Read & React is my cheesily branded column where I link to other people’s columns (often times cheesily branded as well) and “react” to what I read there. I often forget to do this for months at a time, so I feel the need to re-explain the title often. Thank you for humoring me.
This may be the most important niche number of the season: 30.4%. That is the share of Boston’s shots that have come within the restricted area — eighth lowest in the league, per Cleaning The Glass. It is about identical to their number last season.
Boston also ranks below average (19th) in free throw rate; they were 28th last season.
Zach goes on to explain that the Celtics are clearly a great shooting team that is going to do just fine on most nights even if they continue with the current shot diet. But there are times when shots won’t fall or you need to generate some extra points. Having high volume and highly efficient shooters on the court creates lots of space to operate. So, the point is, it wouldn’t be hard to do some tweaking (or “recalibration” as he calls it) and get a few extra baskets per game by attacking the basket.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, it should. This has been a point of emphasis for Joe Mazzulla (having a curveball) and Jayson Tatum in particular (12 added lbs. of muscle). While Tatum’s volume of rim attempts seems about the same as last year (32-33% per Cleaning the Glass) he’s converting a higher effective shooting percentage (73% compared to 70% last year). That passes the eye test as it appears that Tatum is using his physicality more effectively this year.
Now the rest of the team needs to follow suit, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. When you’ve predicated much of your offensive philosophy around spreading the floor, driving to kick, and having a green light when open 3’s are available, you can fall into habits that gravitate you away from the rim. Sometimes it is just easier to pass to the perimeter than it is to muck things up amongst the trees.
This is by no means a “get off my lawn and stop shooting so many 3’s” boomer rant. The offense works because usually math wins. But sometimes you have to knock the opponent on their heels, which might make them a split second slower to rotate, which opens up even more outside shots.
Even though Lowe’s stat indicates that the team is at the same rate as they were last year, I tend to believe this is something the team will improve upon as the year goes on. There are just too many talented, multi-dimensional, smart players on this team to get too bogged down in predictable patterns.