Attentive Brad Stevens wants big men to space floor

It's obvious that when a new coach is in town, the players will do nothing but praise him unless their name is Dwight Howard. Thus it doesn't surprise me when all Celtics praise Brad Stevens' intelligence (well, some overdo it like Jordan Crawford here), however one consensus among the current roster is particularly interesting: Attention to detail. Jay King's training notes demonstrate that difference:

[Stevens] does envision using his big men farther from the basket. Olynyk and Jared Sullinger possess polished offensive repertoires, Brandon Bass is lights out from midrange, and Kris Humphries – who spent time after practice Wednesday with a group of guards, working diligently on 3-pointers – is said to have improved his range. (...) During one drill Wednesday, Stevens split the Celtics into two groups and told them only corner 3-pointers counted in a competition between the two sides. The moment seemed like it might hold major significance – over the past several seasons, Boston has too often eschewed efficient looks (like corner 3-pointers) for inefficient ones (like midrange jumpers).


Spread it further, FURTHER! (Credit: AP)
3-point shot has gained more favor over the years (as documented here) and there's some evidence (though not compelling) that it works: Top 10 winning teams attempted 20.6 3PTs last year whereas the bottom 10 attempted an average of 18.8; there exists a correlation, (albeit a weak one of 0.28) between winning percentages and 3 point shot attempts. This does not mean that 3-point shots are a recipe for success, yet there are cases where it makes sense and the Celtics are an example of that.

I've previously analyzed team shots per distance in wins and losses, and the difference maker was shots taken from 10-19 ft. The Celtics connected 51.8% of their shots from 10-14 ft. last year in wins whereas in losses that rate dropped significantly to 38.0%. So the question is: how do you improve on that? One answer is to further space the floor and trade the midrange shot for 3-pointers. After all, two missed 3-pointers are equal to three missed midrange shots in terms of opportunity cost. It's a fair trade-off.

I'm glad to see that Stevens is addressing this issue unlike Doc Rivers who have sort of ignored the way the team could improve. The Celtics are a shooting team and their bigs have always spread the floor, but it wouldn't hurt them to take that extra step from time to time and try a three-pointer. Versatility is what counts in the NBA nowadays, and although it is not mentioned in King's article, I'm sure Bradley and Lee will also be quite happy with the focus on corner 3's.

At the very least, it makes me happy to have a coach who cares about little details and likes statistics.

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