Balanced scoring is the basketball socialist ideal. It’s fun to see a team that digs down on defense and shares the ball without hesitation. The Spurs-Warriors-Hawks triumvirate still lead the NBA in passing acumen and flow.
The Celtics have played 4 games. Let’s not leap to conclusions until December (I would say January, but I know that’s not possible). First impressions are always strongest. Isaiah gave Celtics fans a remarkably positive first impression last spring, leading the team to an improbable playoff spot. This year’s first impression (second overall) has been positive as well, with Thomas averaging 23.5 points, 6.5 assists and 2.0 steals in only 30 minutes per game. Most importantly, Isaiah is getting to the line over 7 times per game, and hitting 93% of those free-throws. He is the Celtics lone offensive force. When he sits, the Celtics have consistently struggled to score.
With the ball in his hands the vast majority of the time, Thomas has been the focal point of defensive game plans. The season is too young to analyze, but we know the Spurs will always be a top defensive unit, and they forced Isaiah into going 4-of-18. Thomas’ 3.3 turnovers per game (up from 2.6 in 21 games with Boston last year) shows the lack of balance in the offense. Brad Stevens is hoping Amir Johnson (now starting in place of Tyler Zeller) will help balance the lineups better with his ability to roll toward the rim in combination with Marcus Smart or Avery Bradley. Jared Sullinger (outside shot comes and goes, but rebounding is also a need at the moment) started on Wednesday in place of the struggling David Lee, who has not helped alleviate much of anything. More minutes to R.J. Hunter (spacing!) will be interesting. It’s been a while since the Celtics had actual spacing.
With the inclusion of Sullinger and Johnson into the starting unit (increased minutes) the Celtics will likely have five or six players eclipse 10 points per game. As it stands, here are the scoring averages:
- Thomas 23.5
- Bradley 14.0
- Smart 12.0
- Crowder 10.0
- Johnson 9.5
- Sullinger 9.3
Avery Bradley’s shot chart through 4 games is a bright spot. Bradley is 8-of-16 from deep, above the break (non-corners). Strangely, he is 0 of 4 from the corners so far. If Bradley’s range has improved, Marcus Smart will have more room to operate in the pick-and-roll.