BOSTON – There’s just no way to sugarcoat the truth.
The Celtics offense has not been very good so far this season.
While there have been fleeting moments of strong play, those have been few and far between, which explains why the Celtics rank near the bottom of the NBA in several key offensive categories.
There are signs that they are getting better.
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However, there are undeniable areas that they can improve upon to improve an offense that has been more pedestrian than powerful this season.
TRANSITION GAME OFF REBOUNDS
Boston is averaging 14.2 fast-break points this season, which ranks 17th in the NBA. That number has the potential to rise if the Celtics improve their rebounding which ranks 19th in the league currently.
Looking to attack more on the break after securing rebounds will bode well for Boston’s multi-pronged approach to winning, which includes elite defense, solid rebounding and versatility at the offensive end of the floor.
The one player who should benefit heavily from such an improvement is Jaylen Brown. Arguably the best athlete on the roster, Brown has shown the ability to indeed be a factor in the transition game as we see here as Al Horford wisely gets him the ball, on the run, so Brown can get an easy bucket.
POINTS OFF TURNOVERS
This season isn’t all that different than past ones in which Boston’s defense stood ous. Still, among the challenges for the Celtics has been finding the best way to channel that strong play defensively into easy points.
The best way to do that is cause turnovers, something Boston does not do at high rate. In fact, the Celtics are second-to-last in the NBA in averaging 14.1 points off turnovers per game. Of course, their cause isn’t helped by the fact that they generate just 13.8 turnovers per game, which ranks 20th in the league.
Yet again, there’s good news on the horizon.
Boston’s next opponent, the Phoenix Suns, are allowing a league-high 23.7 points per game off turnovers. And Boston’s opponent after the Suns, the Utah Jazz, are giving up 18.6 points off turnovers, which is the sixth-highest average in the league.
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And as know, the Celtics will have “small-ball” lineups like this one, which has Gordon Hayward defending a power forward. What he may lack in size and girth, he more than makes up for in quickness, which he shows here in getting out on the break following a Denver turnover that works out well for both him and the Celtics on this particular play.
SHOT SELECTION AT THE RIM
I know, I know. When you jack up as many 3’s as the Celtics do, opportunities to score attacking the basket are few and far between. When it comes to scoring in the restricted area and inside the non-restricted area inside the paint, Boston ranks 28th and 25th in the NBA.
The bigger issue they need to improve is choosing the shots at the rim that they are most efficient at making.
After 10 games, Boston (6-4) is shooting 62.3 percent in the restricted area, which ranks 22nd in the NBA, and 44.1 percent in the non-restricted area of the paint which ranks 8th in the league.
The one Celtic who seems best suited to benefit from more shots inside the non-restricted area of the paint - a strength of the Celtics compared to the rest of the league - is Jayson Tatum.
There are a number of possessions throughout the course of a game in which teams either match him up with a smaller player, or a defensive switch creates one.
As we see here, Tatum is smart and savvy enough to recognize this and take advantage of the edge he has in length. Once Tatum got into the paint, there really was no need to try and get any closer to the rim. He could just simply shoot over the top of the defender for an easy basket.
The sample size this season isn’t that big, but we’ve seen enough of the Celtics to know they are a better team when they play with a decent pace than not. In their six wins, Boston has a pace of 103.91, which ranks 16th in the NBA.
That’s not great, but it is slightly better than their overall pace this season (102.18), which ranks 18th.
But in defeat, the team’s inability to play with a decent pace is consistently among the list of factors contributing to their four losses this season. Boston’s pace (number of possessions per game) in their four losses this season is 99.59.
That ranks 28th in the NBA among teams when they lose.
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Of all the areas that one might surmise as keeping Boston at least a step or two behind Golden State, pace of play stands out.
The Warriors have ranked among the NBA’s top five in pace each of the last four years, all of which ended with either an NBA title (three times) or a trip to the Finals.
But this season has gotten off to a different kind of start for them along those lines. The Warriors currently sit with a pace that ranks 13th in the league.
Will they pick up the pace? What about the Celtics?
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