You could say that Danny Ainge has a thing for point guards. Since starting the rebuild three seasons ago, he's signed Phil Pressey, drafted Marcus Smart, signed Evan Turner, traded Rajon Rondo, traded for Isaiah Thomas, and drafted Terry Rozier. Over the last couple of years, the NBA has turned into a point guard league, and is it possible that he still hasn't found what he's looking for?
According to NBA.com/Stats, the Celtics were 8th in total passes per game and 6th in assists per game (3rd in potential assists). Brad Stevens's read-and-react system gives everybody a chance to make a play for themselves and, more importantly, for their teammates, but there's still a premium on primary ball handlers and playmakers, particularly point guards.
Isaiah Thomas and Evan Turner dominated the ball for the Celtics, with Thomas averaging 85.3 touches per game and Turner handling the ball 55.8 times. Despite starting the season poorly, Boston finished 13th in offensive rating after changing the starting lineup, shuffling rotations, and figuring out combinations. Here's how the nine-man rotation breaks down in terms of percentage of field goals made assisted and unassisted and what percentage of assists a player accounted for while on the floor:
Thomas and Turner accounted for 55.9% of assisted field goals. By comparison, for the conference finalists, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving generated 33.9% and 25.3% of the Cavs' assists, Steph Curry and Draymond Green 31.5% and 27.7%, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant 46.8% and 13.0%, and Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan 29.3% and 20.8%. As much as we want to believe that the Celtics will always make the right basketball pass and it doesn't matter who is making them, it's hard to ignore the simple fact that every team needs its catalyst and at least two of them.
If Evan Turner isn't back in green next season, the Celtics will be in dire need of another playmaker. Smart has shown signs of his drive-and-kick game from Oklahoma State, but he's still a work in progress. Terry Rozier is even further behind on the offensive end. And consider the star players that are most often linked to the Celtics via trade or free agency. Jimmy Butler is one of the league's best two-way players, but he's not a franchise player that doesn't necessarily make his teammates better on offense. Big men Al Horford, DeMarcus Cousins, and Jahlil Okafor can score, but they're not inside-out post players like the Gasol brothers or modern game bigs like Draymond Green or Blake Griffin that can make the necessary pass.
There are rumors that Kris Dunn is rising in mocks and draft boards as the 2016 class's best point guard, and many, including ESPN Insider Chad Ford, have pegged him at #3 on their draft board. Thomas made some Twitter noise yesterday when he bristled at Ford's comments that Dunn would be Boston's best point guard if he joined the Celtics, but Thomas knows (and has campaigned) that he needs help. The 22-year-old Dunn could be an immediate contributor.
The Sixers are again reportedly interested in moving Okafor or Nerlens Noel for a chance to draft Dunn, but there's no reason the Celtics shouldn't consider taking him themselves. Despite Dunn's refusing to workout for Boston and saying that he doesn't want to play for a team that already has an established point guard, Ainge has always employed a "best player available" strategy, and if that's Dunn, there is definitely a role he can fill on this team. Per Kevin's draft guide, Dunn is "a true playmaker with excellent size and speed capable of creating off the dribble in isolation situations." What's not to like?