Respect for the Rotation Role Players

100 years ago last week Jacob Rodney Cohen, aka Rodney Dangerfield, was born. He didn’t have sustained success as a standup until his 40s when he hit upon a catchphrase that changed his life- "I get no respect." 23 years ago today Grant Williams was born. For pretty much all of his young NBA career Grant has gotten no respect, and he isn’t the only one on this team. Horford was dumped in NBA Siberia to get his money off the 76ers' books. People questioned why the Celtics would spend a mid first rounder to send Kemba to OKC and get Al back. No Celtic over the last decade has been derided by Celtics’ fans like Marcus Smart. Dennis Schroder was a punchline all summer after "fumbling the bag" and having to settle for a last minute mini MLE. The Celtics got Josh Richardson for nothing from Dallas, and 76ers and Mavs fans couldn’t wait to tell us how much he sucked. Romeo was a "bust." Rob was too risky (and not a real center, whatever that means).

At this point the Celtics have 7 solid to elite role players. Those 7 guys have taken time to find their roles on this team, and they have had their ups and downs, but I don’t think the question is "can the Celtics surround Tatum and Brown with enough quality role players?" The big question is the Jays themselves. Can they play the right way? Can they take good shots, and make them? Can they play together? Can they be consistent on both ends of the floor? With that in mind I’d like to look at a few stats and spend a few short paragraphs to celebrating the Celtics’ regular rotation role players.


Grant Williams didn’t play in the Vegas Summer League this August, and fans were generally unhappy about it. It turns out he actually was working on his game and getting in shape. Everybody knows he’s shooting 51.4/ 43.1/ 90.5, and 68.8% True Shooting. Some of his other numbers have improved as well. Most notably he has cut his Turnover Percentage in half from 17.2% to 8.6%, and his fouls have dropped off a cliff too from 6.9 Fouls per 100 Possessions to 4.1.

Last season his Offensive Rating was 105 and his Defensive Rating was 114. This year his ORtg is 133 and his DRtg 108.

Grant is turning into the player the Celtics wanted, and needed. He’s not perfect, and should still improve even if/when his 50/40/90 shooting percentages drop. Right now he’s taking a lot of wide open shots. Teams are going to have to stay attached to him, and that should create space for everyone else. Once game plans change and that happens consistently other things could open up for Grant. If he can improve his playmaking and ability to drive close outs, like he has improved his shot, the Celtics will have an above average player in a position/role where they are paper thin.


Romeo is tough player to measure with numbers. What’s easy to see in games and in box scores is that his 3 point shooting has improved dramatically up from 27.8% last year to 42.9% this year. Even if that’s not sustainable he has always been a solid free throw shooter, so he has shooting upside. He’s still missing a lot of 2s, but progress is progress.

What makes him hard to get a handle on is that he is doing a lot of things that don’t show up in the box score, so you really do have to watch the games. He’s a glue guy. He brings energy and excellent defense when he comes into games. Last season his On/Off was -14.1 per 100. This season he’s just into the positive at +0.8.

Romeo is a decent NBA player who just turned 22. When Mikal Bridges was 22 he was a solid rookie on a garbage team. Now he's a high end role player on a contender. Romeo can be that kind of player. He has a ton of upside left. Romeo played 653 total regular season minutes in his first two seasons. Horford played 782 last year when he was sent home early by OKC. Tatum played 2443 minutes as a rookie. Romeo is so early in his career, and has already improved quite a bit. He worked on his biggest weakness, 3 point shooting, and improved. That’s great news for now and the future.


Richardson is currently producing a career high .112 Win Shares per 48. His 57.5% True Shooting is also a career high.

Josh has had success scoring on drives this season- the Cs score on 61.3% of his drives. He is driving 4.7 times per game in November compared to 3.1 in October. He’s playing more minutes, but also driving more frequently. He often stops short of getting all the way to the rim, but he’s a midrange killer. He’s shooting 64.3% from 3-10 feet. Midrange shots aren’t especially efficient in general, but defenses often give those shots up in favor of protecting the rim and 3 point line. Richardson can get his own shot in that defensive soft spot, and do it efficiently.

Like Smart, Richardson is not at his best in catch and shoot situations. His role in Dallas and Philly wasn’t going to optimize his skillset. He said it himself "I’ve spent a lot of my career being a playmaker… These last few years I’ve been pushed into catch and shoot roles. That’s not really how I like to play." The Celtics need creation, and Josh can help. Despite his rough shooting early in the season the Celtics are 9-6 when he plays.


Time Lord is what happens when a player finds the right role. Since being sick Rob has no longer played enough minutes to qualify for some "league leader" categories, but… His 73.8% Shooting would be a league best, his 140 Offensive Rating would be 1st as well, his 102.7 Defensive Rating is 17th, his .223 Win Shares per 48 is 11th, his 5.7 Block Percentage is 6th (1 spot ahead of Gobert), despite missing a number of games his 56 offensive boards still rank 14th… A lot of efficiency stats tend to favor big men like Rob, but he’s still at or near the top of the league in a number of categories because he’s in a role that fits and he’s doing his job. Not only can he do all that "big man" stuff, but he can really pass and guard on the perimeter.

Rob is under contract for the next 4.75 years for $51.6 million. Even if he misses games for injuries that is an incredible value.


Horford is blocking 1.7 shots per game and his 2.1 Defensive Box Plus/Minus is 8th in the league. His rebounding percentage, 15.3, is his best in nearly a decade. A lot of his basic box score numbers aren’t much different than they were in Philly or OKC, but his advanced numbers like PER, Win Shares/ 48 (career high .187), Box +/-, and True Shooting % are all up. Al’s role and fit on the Celtics are boosting those types of stats despite his raw numbers looking similar, or in the case of his 3 point percentage much worse. The team is benefiting more from Al’s presence than the 76ers ever did, and it's showing up in the advanced stats. (Horford’s 3 point percentage should go up over the season.)

The Celtics needed another quality versatile big like Horford for when Rob is unavailable, and the two of them have even started to figure out how to play well together, but the team also needs what Al brings off the court. The Celtics are still young and most of their young guys experienced a lot of team success early in their careers. Sometimes it seems like they take that for granted while a perennial loser like Devin Booker couldn’t wait to do whatever he had to do to win. Everyone on the team seems to respect Horford. Having a vet like him who the young stars respect and might actually listen to is invaluable.


Schroder is shooting 67.3% inside of 3 feet.

In November Schroder is driving a team leading 16.5 times per game. He’s attempting 7.6 Field Goals on those drives and shooting 60.6%. He’s passing on 35.5% of his drives and those passes are turning into 1.6 assists. He’s getting to the line 1.5 times per game on drives and making 95% of those free throws. In October he was driving 13.7 times per game and shooting 33.3%.

As of today Schroder has played 666 minutes this season. On a team with a lot of "chill" dudes Schroder is the "beast" the Celtics needed. He can put pressure on the rim, and he’s been a more aggressive attacker since the collapse against the Bulls.


That’s another fan post…

It would be great to have more shooting, but this is a defense first team. Every one of these guys is a tough and versatile defender, and trading defense for shooting would be contrary to the teams identity. These 7 guys aren’t perfect, but they have all been as good or better than expected. There’s a lot of good news here. The foundation is strong. Now they need the stars to build a high ceiling.

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