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In a season with no shortage of ills to point to in a search to explain the roots of the Boston Celtics’ ongoing struggles in a campaign the team was expected to potentially contend, one structural issue stands out.
The Celtics have a ball movement problem, and it’s costing the team winnable games. To be sure, so is a lack of consistent effort, awkward lineups forced by questionable roster construction, COVID absences and their extended recoveries, injuries of the more common sort, and a host of other issues. But passing the ball remains a problem for this team on both a structural and practical level.
The difference between the latter two categories is mostly irrelevant for the rest of this season in terms of what can be done about it given the passing of the trade deadline, though there is still time to make inroads on boosting the team’s distribution capabilities on the buyout market.
That seems unlikely to do much for boosting Boston's assists per game however, which currently ranks 24th in the NBA at 23.1 per game. A low number that was quite recently even lower before the Celtics tied a season-high 35 assists per game in a win over the Houston Rockets on Friday. It's a number that the team ought to be paying much closer attention to moving forward though, with the Celtics having a 16 - 4 record in the 20 games they have played this season with the most assists per game. https://twitter.com/TheCelticsWire/status/1378765750824009735?s=20
We alluded to the unlikeliness of changing the team's structure at this point in the season substantively with regards to bringing on an impactful facilitator a team full of finishers needs to play at the level it's capable of. With only Marcus Smart, Kemba Walker and to a lesser extent Jayson Tatum regularly moving the rock with hints of such abilities from Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams III, the team finds itself ranked for assists per game among franchises like the Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic. That leaves using the roster the team has for a more facilitation-first approach that led to blowouts like Friday's against Houston as an important point of emphasis for Boston for the rest of the season. https://twitter.com/TheCelticsWire/status/1378754287011049477?s=20
Bringing on former Orlando Magic shooting guard Evan Fournier is likely going to help in that regard even though he's only dished out 0.3 assists per game with the team so far. The French wing has averaged 3.7 with the Magic this season and 2.6 over his career so far -- it seems probably his current rate will increase once he settles into a regular role with his new team. If we see Smart, Walker and Timelord aggressively moving the ball early and consistently through the game as we did against the Rockets, we should see a lot of other things for this team click into place that have thus far eluded them. This post originally appeared on Celtics Wire. Follow us on Facebook! [lawrence-related id=48616,48597,48591,48576] [listicle id=48609]