Bill Russell’s offense was better than you think
Bill Russell gets named among the very best centers ever to play the game because he could defend and rebound as well or better than anyone in his generation. He gets mentioned because he’s got 11 championship rings and anchored a dominant Celtics team.
But he was better on offense than you think.
In a great post at Behind the Basket, Zachariah Blott breaks down the numbers from the Celtics of that era and shows that Russell was a key part of the offense, it wasn’t all Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman.
He starts with this point — those Celtics liked to run a lot and many of those breaks started with Russell grabbing the rebound and throwing the outlet pass, or maybe a Russell block. Which is to say, he wasn’t the guy who easily got out for the easy baskets.
The other point is that these Celtics were built as a passing team that shared the scoring load. When you look at it in that context, you see that Russell was a guy creating a lot of offense plus getting his share of points (he averaged 15.1 points per game for his career, and had a high of 18.9, with always one of the highest shooting percentages on the team).
Russell’s defense and rebounding were the cornerstone of a Celtics team that dominated a decade like no other. But don’t think he was a one-dimensional player — he is one of the greatest centers ever for a reason.