Why Small Ball Works for the Boston Celtics
The Celtics can use their speed and offensive versatility to their advantage
This year, the Boston Celtics rank as the shortest team in the league. The lack of height, however, does not hold the team back from playing at an elite level.
Scoring is not a primary issue for the Celtics. They rank eighth in points per game having improved upon their offensive production. This being said, the team has looked to lineups which features smaller but more offensively talented players. For example, Gerald Green has seen more minutes lately due to his offensive production. The Celtics are at their best when they play an uptempo, pace-and-space style of basketball. This style benefits a smaller, faster and more offensively skilled player.
With the addition of Al Horford the Celtics are now more versatile on the offensive side of the ball. Playing Horford with four other wing players allows for the Celtics to open up driving lanes for players such as Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart. The second most popular lineup used by the Celtics features Horford at the center spot accompanied by Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Smart and Thomas. While the average height of this lineup is only six feet four inches tall, it still poses a threat to opposing teams.
With the use of small ball lineups this year, players are now able to get open looks from three point range. Three point shooting has been the key for the Celtics early on. While last year they were the second worst three point shooting team, making only 33 percent of their shots from beyond the arch, this year they rank seventh in three point shooting with a very efficient 37 percent average from three point range. As a team they shoot a heavy volume of threes, ranking fourth in three point attempts per game. For the Celtics, the more high quality three point attempts the better as they rank third in three pointers made per game.
Key players such as Crowder, Bradley and Smart are all shooting their career high percentage from beyond the arch. Both Bradley and Crowder rank in the top 20 in three point shooting percentage with both average above 40 percent. The Celtics are a top three point shooting team due in good part to their ability to space the floor with smaller, and faster players.
This year, Brad Stevens has stressed the notion of good ball movement. While experimenting with smaller lineups, the team has had success, especially with its three point shooting. The Celtics should look to continue using small ball lineups as it will help them from an offensive standpoint.