What should Celtics do if injured Malcolm Brogdon continues to struggle?
Forsberg: What should Celtics do with ailing Brogdon in Game 5? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Malcolm Brogdon played a key role in delivering the Boston Celtics to the Eastern Conference finals but a lingering right arm injury has limited his offensive effectiveness against the Miami Heat and could force Boston to consider how much they can lean on the Sixth Man of the Year moving forward.
The Athletic reported Wednesday that Brogdon is playing with a partial tear in a tendon near his right elbow. Brogdon has been operating with discomfort since the Philadelphia series and briefly appeared on the team’s injury report after Game 1 of the Miami series with what the team termed a "right forearm strain."
After being a key offensive spark against both the Hawks and Sixers, Brogdon has struggled the last three games against Miami. Games 3 and 4 were the first time in Brogdon’s career where he scored two points or fewer in consecutive games. He has made just one of his last 10 3-point attempts after shooting 54.8 percent over his previous seven games.
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Brogdon has not landed on the injury report since the start of the series and it appears he will simply attempt to play through the discomfort. But if the injury leaves Brogdon unable -- or even just hesitant -- to shoot from beyond the 3-point arc, the Celtics might need to consider other bench options for part of his typical minute load.
That’s unfortunate for a player who had been key in Boston getting back to the East finals. Among Boston’s eight regulars this postseason, Brogdon has a team-best net rating of plus-7.8 over 458 minutes. The Celtics have a team-worst net rating of plus-0.7 in Brogdon’s 363 minutes on the bench this postseason.
But Brogdon’s net rating has plummeted to minus-5.5 in 98 minutes versus the Heat. Teams have tried to hunt the 30-year-old guard at times this postseason, though the NBA’s tracking data suggests Brogdon is holding opponents to 42.4 percent shooting this series, or 5.4 percent below expected output. Still, he’s been part of some defensive lapses.
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If Brogdon’s injury to his shooting arm continues to impact his offensive output, it could create opportunity for some of Boston’s depth options. Maybe Sam Hauser gets a chance to add size and 3-point shooting to the floor, or Payton Pritchard could help with ball-handling behind Marcus Smart and Derrick White.
The arm injury comes at an unfortunate time for Brogdon. The Celtics treaded cautiously with him throughout the 2022-23 season and were rewarded with consistent production. Brogdon’s 67 games were his highest total since appearing in 75 games as a rookie in Milwaukee.
Brogdon logged only 16 minutes, 33 seconds of floor time in Tuesday’s Game 4 win over the Heat that extended Boston’s season. He missed four of the five shots he took and finished with just two points. Brogdon played only five second-half minutes as the Celtics leaned into a seven-man rotation with Robert Williams III and Grant Williams the only players logging meaningful bench minutes.