One Team, One Stat: Early offense in Boston

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2016-17 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Boston Celtics, who didn’t waste time getting shots.


According to SportVU, the Boston Celtics took only 9.3 percent of their shots in the last six seconds of the shot clock, the lowest rate in the league last season.


The Celtics were a bottom-10 shooting team at any point in the shot clock, and a bottom six shooting team everywhere outside the restricted area.

But league-wide, early shots are better than late shots. Boston’s effective field goal percentage dropped from 59 percent in the first six seconds of the shot clock to just 40 percent in the last six seconds.

So the Celtics maximized their offensive output by minimizing the number of shots they took late in the clock. Isaiah Thomas ranked second in the league (behind Stephen Curry) with 322 shots in the first six seconds of the clock, while Avery Bradley ranked 10th with 199.

And even though their average possession was the shortest in the league, the Celtics still ranked in the top-10 in passes per possession. They moved the ball, but did it quickly.

Al Horford comes from a similar system in Atlanta. The Celtics and Hawks were two of the three teams (Golden State was the third) that ranked in the top 10 in regard to both shortest possessions and most passes per possession.

Horford gives the Celtics a guy that both spaces the floor and finishes well inside. Over the last seven years, he ranks third in field goal percentage (at 72.4 percent) in the restricted area among 160 players with at least 1,000 attempts there and fifth in mid-range field goal percentage (at 46.8 percent) among 132 players with at least 1,000 attempts there.

Note: Other players in the top 25 in both: Chris Bosh (17th and 13th), Kevin Durant (2nd and 24th) and Serge Ibaka (12th and 14th).

With that kind of a talent upgrade (and maybe with Marcus Smart not being one of the worst shooters in the league again), the Celtics should be a better shooting team both inside and out. And with a continued emphasis on getting shots early in the clock, Boston should have an above-average offense for the first time in seven years.


One of two teams (San Antonio was the other) that made the playoffs in 2014-15 and was at least 1.0 points per 100 possessions better on both ends of the floor last season.

Started 9-10 at home, scoring just 99 points per 100 possessions. Then went 19-3 at home after Jan. 12, scoring 107 points per 100 possessions.

Committed 2.7 fewer turnovers per 100 possessions than their opponents. That was the second best differential in the league (behind Memphis’ 3.1).

Scored 109.4 points per 100 possessions (in 1,750 minutes) with both Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley on the floor, but just 101.0 (in 1,681 minutes) with only one of the two on the floor and just 94.6 (in 523 minutes) with neither on the floor.

Thomas was one of three players (James Harden and Russell Westbrook were the others) with at least 500 free throw attempts and 500 assists last season.

Bradley was one of eight players and the only guard to shoot 70 percent on at least 200 attempts in the restricted area. Horford was another one of the eight.

Marcus Smart had the second lowest effective field goal percentage (40.6%, a tick higher than Emmanuel Mudiay) among players with at least 500 total field goal attempts. He shot 22.3 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, the worst mark among 174 players who attempted at least 100.

Horford took 24.4 percent of his shots from 3-point range last season, up from 3.7 percent in 2014-15. He had made more threes by the end of November (24) than he made in his previous eight seasons in the league combined.

The Celtics had the No. 1 defense in the playoffs, but scored just 91.3 points per 100 possessions in losing their first round series to Atlanta in six games.

Averaged 39.8 drives per game in the playoffs, most among the 16 teams by a wide margin.

NBA TV’s Celtics preview premieres at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 8.