Posted Dec 2 2011 12:55PM
To get ready for the 2011-12 season, NBA.com StatsCube breaks down the critical numbers for all 30 teams.
The veteran core of the Boston Celtics won a championship in its first season together. But now, after three seasons of coming up short of banner No. 18, Ray Allen is 36 years old, Kevin Garnett is 35, and Paul Pierce is 34.
The big three is still playing at a high level and Rajon Rondo has become an All-Star point guard. But if the group is going to get back to The Finals, it needs more help from its supporting cast.
Many will point to the Kendrick Perkins trade in February as the root of the Celtics' failure in the postseason. And it can be argued that Perkins took some of the C's swagger with him to Oklahoma City. Swagger can't exactly be quantified, but we can certainly determine on which end of the floor the Celtics suffered more after the trade. And it wasn't the end of the floor where Perkins helped them most.
Pace: 92.6 (23)
OffRtg: 104.0 (18)
DefRtg: 97.8 (2)
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
The Celtics have ranked in the top five defensively in each of their four seasons with Garnett. And 2010-11 was their second-best defensive season (behind 2007-08) in that time, even though they had Perkins for just 12 games before trading him.
But 2010-11 was the Celtics' worst offensive season since before they acquired Garnett and Allen. They were a below-average offensive team, and were worse late in the season after trading Perkins and Nate Robinson for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. Over the last 27 games of the regular season, they scored just 101.4 points per 100 possessions, a rate equivalent to the eighth worst offense in the league.
The biggest difference offensively after the trade was the Celtics' shooting. They went from an *effective field goal percentage of 53 percent before the trade to less than 50 percent after it. (Effective field goal percentage = (FGM + (0.5*3PM)) / FGA)
Of course, a late-season swoon was nothing new for the Celtics. Over the last four seasons, they have a 94-14 record (.870) in games played before Christmas, and a 140-80 record (.636) in games played on Christmas or later.
The Celtics were still a dominant team on both ends of the floor with their four All-Stars on the floor together. In fact, Rondo, Allen, Pierce and Garnett were the best four-man combination in the league among those that played at least 700 minutes together, outscoring their opponents by 14 points per 100 possessions.
|Top four man combinations, minimum 700 minutes|
But as the Celtics went to their bench, they got progressively worse. They were outscored by about a point per 100 possessions with just two All-Stars on the floor and by more than four points per 100 possessions with just one All-Star on the floor.
|Celtics efficiency, 2010-11|
The new guys struggled to fit in, while injuries bothered key reserves Delonte West and Marquis Daniels. And Glen Davis, previously one of the better sixth men in the league, was unreliable down the stretch of the season and in the playoffs. So the Celtics were dealing with depth issues even before Shaquille O'Neal retired and seven players off their bench became free agents.
A look at the numbers reveals that the Celtics didn't suffer nearly the drop-off when their stars came off the floor in their first two seasons together.
|Celtics' efficiency by season|
|Big4 = With Rondo, Allen, Pierce and Garnett all on the floor|
Other = All other lineups
Pace: 91.6 (7)
OffRtg: 102.3 (6)
DefRtg: 100.5 (4)
The Celtics shut down the New York Knicks' potent offense in the first round (96 points per 100 possessions allowed), but couldn't stop the Miami Heat in the conference semifinals (104).
The Celtics' one defensive weakness has been their tendency to foul a lot, and the Heat attempted more than 30 free throws per game in the five-game series. Miami was also much better in "clutch" time, outscoring the Celtics 29-13 in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime with a score differential of five points or less.
The Celtics' lack of depth played its part in their defeat as well. They outscored the Heat 224-208 when their four All-Stars were on the floor. But they were outscored 269-231 when at least one of them was on the bench.
The Jeff Green experiment was clearly a failure for the 2010-11 season. The Celtics were looking to improve offensively with the additions of Green and Krstic, but they were a pretty awful offensive team when Green was on the floor, scoring just 97 points per 100 possessions in the regular season and just 94 in the playoffs.
Green himself wasn't all that inefficient offensively. But the players with whom he played most of his minutes were Davis, Allen and Rondo, who all fell off offensively after the trade.
|True shooting percentage, before and after trade|
|True shooting percentage = Pts / (2*(FGA+(0.44*FTA)))|
Green wasn't completely blameless for the Celtics' bench issues, but he doesn't deserve as much blame as his on-court efficiency numbers might initially indicate. And given their cap situation, the Celtics have few alternatives than to re-sign Green, who is a restricted free agent. He has the versatility to fill multiple roles and, given that he's only 25 years old, should improve on both ends of the floor.
When Green was on the floor with his four All-Star teammates, the Celtics were a plus-18 in 53 minutes. But they'll need him to play a bigger role going forward in order to keep his veteran teammates fresh. And it will likely be his minutes with only one or two of them on the floor that will be most important.
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