Definitive Blueprint for How to Fix the Boston Celtics
Fixing the Boston Celtics isn't going to be easy, and it's not going to be fun. But it is possible.
With the exception of spreading the ball, Boston has struggled in just about every facet of the game.
The Celtics' once-impenetrable defense is now a porous existence, their offense is stagnant in spite of Rajon Rondo's assist totals, their bench production is flimsy and their rebounding totals are laughable.
Somewhat obviously, this all needs to change.
Boston isn't going to contend for any titles by failing to meet any tactical expectations. In fact, at the rate it's going, the team isn't even on pace to make the playoffs, which is a problem.
Again, though, it's a fixable problem. By making some adjustments and exploring some alternative methods of attack, the Celtics can salvage their season.
They just have to ensure they do so soon.
Before it's too late.
*All stats in this article are accurate as of January 2, 2013.
Step 1: Run the Floor More
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We'd like to believe that Rajon Rondo has a profound impact on Boston's offense, but truth be told, he's rather limited in what he can do.
Rondo is built to run, hence the Celtics' acquisitions of Courtney Lee and Jason Terry, two transitional gurus. However, Boston has failed to push the floor or even the pace of games, putting them at a severe disadvantage.
The Celtics are averaging just 13.1 points in transition per game this season, and a shoddy 11.3 over their last three contests. With Rondo at the helm, they should be among the leaders in such a metric, not near the bottom or even the middle of the pack.
Boston favors a half-court that slows the pace of games; it averages just 91.5 possessions per game (17th in the league). Yet if the Celtics want to slow the pace of games, they must rely on their defense, not offense, to do so.
Lessening the rate of play on the offensive end severely hinders Rondo's potential to lead Boston's point-totaling. Right now, in fact, the Celtics are scoring just 1.8 points more per 100 possessions with Rondo on the floor.
Given that Rondo is one of the league's best floor generals, the effect he is currently having on this offense is modest at best.
Affording him the opportunity to push the pace—even if it involves placing some unfounded faith in the Courtney Lee experiment—is essential to Boston's success.
Or should I say playoff hopes?
Step 2: More Three-Pointers
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Suggesting that teams need to hoist up more deep balls has become taboo, but I'm a sucker for going against the grain—especially when I'm right.
Boston jacks up just 16 three-pointers per game, 28th in the league. Quite frankly, as with their transition offense, such a mark is unacceptable with a perpetual penetrator such as Rajon Rondo running the show.
Perhaps even more troubling, though, is the fact that the Celtics aren't even a poor long-range shooting team. They're converting on 34.9 percent of their three-point attempts. While that's not exceptional, it's a stellar mark that puts them in the middle of the pack.
Currently, Boston has three players shooting 37 percent or better from beyond the arc: Paul Pierce, Leandro Barbosa and Jason Terry. It also has a proven assassin—albeit a struggling one—in Courtney Lee.
Drive-and-kicks need to become more of a staple for this team. The Celtics—against my wishes—prefer to control the pace of the game with a half-court offense. With their defense struggling, however, opponents have more possessions to spare. Nailing some additional treys lessens the gap of the -2.5 point differential Boston is currently posting.
So fire away, Mr. Pierce. Your three-point prowess could be a driving force behind the Celtics' potential turnaround.
Step 3: Shoot, Rondo, Shoot
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This is nothing new, but a heightened sense of personal aggression still doesn't exist in Rajon Rondo.
Look at some of the best point guards in the league. You know the ones I'm referring to—Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, Stephen Curry and even Jrue Holiday.
What do they all have in common?
They're all averaging 15 or more points per game.
What else do they have in common?
Each of their teams is on pace to make the playoffs.
Are you reading this, Rondo?
I'm not saying that Boston's point man needs to start jacking up threes, because he shouldn't. But given his ability to navigate the paint so effortlessly, he needs to score more.
Rondo averages just 13 points per game, the third-lowest of any point guard who has started at least 30 games and averaged 30 minutes per night this season.
Troubling? Of course it is, especially when the Celtics are 7-5 when Rondo scores 15 or more points.
Is that an overwhelming record?
Absolutely not, but it's better than .500.
Which is more than I can say for the Celtics right now.
Step 4: More of Jared Sullinger
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Just like Avery Bradley isn't going to be the cure-all for everything ailing the Celtics, Jared Sullinger isn't going to single-handedly make Boston a defensive powerhouse.
But he'll help a great deal.
Though undersized, Sullinger provides instant rebounding and understated defense off the bench. And yet, he only receives 18.2 minutes of burn per game.
Why exactly is that a problem?
Because Sullinger's 10.8 rebounds per 36 minutes lead the Celtics, Kevin Garnett included. He's also helped their defense a great deal while he's on the court. He's second in blocked shots per game, his footwork has improved considerably and Boston allows 4.1 points per 100 possessions less with him on the court.
Personally, I don't care that Sullinger is just 6'9". This isn't just about size. It's about results. Given the degree to which he defends and rebounds, I honestly don't care about his height.
And the Celtics shouldn't either.
Not if they wish to strengthen their overwhelmingly poor defensive and rebounding attacks.
Step 5: Acquire Some Size and Rebounding
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Unfortunately, more of Jared Sullinger isn't going to be enough.
Personnel changes are easier said than done, but Boston isn't going to get anywhere without some kind of strategic roster shake-up.
No Celtics player averages more than seven boards per night (Kevin Garnett), and that's a problem. A big one.
Boston is dead last in the league in rebounds per game (38.1) and lacks any competent size down low outside of Garnett.
While providing Sullinger with even more playing time will help quell some of Boston's defensive and rebounding woes, he is undersized, as are Brandon Bass and Jeff Green.
But before visions of DeMarcus Cousins and Garnett clotheslining the competition dance through your head, understand that the Celtics—unless they're open to trading Rondo or Paul Pierce—don't have the necessary assets to pull off any kind of coup.
Realistically, Boston needs to consider looking at Kenyon Martin once again or dealing for a Derrick Williams.
Ambitious trade pursuits are nothing short of intriguing, but the Celtics can't waste their time pining for the likes of Cousins or Anderson Varejao, or any other star big man. Not if they're against blowing up their roster.
And certainly not if they wish to have a legitimate chance at adding some size to combat their rebounding deficiencies.