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The Golden State Warriors are the NBA champs until they are dethroned, but it won't be easy to take the crown away. We know they are a very good defensive team and superb on offense, but one of the greatest factors that separates them from other teams is their teamwork on the offensive end.


We are talking assists here - sharing the basketball. It is basic stuff. Steph Curry and Kevin Durant are terrific scorers, but they also are averaging 6.8 and 6.0 assists per game, respectively. And neither one is the assist leader on the team - Draymond Green leads in assists with 7.0 APG.

For the Celtics, Kyrie Irving leads the team with 5.6 APG, followed by Al Horford with 4.0 and Marcus Smart at 3.4. Golden State leads the NBA in assists/game with 29.2, while Boston ranks 20th with 22.2 APG. The Celtics exhibit great teamwork on defense, but not so on offense - which has to be an important factor in Boston's often-sputtering offensive production.

The Warriors have the highest assist ratio in the League, meaning they have the most possessions that end in an assist. Boston ranks 19th in the same category. See what I mean (per NBA's John Schuhmann):

THE STAT
Last season's Warriors recorded assists on 70.5 percent of their field goals.

THE CONTEXT
That was the highest rate of the last 13 years and the fifth highest rate in the last 60.

But their ball movement makes the most of that talent and is a big reason why the champs set records for the highest effective field goal percentage (56.3 percent) and the most points scored per 100 possessions (113.2) in *NBA history.

The following tells it all. Boston is tops in Defensive Rating and almost dead last (29th) in Offensive Rating. That level of disparity won't win a Championship. The Warriors rate third (offense) and seventh (defense) in comparison. Much closer numbers.

What's to be done? Could I suggest more pass-first action from the guys in green. Kyrie, Al, Gordon and Smart are all fine assist-men, but the combined career assist numbers for the quartet comes to 17.3 APG, The first three have been relied upon as shoot-first players. The top-3 assist leaders for Golden State total almost 20 APG. Durant and Curry do a lot of both, shooting and passing.


I suggest Marcus Smart play more of a Draymond Green role. Green was not always a willing passer. He went from 0.7 APG in his first season to 7.3 last season. He changed his game. So can Marcus, even if he ends up on the starting unit. Shooters in the NBA either have it or they don't. Accuracy can be improved with practice, but if you don't have it early-on, you may never be a shooter with any precision. Most of our readers, and myself, love Marcus but hate how he jacks up long-range shots too quickly. And his thumb injury certainly doesn't help his accuracy.

He does everything else very well - defense, rebounding, passing, taking charges, making steals, bugging the hell out of opposing stars of any size. Brad Stevens likes the size out there on the court but Smart taking Jaylen Brown's spot in the starting unit, playing the Draymond role, might also open up opportunities for Brown on the second unit. Smart has proven that he can guard one-through-five. Jaylen needs more looks on offense, and he may get them as a back-up. Call it a sacrifice on his part if it works for you, but I see it as a double-opportunity for the Celtics.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC and Facebook

Photo via Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

Tom Lane 10/27/2018 08:05:00 AM Edit
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