BOSTON -- When it comes to becoming a competent and consistent 3-point shooter, success is often as much about mechanics as it is mojo.
That’s why both the Boston Celtics and Marcus Smart are confident the third-year guard’s improved stroke in training camp thus far will carry into the regular season . . . in addition to what the Celtics are hopeful will be a long and fruitful postseason run.
Celtics fans got a glimpse of Smart’s improved mechanics shooting the ball in the team’s Green & White scrimmage on Friday. Smart, playing for the White team (non-starters) was 3-for-5 from 3-point range.
“At the end of the day he has worked on it,” said coach Brad Stevens. “He’s put in a lot of time to make it more fluid.”
But that’s just part of Smart’s evolution into becoming a better 3-point shooter than the guy we saw last season, who connected on just 25 percent of his 3s.
“I think it also comes down to shot selection for all our guys,” Stevens said. ‘If we can play inside-out and get paint touches first, we’re going to shoot better.”
That’s where adding Al Horford should pay dividends, not only for Boston in terms of upgrading its low-post scoring but also having a veteran whose presence can open things up for players on the perimeter.
And if there was one phase of play that Boston needs to get better at this season, it’s shooting the ball.
Last season, the Celtics ranked 24th in effective Field Goal Percentage (.489). Of the teams that finished in the bottom-10 in eFG%, only three (Boston, Detroit and Memphis) made the playoffs. Just as telling, none of those three playoff teams made it out of the first round of the playoffs.
So the need to become a better shooting team is paramount for the Celtics to continue the upward trajectory they've been on since Stevens became coach four years ago.
Boston was one of the league’s better teams when it came to ball movement last year, as evidenced by the Cetics averaging 318.4 passes per game. That ranked eighth in the NBA.
And that good ball movement led to Boston getting a lot of decent looks at the rim.
According to NBA.com/stats, the Celtics were third in the NBA in potential assists (49.7) per game last season, with Golden State (53.1) and Atlanta (50.4) the only teams ahead of them.
Even with all those opportunities, the Celtics still ranked near the bottom in most shooting categories such as catch-and-shoot (36.0 percent, 29th in the NBA) and pull-up field goal percentage (.349, t-25th).
But with any new season there will be some change.
For the Celtics, they hope to improve their overall shooting or at the very least become more of a threat to opposing defenses.
“The difference between a guy being very concerned about you on the weak-side and being not concerned, is an enormous defensive position advantage or disadvantage,” Stevens said. “That’s why everybody has to be able to shoot the ball. It doesn’t mean everybody has to shoot it like Ray Allen. But everybody has to be a threat.”