The Boston Celtics are a bad three point shooting team. This won't come as a shock to anyone who has watched them much this season. Boston is fifth worst in the NBA in 3P%, while ranking 7th in attempts. That is not an ideal combination, to say the least. The obvious answer for these stats is that the Celtics just don't have many quality shooters. That's part of it for sure, but another issue is shot selection. The Celtics are taking too many threes in situations where better options are available.
These are a few examples from the game against Detroit. This first attempt by Marcus Smart isn't entirely terrible because of how little time is left on the shot clock.
The problem is that this shot couldn't be more contested. I'd like to see him drive past the defender if he's guarded that close. Smart isn't at that level yet where you want him taking tough shots like these.
This next play involves James Young. His thought process is somewhat understandable. He's not getting a ton of minutes and he's trying to make a big shot in a close game. But it's impossible to watch this without some degree of frustration.
Sullinger swings the ball over to Young and then tries to set a screen. I say "tries" because Young unloads a contested three before Sully is even fully in position. With 12 seconds left on the shot clock, this is bad shot to take. Forcing a three like this just wastes a possession.
The last clip comes later in the game and involves Jae Crowder. Crowder is having a nice year shooting the ball. He's hitting 35% from three, which is the best of his career. The Celtics actually have some pretty clever plays to get Crowder good looks. This one is pretty simple though.
Crowder has a bit of space after the Pistons switch, but the defender is still able to get a hand in his face before the ball is released. There is enough time to keep the ball moving and find another shot, but Crowder hoists it up anyway.
Unfortunately Isaiah Thomas also has to be mentioned if you're looking at the Celtics' shooting struggles. Of players to attempt at least 200 threes this season, the only player shooting worse is Kobe. That's a problem considering that Thomas leads the team in three point attempts. He's been a good shooter in the past, so I don't mind the questionable attempts from him quite as much.
If those transition pull-ups are open, I can live with Thomas taking them. It's sort of like that Bill Simmons 90/10 theory. Thomas' confidence is such an integral part of his game that you have to accept that he's going to take a few bad shots per game. Now if his slump continues much longer, then it might be time to curtail some of these three point attempts. I think he's earned the benefit of the doubt right for now though.
Boston's issues with three-point shooting run deeper than just shot selection. Avoiding bad shots won't magically propel them to the top of the league in 3P%. But it will help the offense avoid some ugly possessions. Without a major influx of shooting skill, the Celtics shouldn't be content with launching contested threes early in the shot clock. Every attempt doesn't have to be wide open, but the Celtics will be better off if they avoid some of these contested looks.