BOSTON – When it comes to winning, there’s a long and exhausting list of analytics that play a role in a team’s success or struggles.
For the Celtics, one of the top teams heading into the 2018-19 season, there’s plenty of data that will contribute to them inching closer to their goals this season.
Here’s a look at four key stats to track for this upcoming season that will factor significantly in Boston’s success:
There may not be another analytics stat that speaks better to a team’s title hopes than where it stands defensively. Looking at the past 20 NBA champions, only one (Los Angeles Lakers, 2001) finished the regular season outside of the league’s top 10 in defensive ranking. Brad Stevens said from the outset of his time in Boston that defense would be a foundation for his teams. The Celtics have finished in the top five in two of the past three seasons, which includes a league-best 101.5 rating last season, and have finished no worse than 14th in all but his first season.
DEFENSIVE REBOUND PERCENTAGE
Boston has not been a good rebounding team for years but seemed to take noticeable strides in that direction last season. The total number of rebounds isn’t nearly as telling as the percentage of rebounds Boston’s players are able to corral – especially on the defensive end of the floor. Success in this category not only keeps the number of second-chance points allowed at a minimum, but it also makes it easier for a team that plays as much position-less basketball as the Celtics to get out in transition quicker and thus, find easier ways to score in transition. Last season, the Celtics were 11th in defensive rebound percentage (.784) which was the best finish in that category under Stevens. There has indeed been progress, evident in how they compared to Stevens’ earlier teams in which three of his first four finished in the bottom half of the league.
BENCH POINTS ALLOWED
If the Celtics can keep their projected starting five healthy – the same five who started last season in the opener against Cleveland - scoring should not be an issue for this group. That means the bench will be counted on to be more impactful as a unit defensively. That group will likely include defensive standouts Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes. Last season, the Celtics’ defense was tough on opposing bench players. According to hoopsstats.com, Boston allowed opposing benches to score 33.2 points per game, which tied San Antonio and Detroit for the third-fewest bench points allowed. Keeping second units at around that point total will go far in Boston remaining among the top teams in the NBA.
TRUE SHOOTING PERCENTAGE
Golden State has been the gold standard the rest of the NBA has been trying to catch up with for years. A big factor in their success has been that they shoot the hell out of the ball. Considering the roster includes Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, who typically cleans up their misses, it’s no surprise that the Warriors have been the NBA’s leader in true shooting percentage each of the past four seasons – all of which ended in the Warriors either winning an NBA title or getting to the NBA Finals. Boston undoubtedly wants to close the gap that exists between themselves and the Warriors, and this is one of those categories where it'll have that opportunity. The Celtics finished 14th last season (.552), which was a noticeable dip from the previous season when their True Shooting Percentage ranked sixth in the league (.567). However, Boston is overall trending in the right direction considering the first three seasons under Stevens ended with Boston’s True Shooting Percentage ranked among the league’s bottom-10 (28th in 2014; 23rd in 2015; and 21st in 2016).