Even with the possibility that Dennis Schroder will shuffle back to a reserve role as early as Monday night’s visit from the Houston Rockets, the Boston Celtics would be well served to find time to pair Schroder and Marcus Smart in reserve lineups.
The Schroder/Smart combo owns a net rating of plus-9.3 in 710 possessions together this season. That ranks in the 85th percentile among all NBA lineups, per Cleaning the Glass data.
Most notably, the Celtics have an offensive rating of 111.5 when Smart and Schroder share the floor, which would be a top-five mark in the league if maintained. The defense has allowed only 102.3 points per 100 possessions with that duo and turning teams over at a high rate.
While the absence of Jaylen Brown, who is listed as probable to return against the Rockets, has certainly hindered the Celtics, the extra scoop of Schroder the past two weeks may have helped Boston realize how beneficial attacking the basket can be.
Over the past seven games, the Celtics rank fourth in the NBA in drives per game at 54.1, up from 48.9 drives over the first nine games of the season. More importantly, Boston is averaging nearly eight more points per game off drives, and the team’s attacking ways has promoted a boost in ball movement that was on full display on Saturday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
A closer look at Boston’s drive numbers with Schroder in the starting role the past seven games:
|First nine games||48.9||44.1||24.6|
|Last seven games||54.1||54.4||32.4|
In those seven games as a starter, Schroder is fifth in the NBA in drives per game at 17.4. What’s more, he’s shooting a sizzling 68.3 percent on those drives and his 14.1 points off drives is the best in the NBA in that span. Only an uptick in his turnover percentage has hurt Schroder.
It’s also interesting to see the impact that Schroder’s drive-happy ways has had on Smart. Over the last seven games, Smart's drives-per-game total is up to 12.7 and he’s shooting a healthy 56.7 percent on drives. His drive total has more than doubled since Schroder took over as starter. Smart was averaging just six drives per game and shooting a mere 35.7 percent on them over Boston’s first nine games.
Even with Schroder sliding to the bench, Brown will put pressure on defenses. He was averaging 9.9 drives per game and a team-best 7.1 points per game off drives before his injury.
But the Celtics must remain aggressive. Thin on shooting and struggling to knock down perimeter shots all season, Boston's ability to put pressure on a defense off the drive has been key to generating easier points. The C's have four players -- Jayson Tatum, Brown, Smart, and Schroder -- who are all capable of attacking a defense and putting them in rotation.
The Celtics are 7-3 over the past 10 games and own the third best defensive rating (101.6) and fourth best net rating (plus-6.8) in that span.
The offense remains middle of the pack (15th overall, 108.4 rating) and the Celtics have to continue to find ways to maximize efficiency at that end of the court because the defense is going to keep them in game most nights.