(I can't believe I am writing this)
To the surprise of no one, on the Sports Hub yesterday, Danny Ainge confirmed that, Rajon Rondo is likely to miss the first part of the season.
Given that Rondo is both the best player on the team and the only natural Point Guard with NBA experience, I have been thinking about how the C's should start the season's back court line up, as I suspect has Brad Stevens and his staff. The issues in picking a replacement back court also ties in nicely to some work I have been doing on shot creation and shot location in the NBA., in terms of finding the most complimentary mix of ball handing, passing, floor spacing and defense.
The shot creation pieces are particularly relevant to playing at the Point and the skills the Celtics will need to replace while Rondo recovers. The Point on offense is probably the best defined position of the five cardinal positions. He handles the ball, sets up his team mates, and gets his own shot when needed.
To take those skills in reverse order, most Point Guards ranked as what I called Shot Creators in my cluster analysis with only a quarter rating as Spot Up Guards, who score disproportionately off of getting assisted, including Avery Bradley. In fact, of all the players defined as a Point Guards by Hoop Data with more than two hundred minutes played last year, Bradley ranked 11th from the bottom last year, or the 12th percentile, in his propensity to get his own two point shot. (Two point shots are the most telling since so few three point shots are unassisted, players with a good handle and a nice three stroke get artificially lowered in their shot creation when threes are included). Rondo, on the other hand, rated highly, creating 77% of his own two point shots, putting him in the 73% percentile.
Bradley also rates low in getting assists. Third from the bottom on that same list with 11.6%. Only Royal Ivey and the remains of Derek Fisher scored lower. By contrast, Rondo led all NBA Point Guards with a 49.3% assist percentage, and Jordan Crawford, playing the two had a 19.4% assist rate in his time with the Celts last year, and higher in DC.
Ball handling is harder to measure directly. Certainly the eye test says to most observers that Bradley looked uncomfortable as a ball handler last year, looking to rid himself of the ball as soon as possible to the nearest guy with a green jersey. We can also probably look at the numbers above to make some inferences that Bradley wasn't comfortable with the ball in his hands
Bringing the shooting guards into the list; here are the Celtics guards in terms of getting creating their own shot, assists and turnovers, the signature stats for Point Guards.
|Pct Two Point
|AST Pct||TOV Pct|
|Phil Pressey- MO- 2013||4.72%||19.54||37.80||23.20|
I included rookie Phil Pressey here, even though I do not have his shots assisted data from the NCAA as of now. (Update, per commenter Adrien, I have added Pressy's numbers from Hoop-Math). Apparently there was no else on the team with the slightest ability to throw a pass in Missouri last year. Jordan Crawford's numbers look like a combo guard, he gets his own shots (not always to his advantage) and assists at a high rate with a higher assist percentage than turnovers. Bradley, Lee and Bogans look like spot up Shooting Guards, not Point Guards, with Brooks playing the role of slashing Two Guard.
Last year the Celtics were able to pair Lee and Bradley as defensive pit bulls despite their ball handling and distribution weaknesses primarily because of Paul Pierce's ability to play Point Forward. That's a luxury they won't have this year. Some of this may sound like I am picking on Bradley's game, but I am not. His defense is amazing, as is his effort. He's just not a Point Guard, and playing him as one does him no favors.
|Player- Team- Yr||Pct of Shots
|Pct of Shots
|Phil Pressey- MO- 2013||38.2%||32.4%|
In terms of shot selection, Bogans is the only pure Stretch Guard taking nearly 90% of his shots from three, with Crawford rated on the borderline of being what my analysis considered a Stretch Guard. In actual efficiency only Lee had a three point field goal percentage above the average for a Guard of 36.3% last year, though Bradley was down considerably coming off of the double shoulder surgery. Defenses are likely lie well off both Rondo and Brooks outside the arc.
Putting it together in terms of combos, if we want to have one Shot Creator and one Stretch Guard on the court most of the time, our options look something like this without Rondo:
Not all of the those divisions are equidistant (Bradley and Lee's defense is probably significantly better than the next Guard available). But then it's Steven's job to balance those trade offs setting his line ups for the first month.