The NBA season is slowly creeping past the "small sample size" that statisticians always warn fans away from. Chris Forsberg broke down the Celtcs' Turnover Percentage and how it had improved in the past 7 games.
We thought that we would follow Forsberg's lead and look for a stat or stats that might start to show why the Celtics are 9-12 and first place in the Atlantic Division (we realize the absurdity of that sentence). NBA.com has some outstanding stats. One of the stats that NBA.com breaks down is shooting percentage from various distances from the basket. The Celtics have found success from a few different spots on the court that have led to their success.
The Celtics from inside the paint (not including shots from the restricted area) are shooting 42.6%. That's sixth best in the league. Now sometimes stats mean nothing, but when you consider that the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, and Dallas Mavericks are the teams better than the Celtics in that category, it adds some value to the stat. They are also seventh in mid-range shooting percentage, shooting 41.6%.
From 5-9ft. the Celtics are shooting 43.2%, good enough for fifth in the league and they are the best shooting team from 10-14 feet, shooting an incredible 50.8. While many claim that the mid-range game is dead, the Celtics do have a lot of guys that like shooting in that 10-14 foot range. Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Kris Humphries, Jordan Crawford, and Jeff Green all enjoy that distance.
Even when you stretch the 10-14 foot range to 8-16 feet, the Celtics are still third best in the league, shooting 45.1%. That's a pretty impressive clip.
The problem with the Celtics shooting is the way they are shooting three pointers. They are shooting 34%, putting them near the bottom of the league. While the corner three pointer is a serviceable shot for this offense (they are in the upper third of the league shooting 42.6%) their shooting from "above the break" is horrid (three-pointers that are not from the corner). They are 27th in the league, shooting 31.4%.
As the season progresses, teams will adjust to the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents. The Celtics have the ability to shoot mid-range jumpers at a high rate, while also getting into the paint and scoring at a reasonable clip too. However, Rajon Rondo's return migh tallow defenses to play differently. Jordan Crawford stretches the defense at least a little bit. He is shooting 38%, but at least keeps the defense honest, taking more than 3 shots from behind the arc per game. With Rondo running the point teams might be able to sit in those zones that the Celtics have been successful in this year.
Brad Stevens seems confident that Rondo will settle into the offense and that they are working on some offensive stuff specifically for him. Hopefully, Rondo's ability to get to the basket forces the defense to collapse in the paint and find the open man for those mid-range jumpers.
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