With Avery Bradley sidelined, Evan Turner is getting the start tonight against the Brooklyn Nets. That means Turner will be spending more time on the court with Isaiah Thomas. This pairing was one of the Celtics’ best last season, with a +6.1 Net Rating, but more interesting is Turner's presence has impacted Thomas’ usage this year.
Thomas averages 3.6 more free throw attempts per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor with Turner, which means he’s drawing more fouls. That finding made me wonder how much Turner actually impacts Thomas’ his shot distribution.
It’s quite significant.
Thomas attempts 10.2% fewer threes when he’s paired with Turner, and 15.9% more shots in the paint. This explains why Thomas is drawing more fouls, since more of his tries are coming near the rim.
As for Thomas' efficiency, it's about the same. Thomas has a 49.2 eFG% when he's with Turner, and a 47.3 eFG% when he's not.
One possible reason for this change in shot distribution is Thomas is spending less time with the ball in his hands. The Celtics are instead using him in more off-ball screens and dribble handoffs, which puts him in advantageous situations to get to the basket off the move. Evidence of this is Thomas' assist percentage, which is 11.2% lower when Turner's on the floor.
It'll be fascinating to see how the Celtics utilize the Thomas-Turner pairing as they play together more frequently.