Sharp-shooting Ray Allen’s decision to take his talents to South Beach and the rival Miami Heat has left the Boston Celtics painfully short on outside shooting and put them another lap back of the pace of the Eastern Conference elite.
Now the Celtics will hope against hope that Jason “Jet” Terry, former sixth man of the year and owner of a Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy bicep tattoo, can match the scoring punch off the bench that Allen provided in the second half of 2012.
Unfortunately, the numbers don’t suggest it playing out that way.
Allen and Terry each rely heavily on the three-pointer, and while Terry shot a healthy 38.4 percent to Allen’s incredible 41.1 percent, the Mavs gunner hoisted up 59 more attempts on the year. That translates to 0.89 more three-point shots per game (in the shortened season) from a statistically inferior shooter in an offense that puts a premium on getting efficient looks in limited possessions—not exactly the Celtic way.
One potential redeeming factor should be Rajon Rondo’s ability to deliver timely, accurate passes and avoid the shot-clock saving prayers that Terry was forced to chuck up last year on a Mavs team lacking a high-end point guard. (Sorry, Knicks fans, Jason Kidd is no longer a high-end point guard.)
Terry should have an easier time than Allen did in keeping up with Rondo in transition, but when he spots up for three in those situations—a Ray Allen trademark—he shoots an awful 31.9 percent, compared with Allen’s 40 percent.
A bright spot in Terry’s game—especially when compared with Allen’s in recent years—is his ability to create for himself and others off the dribble, specifically in the pick-and-roll offense.
Although Terry's mid-range shooting percentages have fallen over the past few years (from 49 to 43 percent from between 16 and 23 feet since 2007), Terry still fills it up more efficiently in the pick-and-roll than either Lou Williams or Jamal Crawford, two other free-agent wing scorers: 0.83 points per possession compared with 0.79 and 0.74, respectively.
The problem with running the pick-and-roll with anyone other than Rondo is No. 9’s relative inefficiency as a catch-and-shoot option. His 0.74 points per possession on spot-up shots ranked No. 280 in the NBA last year, and opposing defenses often don’t respect his shot enough to play him honestly.
Terry’s biggest contributions in initiating the offense, then, are likely to come with Rondo on the bench and an as-yet-unsigned backup point guard alongside the Jet in the backcourt.
When Rondo and Terry play together, we’ll see the veteran playing a more traditional, spot-up shooting guard role, where he contributed 1.18 points per possession on 25 percent of his total shots last year.
Of course, even a statistics-obsessed sportswriter like myself would agree that the numbers never tell the whole story. Terry is a heady player with a championship pedigree, and his gutsy performance in the 2011 NBA Finals made him a favorite among Heat-haters everywhere.
With the benefit of a full offseason program and training camp, Terry should have plenty of time to learn the Celtics’ sets and develop his chemistry with Rondo. Now, Celtics fans just have to hope that the Jet has enough fuel left in the tank for one last flight to the postseason.
Unless otherwise cited, all stats are courtesy of Synergy Sports.
Follow Shane on Twitter @scohalloran.