Phil Pressey Deserves to Start for the Boston Celtics

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Phil Pressey Deserves to Start for the Boston Celtics
Ron Turenne/Getty Images
In 11 games played before Monday, Pressey (right) never turned the ball over more than twice in a game.

The four-game winning streak is a distant memory. With the Boston Celtics just 1-6 in their last seven games, the latest chapter of point guard musical chairs should begin immediately.

Jordan Crawford, your time is up. It’s Phil Pressey’s turn.

As head coach Brad Stevens tinkers with his lineups to find the optimal rotations, his open-mindedness shouldn’t exclude the pint-sized point guard from Missouri. What does Stevens have to lose, more games? Losses are going to happen anyway, so Stevens might as well try everything.

A tip of the cap to Crawford is in order first. For four games he was a glimmer of optimism after Stevens found out for himself that Avery Bradley isn’t a point guard. Crawford embraced the responsibility of running the offense and guided Boston to a win over the Utah Jazz, two wins over the Orlando Magic and a last-second stunning of the defending NBA champion Miami Heat.

During the winning streak, Crawford played with a restraint that no one thought was possible of him. He averaged 12.75 points on 48 percent shooting and 5.75 assists to just 1.25 turnovers.

Alex Trautwig/Getty Images
Arguably no player benefitted more from Crawford (right) becoming the starting point guard than Avery Bradley (left).

And in true point-guard fashion, Crawford made his teammates better, particularly Bradley, who went from 10.75 points in the first four losses to 15.75 in the four wins.

But since Crawford’s 10-assist, zero-turnover gem against the Magic, his turnovers are up to 3.3. Before Monday's tilt with the Charlotte Bobcats, Crawford’s assists were up to 6.1 per game. But before dishing out 10 helpers against AtlantaCrawford’s assists were down to 4.7.

Pressey’s professional body of work doesn’t compare to Crawford’s. In very limited minutes, Pressey averaged 2.0 assists and 0.8 turnovers before Monday’s game. But according to ESPN.com, that's a better assist-to-turnover ratio than Crawford's (2.7 versus 2.2). Basketball-Reference.com’s per 36 minutes statistic also makes a strong case for Pressey. Crawford edges Pressey in assists (6.3 versus 5.6), but Pressey does a better job protecting the ball (2.2 versus 2.9).

A better gauge of Pressey’s competency is what he did in the preseason. In six games Pressey averaged four assists and 1.83 turnovers per game. Pressey totaled a plus/minus of plus-31. With more minutes and more time playing with Bradley, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger, Pressey’s statistics could improve across the board.

Brian Babineau/Getty Images
Pressey, shooting just 26 percent from the field before Monday, would have to compensate for his inaccuracy by getting teammates easy buckets.

The drawback of Pressey at point guard is his stature, listed at 5’11”. Opponents will use their physical advantage to go after Pressey offensively. Currently, Pressey and Crawford have identical 105 defensive ratings, according to Basketball-Reference.com, but Pressey’s rating likely would increase with more minutes.

Boston also risks the return of volume shooter Crawford. There’s no denying that Crawford can pour in points when he’s feeling it, like when he went off against the Indiana Pacers for 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting. But if Crawford no longer runs the team, he could go back to being the same guy that unconsciously launched shots from anywhere on the court.

It was that Crawford the lowly Washington Wizards had no interest in. And it was that Crawford that former Celtics head coach Doc Rivers played less and less in the playoffs despite the Celtics’ need of scoring against the New York Knicks.

Give Stevens credit for not judging Crawford by his reputation. Stevens is taking advantage of Crawford’s passing ability while restraining Crawford’s inclination to fire away by giving Crawford the responsibility of keeping teammates involved offensively.

Crawford is performing respectably at point guard, but maybe the Celtics can get more out of the position with Pressey starting. With a disappointing seven-game stretch, Stevens has nothing to lose by experimenting with all possibilities.

 

Questions? Comments? Send to randolphc82@comcast.net.

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