Despite boasting an incredibly deep roster, Isaiah Thomas is still the workhorse for the Boston Celtics. His 29.3% usage rate in 2015-16 was above and beyond the highest on the squad. Pairing him with All-Star center Al Horford will create a dangerous combination in half court sets this season.
Picture Isaiah weaving his way through bigger defenders and into the paint last year. He did it pretty often, right? Now picture Isaiah storming at a 6'10", 250-pound screener who is perfectly aligned next to his defender. My goodness. That's what we may be on tap for during this upcoming season with Horford coming to town.
Isaiah is great at penetrating defenses-- he drove to the hoop more than any other player in the NBA last season. However, the pick-and-roll (PnR) only accounted for 31% of Isaiah's possessions on offense, which is fairly low for a point guard (This includes any type of pick play). If only there was a way to make his PnR game stronger...Cue Al Horford.
There are obvious reasons why Horford will help the Celtics' offense and mesh well with Isaiah. The most important, however, may be due to his effectiveness in the pick-and-roll. During his tenure with Atlanta, the new Celtic big man was one of the best in the league at setting picks and either popping out of them or rolling to the rack. Tom Westerholm of MassLive.com examined this:
Horford was fourth in the league in PnR roll man possessions and 10th in frequency percentage, and his efficiency numbers were very solid: 1.13 points per possession on 275 shots, good for the 78th percentile.
In other words, Horford was used a lot (and thus has a huge sample size), and he was very efficient within that sample size. He took nearly 130 more shots out of the pick-and-roll than the closest Celtic Jared Sullinger, and he shot over 11 percent better from the field than Sullinger.
Horford brings a lot to the table for Boston's pick-and-roll game. His ability to set a sturdy screen and either pop out for a reliable mid-range jumper or slip into the paint for an easy finish is very valuable, especially when you pair that with a player like Isaiah who thrives off of driving to the hoop.
The Boston point guard himself noted how his job will be easier with Horford setting screens for him during an interview with BasketballInsiders.com's Alex Kennedy :
Kennedy: How much easier does Horford make your job as a point guard?
Thomas: “He’s going to make my job very easy. He knows how to set picks, he knows how to roll and pop in certain situations, and he’s a four-time All-Star for a reason. He knows how to play the right way and he’s a winner. He’s kind of won at every level. Even though he hasn’t won an NBA championship, but he’s been a part of really good teams and he can help us out. He’s a professional and knows how to get the job done. I can’t wait to get things started with him.”
Given Isaiah's high usage rate and drive frequency last year, Horford is the perfect piece to pair with him. Their skill sets will compliment each other nicely, especially in pick-and-rolls, and could create a deadly duo.
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Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images Erik Johnson 9/24/2016 01:00:00 PM Tweet Edit