BOSTON (CBS) –The first year of the Brad Stevens era got off to a bit of a rocky start, especially on the offensive end of the floor. There were several factors in play that led to the Celtics finishing in just 27th overall in offensive efficiency for the season.
We all know that Rajon Rondo was sidelined for several months of the calendar, but it’s easy to forgot Danny Ainge traded away some of the team’s better shooters such as Jordan Crawford and Courtney Lee midway through the season, leaving Stevens without much talent to space the offensive end of the floor and create easy scoring opportunities.
Overall, the roster hasn’t changed too much entering the 2013-14 season. A couple offensive sparkplugs such as Marcus Thornton and Evan Turner have been added to the mix, but those guys come with their flaws. Despite this fact, and missing Rondo yet again throughout the preseason, the Celtics offense looks much improved than last year through six preseason games.
What’s the main cause for that shift? To me, it’s pretty simple: The Celtics are letting it fly from downtown more than ever.
On a team devoid of dangerous offensive weapons, it’s a great strategy adjustment by Stevens in the early going. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers to find out why.
During the 2013-14 season, the Celtics shot a paltry .333 percent from beyond the arc, placing them 28th amongst NBA teams. With the lackluster shooting percentage, the Celtics also just attempted 21.1 shots from downtown each contest, putting them 18th in the league.
With no true post presence on the team yet again this season, Stevens has committed himself to floor spacing, as well as pushing the pace. Despite a small sample size, Boston’s performance this preseason shows a big part of that plan is taking 3-pointers at every reasonable opportunity.
Through six preseason games, the Celtics are hitting .358 percent of their shots from downtown, a number that would have placed them right into the middle of the pack of NBA teams last year.
The more notable shift in Boston’s shooting though has been the volume, as the Celtics are averaging a whopping 30.66 attempts per game from 3-point range in the exhibition calendar. That’s nearly a nine-attempt jump from Boston’s regular season attempt average last year and the 30.66 mark would have placed the Celtics as the leader in attempts across the NBA during the 2013-14 campaign.
The high volume of attempts is encouraging for the Celtics, since it signals that the team isn’t just on a hot streak during a couple games from the perimeter. When you take more shots, it’s harder to sustain a higher percentage, so 30 per game is nothing to sneeze at, even if it comes during preseason action.
Here’s a look from where the increased attempts are coming from throughout the roster.
Avery Bradley: 3.3 attempts per game last season, 4.67 attempts per game this preseason
Kelly Olynyk: 1.6 attempts per game last season, 3.6 attempts per game this preseason
Jeff Green: 4.8 attempts per game last season, 6.5 attempts per game this preseason
These names are just a few, as nearly every member of the rotation has been somewhat of a factor. Jared Sullinger has lifted his 3-point number, while newcomers like Thornton and Marcus Smart haven’t been shy about hoisting up the 3-ball as well.
Overall, the Celtics have had 3-4 legitimate 3-point threats on the court at all times with this new philosophy during the preseason and that’s created better offensive flow and spacing in the early stages of October.
It’s too early to tell whether the team’s improvements in accuracy will last for the long haul, but early on in the process it appears that Stevens’ change in strategy this year should help lift Boston’s offense out of the league basement.
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