On CelticsBlog, we’ve looked at this in a number of different ways. Jeff looked at the possibility of multiple Celtics making the All-Star team in February. Greg wrote about the combine 64 points from Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum on Friday night against the Cavaliers and how a string of performances like that could catapult them into superstardom. Kemba Walker has become somewhat of a b-story over the last few weeks, but still leads the team in scoring and assists. Gordon Hayward’s has taken on a complementary role since returning from injury and Marcus Smart’s comeback is imminent, too.
Boston’s balanced attack is not just a kumbaya, let-everybody-eat approach so that all the players feel involved. It’s a relentless onslaught of do-it-all ball handlers and wings that has catapulted the Celtics’ offense to 4th in the league in offensive rating at 112.3 points per 100 possessions (as of December 27th).
Consider the usage rate profiles of the eight teams at the top of both the Eastern and Western Conferences (excluding the Celtics for now). Because of injuries, I’ve included some rotation players in addition to their starters for some of the teams:
Contenders’ Usage Rate and PIE
|Los Angeles Lakers|
|Los Angeles Clippers|
|Danuel House Jr.||25||30.4||13.4||6.9|
There are some noticeable trend lines. Teams like Milwaukee, Philadelphia, both Los Angeles teams, and Houston rely heavily on their MVP candidates. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Pascal Siakam, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden average nearly or over a 30% usage rate. Their offenses tilt in their direction. For what it’s worth, their teams are a combined 17-12 when they’ve missed games.
Now here’s Boston’s usage rate and PIE stats:
Celtics’ Usage Rate and PIE
|Robert Williams III||19||14.1||10.8||11.2||12|
He’s not listed, but the buried headline is that Tacko Fall leads in usage rate (50%) and PIE (35.3) in his Gino Time minutes. Outside of Tacko’s stature on the floor and in the advanced box score, Boston is a plateau of reliability and consistency. And to some extent, this is why Boston has been so successful weathering the storm of injuries that have plagued them all season. Only the Heat can boast as balanced an attack as the Celtics with four or more players averaging +20% usage rate.
On Friday afternoon, Brown and Tatum combined for 64 points on 24-for-40 shooting. It’s a strong example of how efficient and varied the Celtics’ offense can be and how each player can shift from being a ball handler and a finisher seamlessly. Both have the ability to create on the ball coming off picks and picking apart defensive rotations:
Or spotting up and finishing off of their other primary playmakers like Hayward and Walker:
By my count, Tatum and Brown were 14-of-26 as primary ball handlers/scorers and 10-of-14 as finishers against the Cavaliers. After the game, Brown spoke about the team’s room to grow:
“We definitely got to continue to have the right balance, make the right plays, the right reads and continue to get better,” Brown said. “We still have our best days in front of us. As a team we got to continue to strive. Worry less about the opponent and more about us. We got to get better. We’re looking to be a team playing deep into the postseason this year.
Every game counts. Every game is a chance to get better. Every game is an opportunity and we got to make sure that we seize it.”
The rotation patterns have also suggested that Stevens and the Celtics are doubling down on versatility and playing their more well-rounded rookies more than the specialists. Grant Williams and Romeo Langford have become regular contributors, averaging 19.1 and 16.1 minutes over the last five games, instead of Semi Ojeleye, Javonte Green, and Carsen Edwards. By March and April, Boston could be a whirling dervish 10 players that are capable of scoring 10+ points each.