Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
This season Thomas leads the team with 145 free throw attempts, and then the dropoff is significant: Rookie forward Jaylen Brown is second on the team with 27 attempts. Thomas has taken 145 of Boston’s 327 total free throws, or 44.3 percent. Last season, he took 544 of 1,929, or 28.2 percent .
The Celtics are averaging 20.4 free throw tries per game, 25th in the NBA.
“You play to your strengths,” Stevens said, “and if you’re not getting there as much as a team, then you need to have to balance it out by making sure you don’t turn the ball over, making sure you’re taking the right shots, and win in other areas.”
Considering his team posted an offensive rating of 106.2, slightly above its ninth-ranked season average of 105.9, against a very good San Antonio team, Celtics coach Brad Stevens didn’t seem overly concerned about Boston’s lack of free throw attempts. As Stevens noted Saturday, “Just because you don’t get to the free throw line doesn’t mean you’re not attacking right and getting inside-out and all that other stuff. … I felt good about our attack.”
The Celtics are flat-out terrible at getting to the line. They’re near the bottom of the league even with Isaiah Thomas 9.1 free throw attempts per game…which is 2.5 more per game than last year, which was his career-high. He’s 7th in the league in free throw attempts, but he’s almost solely responsible for any trips the Celtics take to the line.
Jaylen Brown is second on the team in attempts per game.
This is not ideal, but it’s not the worst thing in the world either. The Celtics are just not an attacking team. Their non-Isaiah attempts at the rim come off transition baskets. In the half court, they’re almost entirely a jump shooting team. Their 3-point attempts are up 18% this year compared to last while their 2-point attempts are down 12.3%.
The Celtics tend to pass up driving opportunities to work the ball around and get another attempt at a 3. Occasionally that lulls teams into lapses that lead to backdoor cuts and layups, but the Celtics offense almost entirely relies on guys hitting from deep. On the plus side, that’s an efficient way to rack up some points, but the negative, aside from being prone to cold shooting slumps, is that teams aren’t getting into foul trouble. In some games against elite teams, attacking could be a good way to negate some of the opponent’s advantages.
However, the Celtics aren’t going to fundamentally change who they are. Jaylen Brown’s free throw rate is pretty high for a rookie and he’ll only get to the line more as he earns minutes and plays more. But he’s an attacking player, so that’s who he’ll be his whole career. Guys like Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley aren’t going to put their heads down and James Harden their way to the line.
It would be nice to see it a little more often, though. Guys like Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder could be guys who get to the line a few more times per game without really changing much of the team’s philosophy. And beyond all the worrying about how many free throws are being taken, the Celtics still have the 9th-best offensive rating in the league. That’s pretty damn good, especially for not having had key guys for a long stretch.
Quite honestly, the offense is doing pretty well. If the Celtics can clean some things up on defense and get a few more turnovers per game, they can be pretty good.
And you know what? Free throws are boring. The Celtics are fun… well except for their penchant for extended 2nd quarter scoring droughts… but they’re still fun and getting better. The survived the first meaningful slice of the season and are moving forward with a favorable schedule coming up and a team that’s finally feeling healthy. Maybe that’ll lead to a couple more trips to the line but if it doesn’t, so be it. Isaiah’s got us covered on that end, so let’s just let the rest of the guys be who they are and move on.
RIP Javale McGee
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