BOSTON (CBS) — Ever since Brad Stevens arrived in Boston, the head coach has given many of his big men the green light to fire away from 3-point range.
In the early stages of his tenure, this philosophy made plenty of sense for a young rebuilding franchise. With low expectations in play, there was time for growing pains with the hope it would produce long-term improvement from long-range.READ MORE: 2 Dracut Police Cruisers Destroyed In Suspicious Fire At Station
Fourth-year forward Jared Sullinger was the perfect case study for this theory. He came into the league with the ability to stretch the floor with long twos, but the Celtics wanted him to stretch that range out starting in the 2013-14 season.
Three years later, the team has been left with rather undesirable results. Sullinger has shown virtually no progress from his 27.5 percent career mark from 3-point range this year, as he’s hitting just 27.7 percent from beyond the arc so far despite a strong start to the season.
The cold shooting from the perimeter in recent weeks allowed opposing defenses to ignore Sullinger at times on the offensive end, a ploy that led Stevens to insert Kelly Olynyk into the starting five to help better spread the floor.
Sullinger’s demotion did not last though, as the 23-year-old got back to basics during his five-game bench stint that featured the potential disappearance of a 3-point shot from his usual shot selection. With Olynyk and the starters going 1-4 during a two-week stint, Stevens has turned back to Sullinger, who has shifted his shooting philosophy.READ MORE: It Happens Here: Learning To Play Polo, ‘The Game of Kings’, In Georgetown
“Right now it seems like the mid-range shot is wide open,” Sullinger explained. “Before the three was the shot that was wide open and they took away the mid-range. I wasn’t shooting the ball as well. I don’t want to live and die with the jump shot. Hopefully I keep getting guarded like that.”
Sullinger has started to make teams pay from the midrange in recent weeks, shooting 45 percent from the field in January, three percentage points above his season average. He’s also taken just seven 3-point attempts this month, none of which have come during the past three games. Avoiding the prevailing wisdom of shooting analytics has been the biggest key in the shift for the 6-foot-9 big man.
“I think that was my biggest thing, that I was worried about where I was popping at,” Sullinger said Wednesday night. “I didn’t want to shoot a long two. Analytics say to shoot the three. I just threw the analytics out the door. Wherever you pop, just shoot it. If you’re not (open), move the ball.”
With the Celtics shooting a paltry 32 percent as a team from 3-point range, other members of the roster would be wise to heed’s Sullinger advice and look elsewhere for an open look.MORE NEWS: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter@CelticsHub.