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First to the Floor: Derrick White vs. Marcus Smart? Payton Pritchard vs. Al Horford? Who ya got?

The pod introduces a new segment, Celtics Faceoff, where they pit players’ skills against each other.

Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

In this episode, Ben, Jake, and I talk big picture on where the team sits, discuss some trade deadline targets, quickly preview the Warriors game, and introduce a new (hopefully recurring) segment: Celtics Faceoff. The segment is fairly simple. We present two players and evaluate who is better at a particular skill. It ended up being extremely fun and I think provides a different way to evaluate and discuss specific parts of these players’ games. So, without further ado, here is Round 1 of Celtics Faceoff.

Marcus Smart v. Derrick White: Screen Navigation

Starting off with a difficult one. This feels like picking between two of my children (although I only have one so I don’t really know what that feels like), two guys that excel getting around screens, whether it’s when guarding a high ball screen or chasing around shooters.

Smart uses his strength and physicality to get up and over most screens, while White is more serpentine in the way he sneaks by them.

We all know Smart is the master of drawing offensive fouls when he gets screened, and he’s got that sweet spin move when he goes under. Those might just be enough for him to edge out Derrick White.

Spooney’s verdict: Marcus Smart by a hairline.

Al Horford v. Luke Kornet: Rim Protection

Seems sort of like a joke at first, but actually an interesting one. This isn’t comparing them as overall defenders, where Al would leave Luke so far behind he’d need actual wings, not the Stromile Swift version, to catch up to him. But, on just rim protection, it’s actually fairly close.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Charlotte Hornets Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Al slightly edges Luke in blocks per game, .9 v. .8, but per-36 minutes, it’s not close. Luke is at a gawdy 2.4 blocks per 36 minutes, more than Rob Williams, to Al’s 1.1. That’s a check in Luke’s favor, but the more detailed defensive numbers tell a different story.

Al is contesting a healthy 5.8 shots per game taken less than 6 feet away, and opponents’ field goal percentage drops a ridiculous 11.2% with Al defending. Opponents shoot 2.3% worse on fewer shots with Luke defending in the same area. Good, but not elite.

Spooney’s verdict: Al is still teaching lessons on how to defend the rim.

Payton Pritchard v. Al Horford: Offensive Rebounding

Payton Pritchard averages 1.8 offensive rebounds per-36 minutes to Al Horford’s 1.3. His 4.7% offensive rebound percentage edges out Al’s 3.8%. Pritchard has the luxury of never being boxed out, while Al is constantly fighting for position against the biggest dudes on the opposing team. Watching Pritchard rebound is really, really fun though.

“I just sneak in and read it off the rim. A lot of rebounds are not above the rim. They’re below. So, it’s who’s going to be the fastest to get there,” Pritchard said after grabbing three offensive rebounds against the Brooklyn Nets.

I know what the numbers say, but I really don’t care.

Spooney’s verdict: Al is the correct answer, right? right??!!

Jayson Tatum v. Marcus Smart: Post scoring

I actually don’t think this one is particularly close this season. If this were playmaking from the post, we might have a discussion, but Tatum’s post up numbers are absurd. Tatum clears Smart in just about every way from the post. More possessions (65 to 28), higher points per possession (1.37! to .93), and higher score frequency (67.7% to 46.4%). Tatum isn’t just the best post scorer on the team, he has an argument for the best in the league. He’s in the 98th percentile of post efficiency per, and man, does it look good when he’s got it going.

Smart is no slouch in the post, especially for a 6’3” guard. He’s in the 53rd percentile as a post scorer. Not bad, Marcus, but you just ran into a juggernaut.

Spooney’s verdict: Jayson Tatum.

Blake Griffin v. Luke Kornet: Comedic Value

MJ v. LeBron. Ketchup v. Mustard. Is a hot dog a sandwich? Some of the greatest debates of our time have nothing on this heavyweight duel. Kornet has the on-court antics, the goofy facial expressions after that reverse finish, the Stromile Swift celly.

He’s also quite funny in interviews. That said, Blake Griffin is an actual comedian, kind of, who does real stand-up sets. Seems like a pretty easy one.

Spooney’s Verdict: Luke in a LANDSLIDE.

I hope you enjoy this one, we had a lot of fun recording it and let us know in the comments your thoughts on the Celtics Faceoffs. Please remember to subscribe to the CelticsBlog podcast feed and First to the Floor on YouTube. Thanks for listening!

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