Celtics Insider

Forsberg: Breaking down Smart's huge impact on C's success

Celtics Insider

Each week on "Celtics Post Up" we dive into four numbers with a theme as part of the "Forsberg Four."

On this week’s season-opening episode, we dove into notable numbers that might help explain Boston’s roller coaster start.

Marcus Smart haters in shambles

Who has been the most impactful Celtics player through the first 14 games of the season? If you judge solely by the team’s overall performance during each player’s court time, it’s Marcus Smart by a landslide.

Smart tops the team in net on/off differential at plus-19.5 points per 100 possessions. He’s got a comfy cushion in front of both Jayson Tatum (plus-16.6) and Robert Williams (plus-16.0).

NBA Power Rankings: Celtics still trying to catch up

For all the handwringing about Smart’s shot selection and his need to focus on playmaking, the Celtics offense is an eye-popping 12.9 points better with him on the court this season.

The Celtics have a net rating of plus-7.5 in Smart’s 465 minutes on the court (second on the team behind only Williams at plus-8.0) and they are minus-12.0 in the 237 minutes without Smart.

This is a category that Tatum has dominated in recent years, which highlights a bit of his own struggles (though his overall number is still solid).

Smart is seemingly finding the right balance between seeking his own offense (he had some nice late-game drives in Monday’s win over the Cavaliers) and when to facilitate. The Celtics are 6-1 in games he has 4-plus assists and 8-plus shots (the only loss being the overtime game in New York).

 

'Do or dye?

Dennis Schroder had his signature blonde streak in his hair for the first seven games of the season but ditched it after Boston’s 2-5 start. Ever since, his scoring output has throttled up. Now, some of that is Schroder elevating to a starting role with Jaylen Brown sidelined.

But the Celtics’ numbers this year are undeniably better with no-dye Schroder, who has given the offense a much-needed spark in recent games.

A deep dive on the dye: 

Dennis Schroder this season with … 

  Bleach Streak No Dye
PPG 14 20.3
FG% 36.3 48.7
3PT% 37.5 29
AST 6.4 4
REB 3.7 4.3
STL 1.6 0.6
TO 2.1 3.7
MIN 31.7 34.3
Plus/Minus -16 50
W/L 2-5 5-2
OffRtg 103.4 104
DefRtg 106.8 93.9
NetRtg -3.4 10

 

An unproductive team meeting?

When the Celtics huddled in Orlando for a players-only meeting, reports suggested it was an unproductive session (as most player-only gatherings tend to be). But whether it was the meeting, or simply the continuity that’s grown in the seven games since, Boston’s numbers are noticeably different in the aftermath.

A look at the Celtics' advanced numbers (with league rank in parentheses) before and after that team meeting: 

  Pre-Meeting Post-Meeting
OffRtg 104.6 (19th) 104.6 (23rd)
DefRtg 110.3 (27th) 97 (1st)
NetRtg -5.67 (24th) 7.6 (5th)
W/L 2-5 5-2

While Boston’s offense remains stuck in the mud, with Tatum slumping and Brown injured, the defense has done a complete 180 after a bafflingly uninspired start.

Boston’s defense is the best in the NBA since November 2 and the team is top 5 in net rating. The Celtics have given themselves a chance each night because of that defense and, when Boston doesn't blow a 19-point lead, it finds a way to win.

Masked PP

After breaking his nose in an exhibition game in Orlando, Payton Pritchard spent the first 11 and a half games of the 2021-22 season in a mask. And whether it was the protective gear or just a sophomore slump, he really struggled. 

Pritchard made only 7 of 30 field goal attempts (23.3 percent), including just 5 of 19 3-pointers (26.3 percent) over the first 11 and a half games of the season. He was a minus-11 in 108 minutes of floor time.

Why does it matter?

Boston’s reserves have really struggled to carry the baton when the starters are off the floor. Pritchard’s ability to help spark the second-unit offense and provide shooting whenever he’s on the floor is something this team desperately needs to play at a high level. This offense could really use Pritchard to find what made him so impactful as a rookie.