A season ago the Boston Celtics finished 25-57, tied for the fourth-worst record in the NBA. One of the many statistical categories that Boston failed to excel in was three-point shooting. The Celtics hoisted an average of 21.1 threes per game and connected just 33 percent of the time. The number of attempts ranked 18th overall, while the percentage was the third-lowest in the league.
But if the 2014-15 preseason is any indication, Boston could be a very different team this year from beyond the arc.
Over their eight-game exhibition schedule, the Celtics took 230 three-pointers and knocked down 82 of them. That averages out to 10.25 makes and 28.75 attempts per contest, both of which rank in the top three league-wide. Each of those numbers would also have led the NBA during the 2013-14 regular season.
While not as impressive as the overall level of production, Boston's .357 long-range shooting percentage is the 11th best in the league—and a large portion of it stems from some fairly unlikely sources.
Despite being better known for his defense, shooting guard Avery Bradley is one of several Celtics who showed great proficiency from downtown this preseason. Bradley sank 46.9 percent of his attempts (15 of 32), a significant uptick from his career rate of .366.
The 23-year-old hasn't changed his philosophy though. Via Frank Dell'Apa of The Boston Globe, Bradley said:
I'm a defensive player first. Like I always say, you can have an off shooting night but never an off defensive night, and that's my mindset. I just have to go out there with high energy and play as hard as I can and let the game come to me. That's my main focus. I don't think it matters if I score first quarter, second quarter, it really doesn't matter, as long as I play hard.
Even more surprising than Bradley's shooting are the three-point exploits of Boston's starting frontcourt tandem, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. Together they made 24 of 50 threes this exhibition season, a staggering 48 percent.
Neither Sullinger nor Olynyk fit the description of a traditional NBA big man and both are somewhat undersized for their positions. CBS Boston's Brian Robb credits this as part of the explanation for why Boston is launching so many three-pointers:
With no true post presence on the team yet again this season, [Celtics head coach Brad] Stevens has committed himself to floor spacing, as well as pushing the pace. Despite a small sample size, Boston’s performance this preseason shows a big part of that plan is taking three-pointers at every reasonable opportunity.
Not to be outdone, even veteran power forward Brandon Bass has gotten in on the action. Over 558 regular-season games spanning a nine-year career, Bass is 2-for-21 from long range. This preseason he went 2-for-4.
In fact, of the 13 active players on the Celtics roster, only two failed to attempt a three-point field goal in any of Boston's exhibitions—backup center Tyler Zeller and end-of-the-bench forward Gerald Wallace.
Regardless of whether or not the Celtics actually improve from last season, it does appear they intend to make three-point shooting a major part of their repertoire in 2014-15.
Statistics courtesy of RealGM.com