On every basketball team, there is one player whose offensive output goes a long way in determining how the entire team performs. Sometimes this player is also the best on the team, but what is always certain is that how well or poorly this player shoots can be used as a bellwether to predict the entire team's offensive output.
The Boston Celtics are a very interesting case when it comes to determining which player has been most important to the team's offense because they have all been franchise players at some point in their careers. Therefore, one would reasonably expect that each player would be equally valuable in the three seasons they have played together.
In order to determine what sort of effect each player had on the Celtics' offense, I took the games in which all three players played and ran a correlation between their true shooting percentages and the team's offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) and also between their true shooting percentages and the team's true shooting percentages.
For the 2007-08 season when the Boston Celtics won the championship title, it was Paul Pierce who determined the course of the team's offense more than his two teammates. The correlation between his true shooting percentage and the team's offensive efficiency for that season was .514 and the correlation between his true shooting percentage and the team's true shooting percentage was .558.
Ray Allen had the second most influence on the team's offense with correlations in the two categories of .400 and .401, respectively. Kevin Garnett's correlations of .110 and .319 mean how he shot had the least predictive power.
During the 2008-09 season when the three teammates only played fifty-seven games together due to Kevin Garnett's knee injury, Ray Allen took over the reins as the driver of the Celtics' offense. His two correlations of .458 and .531 are much larger than Paul Pierce's .278 and .364 correlations and Kevin Garnett's .241 and .299 correlations.
Allen's shooting had such a large impact on the team mostly because he was the most inconsistent shooter of the three. His true shooting percentage standard deviation of .188 outdistances Paul Pierce's .157 standard deviation and Kevin Garnett's .147 standard deviation.
Once again, Kevin Garnett's superior consistency kept his shooting statistics from being used to determine the rest of the team's performance.
For the 2009-10 season, their latest together, the Big Three of the Celtics came the closest to having an equal impact on the offense. All of their standard deviations were fairly close together; Kevin Garnett's standard deviations were .394 and .435, Paul Pierce's were .362 and .378, and Ray Allen's were .408 and .366. Last season, they were truly the Big Three.
Going forward, as Garnett, Allen, and Pierce continue to age and we see their skills diminish, it will be intriguing to see which player continues to have the greatest impact on the offense.
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