The day before the season started, Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla laid out a vision for the team's offense this season, and a focus on raising the floor to make sure they could keep the variance of a 3-point heavy shot diet from sinking them in crucial games.
“We didn’t force turnovers, and we didn’t get offensive rebounds, so I recognized it the entire year. If you saw 80 percent of our box scores, we won the 3-point margin (by attempting more 3-pointers than the opponent), but we lost the shot margin. And we were able to make up for that because we were kind of a really skilled offensive team, and we usually won the free-throw margin because we didn’t foul on the defensive end. But that’s not a recipe for long term in the playoffs and on nights when it’s not going well.”
So far this season, the Celtics are executing his plan to perfection and the result is a league-leading offensive efficiency of 124.7 points per 100 possessions, a mark head and shoulders above the league record 118.6 points per 100 possessions the Kings averaged last season.
The Celtics offense is winning the battles of possession AND efficiency
The Celtics are absolutely dominating in the focus areas Mazzulla laid out — ranking fourth in offensive rebound rate and seventh in turnover percentage.
Last season, because of their struggles with turnovers and on the offensive glass, the Celtics averaged just 98.3 true shot attempts (field goal attempts or trips to the free throw line) per 100 possessions. This season, they're up to 99.5.
That's not a huge increase but it's a meaningful one. Only three teams — the Kings, Bulls and Knicks — are generating more true shot attempts per 100 possessions. But each of those teams is generating more true shot attempts by virtue of missing (and offensive rebounding).
The Celtics are shooting 59.7 percent from inside the arc, best in the league, 38.9 percent from beyond the arc, seventh-best in the league, and 84.1 percent from the free-throw line, second-best in the league. No one has been better use of their shot attempts and, as Mazzulla laid out, the Celtics are doing a much better job of maximizing their number of shot attempts.
There's a lot more to the Celtics' offensive success — spacing, Jayson Tatum's absurd shot-making, the surplus offensive juice Jrue Holiday provides, and, of course, the addition of Kristaps Porzingis. But at a base level, they're doing what offenses are supposed to do — take and make as many shots as they can.
Subscribe to The Whiteboard, FanSided's daily email newsletter on everything basketball. If you like The Whiteboard, share it with someone you love! If you don't like The Whiteboard, share it with someone you loathe!
The NBA In-Season Tournament is off to a shaky start
The first games in the NBA In-Season Tournament are in the books and the results were ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. The league debuted new custom floors, some of which were cool, some of which were not, some of which would burn your retinas like a solar eclipse if you stared at them too long. In at least one case, the 3-point line on the new floor wasn't measured correctly and there were multiple reports of dead spots on the floor.
Besides the technical issues, there was the fact that no one — both players and fans — really seemed to know what the games meant or why they were supposed to matter. The next round of tournament games resumes on Friday. Get ready for more of the same?
- Warriors win NBA In-Season Tournament game after controversial review
by Chris Kline, for FanSided
- Bones Hyland Admits He Doesn’t ‘Know What’s Going On’ With The In-Season Tournament
by Bill DiFilippo, for UPROXX
- NBA in-season tournament courts, ranked from worst to best by Abe Beame, for SBNation
- Denver Nuggets' In-Season Tournament court misplaced the 3-point line by Blake Schuster, for FTW
- Early returns are in, and NBA's new and colorful in-season tournament is merely meh by Dan Wolken, for USA Today
QUICK HITTER: Scottie Barnes can shoot
"Across his first two seasons, Barnes has made 29.0 percent of 417 3-pointers. He regressed enormously on long 2-pointers last season, dropping from 38.7 percent to 32.9 percent. His 34.5 effective field goal percentage on all pull-up jumpers was dead last (by a huge margin) among the 75 players with at least 200 attempts last season."
The Raptors' offense is ranked 23rd in efficiency and has had precious few developments to celebrate but Barnes' pull-up shooting is definitely one. He looks much more confident this year, with a smoother, more controlled form when pulling up off the bounce.
Through seven games, Barnes is 17-of-29 on pull-ups, including 4-of-10 from beyond the arc. He only made 72 pull-up jumpers all of last season and he's on pace to nearly triple that output. But most impressive is his accuracy — his 65.5 effective field percentage on pull-up jumpers ranks second among the 44 players who have at least 25 attempts so far this season.
There will almost certainly be some regression to the mean, I don't think Barnes has really gone from one of the worst pull-up shooters in the league to one of the best in a single offseason. But his other offensive skills are strong enough that even becoming a league-average pull-up shooter resolves one of his most dramatic weaknesses.
This development makes Barnes far more viable as a primary offensive fulcrum and, given the struggles of the rest of the team, may make the Raptors feel more comfortable trading their veterans later in the season and starting a full rebuild around Barnes.
1. James Harden tries to fit in ... again: "'If (the goal) is a championship, (then) I don’t know,” Scout No. 1 texted. “It seems like it adds more of what they have: scoring and ballhandling. What do they do with Norman Powell and Russ now? And it takes away all of their small-ball options, which is how they want to play. It will certainly lead to a lot of regular season wins, but the playoffs is a big question." James Harden fit with Clippers? We asked scouts: ‘I just don’t see how they blend’
2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander IS the timeline for the Thunder: "The Thunder have the luxury of such extreme patience in part because their superstar buys into the big picture. Gilgeous-Alexander signed a five-year maximum contract extension in the summer of 2021 when Oklahoma City was coming off a 22-50 season, a deal that notably does not include a player option. He doesn't spend any time worrying about the Thunder's timeline, trusting Presti to figure out the best path toward "sustained high performance over a long period of time," as the GM put it." The Thunder, Sam Presti's 'pivot' and why the darlings of the NBA are preaching patience
3. Lakers stumbling into something special: "I have no idea what to make of this group. Wood is not known for being a defender, and the next thing you know the Lakers are throwing him onto Kevin Durant. Dealing with injuries to Jarred Vanderbilt and now Gabe Vincent, Darvin Ham still seems to be experimenting with lineups. I have no clue how viable the James, Davis and Wood mix will be long term, but they have won the Lakers a couple of games already, and it will be fascinating to see where they eventually settle down." Five Lineup Combinations That Explain the NBA Season