Everyone in Boston and the surrounding areas were so excited about the Celtics coming into the 2016-17 season. The team had drafted an athletic project in Jaylen Brown third overall in the draft, and landed prized free agent Al Horford.
People around Boston weren’t the only NBA fans who thought highly of the C’s. Before the season the Celtics had the second best odds in the Eastern Conference to win the NBA Championship right behind the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers. In my opinion, these were lofty expectations for an underachieving team but nonetheless I was excited.
After nine games the Celtics currently sit ninth in the weak Eastern Conference with a 3-4 record, which is below expectations. Now I know a ton of Celtics fans will say it’s too early to judge the team and they’ve been dealing with injuries (Olynyk, Horford, Crowder) but after watching Wednesday night’s game against the Wizards, I have some grave concerns.
Let me start by saying I’m a huge proponent of rebounding. I think it’s one of the stats in basketball that actually can decide the outcome of a game. Just look at the Cavs last year. They killed the GSW on the boards on their way to the NBA Championship.
The Celtics are one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA so far, but it’s not just rebounding as a whole, it’s offensive rebounding. I know they’re missing Al Horford and Jae Crowder, but indulge me for a second.
The C’s were out-rebounded by 23 last night to the terrible Wizards, which was just the latest example of a concerning trend. The Celtics rank 29th in the NBA when it comes to opponents offensive rebounds per game, and 29th in defensive rebounds per game. So they give up almost the most offensive rebounds per game to their opponents, while grabbing the least defensive rebounds in the NBA. Not a good mixture for success.
The most revealing stat is rebounding differential per game, which has the Celtics ranked dead last in NBA with a -8.0 rating. This number is 1.4 less than the second to last team which is the New Orleans Pelicans, who’re by far the WORST team in the NBA. I could go through more rebounding metrics to prove my point but you get the gist.
More surprising than the Celtics getting beat on the glass is how deficient they’ve been on defense, a staple of their success the past couple of seasons. Coach Brad Stevens builds his teams around perimeter defense, and Danny Ainge, as GM, has built this team to stunt the guards of opposing teams. That hasn’t happened so far this year and the stats paint an ugly picture.
Across the scope of the NBA the Celtics rank 28th in pts. allowed per game, a stat in which they’ve been in the NBA’s top five the past two seasons. But it’s not just that they’ve been giving up an exorbitant amount of points, because everyone does that in the NBA, it’s how well teams are shooting against them.
The Celtics rank 22nd in the NBA when it comes to opponents FG% and 29th for opponents 3P% at almost 39%. These are down right putrid stats for a perimeter-defense built Celtics team.
Here is the stat I deem as the reason for the Celtics 3-4 start. The Celtics are giving up almost 29 FTA per game…PER GAME, and opponents are shooting 78% from the line on those aforementioned attempts. Free points are killing the Celtics and a big reason is that they have no rim protection. The concerning part is I don’t think Al Horford will solve or improve these stats, so until the Celtics solve that sole issue, they’ll remain a mediocre defensive team.