10 Takeaways (Part 1): Fun and interesting Boston Celtics stats when the season restarts

The NBA restart is only in two weeks. Just two more weeks before we have a real basketball to knock down! During the break, we made some versions of 10 Takeaways that were often only tangentially related to basketball. Not this time.

We (OK … well, it was me!) We got a little excited with some of these statistics. So, we’re splitting this version of 10 Takeaway into two parts. Here is the first part!

1. All types of data can now be obtained on the NBA Statistics website (https://stats.nba.com/). One of the statistics that pops up is the player tracking data that tells you how far and how quickly each player runs each game. How do you use it? It can give you an idea of ​​how a player is used on both ends of the floor. A great traditional man will not run as much, nor will he move faster. A shooter flying off the screens will cover a lot of ground and will probably do it quickly.

For the Celtics, some things stood out. In defense, Boston’s three wings (Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum) rank in the top 30 in distance covered per game. Brown leads the way in 1.19 miles of running per game in defense (12th NBA). Hayward is just behind 1.17 miles and Tatum is 29th in the NBA at 1.13 miles.

These data combined with what we see every game through the eye test confirm Boston’s heavy pattern. Rare is the possession of a Celtics defender on a player from start to finish.

None of this is probably surprising. What might be surprising to learn is that Gordon Hayward covers most of any Celtic’s attacking terrain. Hayward runs an average of 1.41 miles per game up front (tied 12th NBA). What is certainly a surprise is that of all the players in the top-12, Hayward runs the fastest average speed at 4.79 miles per hour.

As you can see in this clip, Hayward tends to go hard when he takes the ball in his hands. This hard drive in the pull-up jumper in / around the paint has become Hayward’s hallmark in Boston:

2. We all know that Jayson Tatum has become an offensive machine this season, especially the post-All-Star break. But when you look at its real parameters, they become even more amazing!

Tatum was roughly the same guy in terms of percentage and attempts at capture and shooting situations, as well as post-ups. Where Tatum exploded in year 3 he was a pilot and a pull-up shooter.

In year 2, Tatum led the ball on average 5.6 times per game. Those units resulted in shooting attempts 2.8 times per game. The scary part? Tatum has shot the ball over 8.8% of the times he has driven. It’s easy enough to remember how many times Tatum is stripped on a disk.

In year 3, it looks a lot more like this:

Tatum keeps the ball higher and tighter on his body. Its units are now up to 11 per game, with 6.5 leading to shots. It has yet to end better (Tatum is still missing many layoffs that turn exasperatedly on him), but when it reaches the rim it reaches 47.3%. More important? This percentage of turnover dropped to 5.1%.

Driving is nice, but Tatum’s pull-ups are crazy. In year 2, he was already good enough. Tatum took 5.4 pull-up jumpers per game and hit 35.7%. From behind the arch, he did 1.4 pull-ups per night and shot down 32.4%. Those percentages are pretty good, as a pull-up is one of the most difficult aspects of the game.

This season? Damn! Tatum took 8.3 pull-up jumpers one game and 4.5 of them from behind the arch. The crazy part? Tatum hit 39.3% overall in pull-ups and was even better from the bottom to 39.9%! For reference, of the high volume pull-up shooters, the percentage of Tatum follows only that of the pull-up master Damian Lillard.

Tatum can get his pull-up jumpers in two ways. He feels comfortable leaving a screen like this:

Tatum has also become a killer on getting away from isolation like this:

That’s how you quickly become one of the most feared scorers in the league!

3. A popular narrative that entered the season was that Boston’s defense would have fallen without Al Horford. Many ran with Enes Kanter who replaced Horford as a disaster. But Brad Stevens has taken a different direction. Basically he replaced Horford with Daniel Theis.

Has the defense fallen? Not even a little. Boston is in second place in points allowed per game. It’s not even a function of the average pace, given that the Celtics are fourth in the defensive ranking. Last season, with Horford, Boston was seventh in the defensive standings, a full point behind the team this year.

Part of this is certainly explained by the improvement of the wings. Some are also explained by Kemba Walker who gives a coherent effort, as opposed to last year’s forward and forward effort in the point guard position. But a piece goes to Theis. This year he was as good as Horford last season.

The first concern is that opponents would attack Theis on the edge more often. It didn’t happen. Theis defends 6.5 shots per game in the basket against 6.4 shots per game for Horford last season. He was slightly more defensive in allowing opponents to pull 55.4% on the edge compared to 56.5% Horford allowed in 2018-19.

This show closely resembles what Boston regularly receives from Horford. Theis reads Victor Oladipo’s guide, knows that his guards have the perimeter covered and is able to stay with Oladipo on the crossover step for the block:

A large part of Horford’s value as a defender is related to his ability to hold his own on switches on the perimeter. Still, it’s just as good, and somehow a better touch. They defended 4.1 shots per game that came from more than 15 feet. In 2018-19, that mark was 4.7 attempts per game for Horford. Being able to fire some shots is a huge part of defending the switch. And their allowed percentage was within one percentage point of each other.

All in all, the move from Horford to Theis did not harm Boston’s defense in any obvious way.

4. Another popular story coming in the season was how Kemba Walker was more comfortable playing ball than Kyrie Irving. And how Boston would probably have used Walker by going out of screens more often. The numbers tell us that it didn’t really develop as expected.

Walker and Irving are similar shooters coming out of the screens, but the Celtics actually used the Irving screens off in 2018-19 compared to Walker this season. In addition, Irving took 3.9 goals on the pitch for capture and shooting attempts, while Walker made only 2.6 of those attempts per race. So, Walker off the ball did not materialize as expected.

What Brad Stevens did was swap some of Kyrie Irving’s ISO possessions for Picker Roll Walker. Walker picked and rolled for Boston with 10.1 games played per game or 48.8% of the actions he was involved in. Those played led to 1.08 points per possession, which is in 94th percentile of all NBA pick and roll ball managers.

Irving was not a bad pick and roll player for the Celtics at all, he just didn’t like to operate that way. Irving ran pick and roll on only 6.6 possessions or 29.4% of its shares. This resulted in 0.99 points per possession, which ranks 85thth percentile.

Exchanging Irving’s less efficient shots off the screens and outside the ISO for Walker’s choice is part of what helped Boston jump from 12th in offensive evaluation in 2018-19 to fifth in this season.

The other big difference? Walker is a killer on pull-up jumpers. Walker made 6.2 three-point attempts per game in the pull-ups (the fifth highest in the NBA). He shot down 36.4% of these attempts, which put him in the Damian Lillard area, in the Jayson Tatum area as a marksman. Last season Irving took very few three-point pull-ups, only 3.0 attempts per game.

By using Walker more in pick and roll situations, combined with his extraordinary pull-up shooting ability, the Celtics have been able to find a more efficient attack this season. Since Walker will rise from three regularly, it helps to widen and space the floor. This can be a really effective weapon if Boston faces Milwaukee, and their defense coverage, in the playoffs.

5. Grant Williams is still somewhat of an offensive mystery box, but there are signs that he may be an extra player. Right now, Williams’ shooting profile is that of a great stretch. 44% of Williams’ shots came from behind the arch. Considering that he shot just under 25% from the deep, it’s … not great!

But let’s look a little deeper. Williams, almost comically, could not hit a three to save his life and start his career. He lost his first 25 long-range attempts. After that? Williams hit three pointers 21 out of 60, which is a more than 35% respectable. Considering that Williams has always been a good free throw shooter and has been decent three in college, we can believe in that 35% more than the 25 consecutive failures.

But what sets Williams apart is his ability to hurt teams when they put a smaller defender on him. This will happen directly or when teams change. Here is a very small theater, but Williams has been incredibly effective on post-ups this year. Out of 18 total post-up possessions. Williams kicked the ball 17 times and scored 10 of them, with a 58.8% shot. This puts Williams in 99th percentile on post-ups.

If Williams manages to make a couple of games like this when he has defenders he can bully inside, he will do a lot to complete what should be a solid stretch game.

The second part will come on Friday!


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