There's panic across Celtics Nation, with Boston going 1-4 in their last five games. But hidden amongst all the chaos is is one underlying factor that could be a primary reason for the struggles: the absence of Avery Bradley.
So much attention has been given to other topics, like the rotations and the personnel, but not enough to Bradley's impact. Bradley's progression as a scorer has been covered ad nauseam here on CelticsBlog the past three seasons, but it's almost like the player he is for this team is being underestimated.
Structured rotations or the exiling of David Lee isn't gonna change the fact the Celtics just haven't done a good job of scoring without Bradley.
And that's not just the past few games. It's happened all season long.
There's a lot of conversation about how the Celtics are better offensively when Isaiah Thomas is on the floor, and it's true, but it's also a relevant talking point for Bradley.
The Celtics have a team-best 104.6 offensive rating when Bradley is on the floor this year. That's like the equivalent of how the Cavaliers or Hawks perform as a team. Without Bradley on the floor, the Celtics have a 95.8 offensive rating, which is about as bad as the Lakers and 76ers are as a team.
When Bradley's off the floor, the offense just hasn't been good, so is it much of a surprise the past three games the Celtics have a 96.7 offensive rating? That's virtually identical to what they've done all year without him in the game.
Here's a chart detailing the offensive rating for each Celtics pairing with Bradley:
The chart above details the Celtics' offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) with a certain pairing of players. For example, the Isaiah Thomas row is interpreted as: "The Celtics have a 107.4 offensive rating when BOTH Bradley and Thomas are on the floor, a 98.9 offensive rating when Thomas is on the floor WITHOUT Bradley. So the Celtics are 8.5 points per 100 possessions BETTER when they're paired together.
The Celtics perform better when Bradley's on the floor with each combo of players, other than Amir Johnson (which is a subtle difference). Every other pair experiences a steep drop off. This isn't surprising at all considering the team offensive ratings detailed above, but it does further illuminate player by player.
Even on an individual basis, many players perform statistically better with Bradley on the floor. Isaiah Thomas' eFG% jumps from 43.4% to 50%. Evan Turner's assist-turnover ratio increases from 1.5 to 2.5. Jae Crowder's 3PT% sky-rockets from 27.8% to 40%.
The spacing Bradley provides, as well as his knockdown three-point shooting is a huge boost for the Celtics. And, maybe most importantly, he's another weapon on the floor that takes attention away from Boston's best playmaker, Thomas.
Bradley's stifling efforts on the defensive end of the floor have also been missed. Players are shooting 5.8% worse than average when defended by Bradley, per SportVU. And according to Synergy via NBA.com, Bradley's been one of the league's best perimeter defenders against isolations and spot ups, and he's done well against pick-and-rolls.
The rotations are an issue for the Celtics. They would probably benefit from playing more small ball. And there's absolutely no doubt they'd be better served consolidating some assets for an impactful player.
But those other problems won't be solved overnight.
What the Celtics really need now is for one of their best players, Avery Bradley, to get back on the court.