Evan Fournier is exactly the type of scorer Boston needed to fill in the gaps of their offense. However, his style of play will only be useful if the Celtics can move the ball like they did against the Houston Rockets, who happen to be one of the worst teams in recent memory.
Fournier is just a totally different caliber shooter than the Celtics have had in their supporting cast over the last couple of years. Not at all limited to just spot ups. pic.twitter.com/ozz44EkqDp— Jay King (@ByJayKing) April 3, 2021
Fournier is basically what we’ve talked ourselves into Aaron Nesmith eventually becoming: a jack-of-all-trades scorer who can bring instant offense off the bench. The clip above shows Fournier moving off the ball and scoring on a catch-and-shoot, two skills which were sorely needed before his arrival. With Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, and the emerging Robert Williams, the Celtics have nearly all their bases covered on offense, but with Fournier, they’ll have an effective and active off-ball player for the first time in a while.
Some of Fournier’s baskets were scored after Houston made virtually no effort to stop him, such as this one:
Fournier sets a screen before relocating and calling for the ball, and those actions alone should do wonders for Boston finding more open shots. Most of the credit goes to Rob for making an outrageous pass, but this is the benefit of moving the ball enough to make the defense react.
Again, all it takes is a little off-ball action for something to materialize. This is the kind of shot we’d only expect Jaylen to make, which is to say they desperately needed another player who can catch-and-shoot efficiently.
I don’t recall ever seeing a play where somebody in a Celtics jersey made a cut from under the basket to the free throw line, so it looks like this play was designed specifically for the arrival of Fournier. Those types of pin downs had been around for players like Avery Bradley and Gordon Hayward though.
However, I’m skeptical that Boston’s current offensive system will get out of its own way enough to accommodate Fournier’s talents and a 35-assist outburst against the Rockets isn’t nearly enough to convince me otherwise. And to be clear, it’s a system that’s been adopted by our players that I take issue with and not the players themselves.
Boston’s isolation style of offense is better suited for the playoffs, but even then I’d like to see what it looks like if they put more emphasis on getting Fournier open looks from off-ball cuts and screens.
The same goes for Jaylen Brown. A solid chunk of his offense also comes on catch-and-shoot opportunities. Not only would this help Boston break free of forcing contested shots in isolation, but it could also be the best way to optimize Rob’s gifted passing abilities. It’s really a win-win for every player involved.
The game against Houston should be seen mostly as an outlier, although it can still be the blueprint of what the offense could look like in the future. And speaking of outliers:
This is the 1st time the Celtics have had 3 players with 8+ assists since 1994— Max Lederman (@Max_Lederman) April 3, 2021
Yeah, that’s not happening every game, but if the Celtics can get the ball into the paint more, it should open up more passing opportunities out to the perimeter. Per Basketball Reference, the Celtics still rank 24th in assists and 20th in free throws attempted. Fournier hasn’t gotten to the line much, but both of those numbers should improve if the team can use him properly.