy has set in with the remaining players as they perceive the situation around them.
The short-term direction of this team is uncertain. The acquisition of additional personnel could boost the collective level of intensity of the core group, depending on their stature. Other motivating factors could also come into play as the trade deadline passes and players begin to focus more on individual objectives and how they fit into the team's "bigger picture" plans.
One thing is certain, communication will be paramount to the level of true development that takes place over Q3 and Q4. Going through a losing season is difficult on the psyche of everyone involved, despite any potential pots of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow. The clearer the understanding of short-term objectives is, the better off everyone will be as the season continues. As Ainge recently alluded to, it will be interesting to see who on the team is able to persevere with passion going forward.
Hopefully that social experiment isn't left to fate, but orchestrated with a process-oriented approach that is inclusive of all participants. The results of next quarter's analysis may be greatly effected by what is unseen on the court.