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Brad Wanamaker, king of transition

Boston’s backup point guard is surprisingly frisky on the break.

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Boston Celtics’ reserve Brad Wanamaker isn’t particularly fast as compared to his peers. In fact, he might even qualify as slow relative to most NBA point guards. As such, it may come as a surprise to learn that Boston’s backup floor general is one of the league’s more effective transition scorers, a role typically reserved for lightning fast ball handlers and high flying wings.

And yet, there he sits in the 83rd percentile as compared to the rest of the NBA, generating a very healthy 1.33 points per possession finished in transition. Wanamaker’s interest in getting out on the break is undeniable. He frequently grabs outlets from teammates and immediately scoots toward the other end of the court. Sometimes his efforts result in forays to the basket, other times in slowing things down and starting a half court set, but almost always they begin with at least getting in position to push the tempo.

Opponents have a tendency to fan out to defend the Celtics’ many shooters. Wanamaker simply dribbles towards the hoop until someone opts to stop him. He’s got the craft to make defenses pay for underestimating him. Wanamaker loves to time up his steps for unconventional, wrong-footed layups, using his shooting shoulder to nudge defenders off balance and create just enough space to place the ball neatly through the rim.

Wanamaker’s success is tied at least to some degree to the Celtics’ other fast break threats. Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown, form a trio of versatile, athletic wing players that more snugly fit the bill of traditional transition monsters. But it’s Wanamaker that leads the team in in frequency of plays finished in transition, and only Hayward has proven to be more efficient under such conditions to date.

Wanamaker’s success comes as part of a collective effort to push the ball consistently. Boston’s 17.6% of plays finished in transition ranks fourth in the NBA, per Cleaning the Glass. They’ve struggled to score the ball on the break when compared to the league at large, a reality driven by an odd quirk of roster construction.

While the Celtics best scorers on the break are quite good, the team’s anchors in the department also exist in the extremes. Marcus Smart lands in the bottom third of the league as a transition scorer, Kemba Walker its bottom fifth. Carsen Edwards - the only other player with enough attempts to register in the database - somehow managed to rank in the 0.0 percentile.

Inefficient transition offense is still worlds more valuable than quality half court play though, and Boston has found success in getting out on the break with consistency. They’ve got an unlikely face leading the way in Brad Wanamaker, but the proof of his effectiveness is in the pudding.

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