Celtics low assist numbers may be exposed in playoffs

Any weaknesses that an NBA team may have are often exposed during the intense play in the post-season. The Celtics assist numbers are an obvious problem. They rank 21st in assists per game with 22.0/game. The Golden State Warriors are tops with 30.5 assists/game. That is quite a gap.

Boston's top assist guy is point-center, Al Horford, at 5.3 per game. He is followed by Kyrie Irving at 5.0 and Marcus Smart at 4.6. The numbers fall rapidly after that with five Celtics averaging 1.0-2.0 assists/game. That all amounts to only eight Celtics averaging more than one assist per game, and only three dishing out more than four.

A different story in Warrior-Land. Draymond Green leads the pack with 7.6/game, followed by Steph Curry with 6.5, Kevin Durant at 5.4, Andre Iguodala with 3.4 and Klay Thompson at 2.5. Seven more Warriors have one-to-two dimes per game. So Boston's top-4 assist guys total 16.9/game, while Golden State's top-4 total 22.9.

My take on solid playmakers is that, to a large extent, they either have the skill or not. It can be developed, but only to a point. Former Celtic, Rajon Rondo, is a classic case, which is why Danny Ainge wanted him so badly on draft day. He came into the League as a skilled dime-guy, but his ball control often goes too far.

Boston's defensive rating is still first
with the Warriors fifth. Offensive ratings show Boston 19th and the Warriors First. The Celtics are fourth in net rating at 4.8, while Golden State is first at 10.3, a significant gap.

How does this get fixed. Rebounding can be an issue for Boston, but they have shown that with effort and focus, they can rebound with any team - and get more wins as a result. They sit at the 11th ranking in boards per game. The defense is fine, even superior. Offense and playmaking are the issues that could haunt the Celtics in the playoffs.

The Celtics need a solid playmaker
that can score the rock and not be a liability on defense. Marcus Smart can distribute the ball, but his shot selection can be spotty and ill-advised. Terry Rozier has shown that he can defend, rebound and put points on the board, but he is not a point guard. Kyrie Irvings injury revealed the need for another assist-oriented player, and the assist stats for Boston show the same need.

The names of Kemba Walker, Lou Williams and Tyreke Evans have surfaced as possible targets for Boston. Walker is a superior talent who scores and distributes, but he would need to start. I still don't envision the Celtics going after him. Williams and Evans both remain our there, and some fans are getting itchy about Danny Ainge failing to grab one of them. They are both playmakers who can score. This is how GrizzlyBearBlues' Joe Mullinax feels about Evans:

Tyreke Evans is the name that will surface the most for the Grizzlies the next few weeks, and he should not be a Grizzly any longer by the time the deadline passes. Memphis will not be able to afford to keep him, and Evans has earned a larger contract with his play this season, even in a market that figures to be slower due to the league-wide overspending of the past two summers. While the Grizzlies shouldn’t ship him out for peanuts (a random 2nd rounder, for example), if a team like Boston offers their sure to be late 1st round pick and a young player Memphis should say yes.

Offense and playmaking. Those are the weaknesses faced by the Celtics. They need to be fixed prior to the end of the regular season. Only 18 days before the trade deadline, and about seven weeks to expiration of the Disabled Player Exception. Should be interesting!

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports