Ray Allen is a machine. He's shooting the ball at a ridiculous rate. 63.4% from 3, 57.5% overall, the 3rd best True Shooting percentage (77.1%) in the league (among player playing more than 20 mpg). He's been the only reason the Celtics have been close in some of these games.
But Ray is more dependent than ever on his teammates to get him open. This year, more than 8 out of every 10 shots Ray makes come off an assist from someone. In his first year with Boston, 64.5% of his baskets came off an assist… actual difference of 16.1%.
Last year, 45.5% of Ray's shots came off a screen. The year before that. 40.4% This year: 57.9%
Source: Synergy Sports
It's really early to make any definitive proclamation from these numbers. You can come up with any number of possibilities. Here are a few:
Scenario 1: The Celtics are REALLY looking for the hot hand
Lets look at this rationally for a second: Ray came out of the gates hot, Rajon Rondo is a sporadic scorer, Kevin Garnett is reluctant to shoot, and few players other than Brandon Bass have stepped up offensively. Without Paul Pierce early on, and with Pierce still struggling to get into a groove, who else are you going to turn to? Ray Allen has been the only scorer, so of course the Celtics are going to set more picks and run more plays for him. An uptick this early in the game makes sense as they feed the only consistent scoring option on the floor.
Scenario 2: Still struggling with the offense and conditioning, setting picks and finding Ray is the easiest option
With relatively no practice time and a lack of conditioning, the Celtics know they can always fall back on setting picks for Ray because Ray Allen is a master at reading how his defender will come off the screen and getting open. With an already established rapport with Rondo, who can read what Ray is going to do, any sort of fatigue or confusion with the rest of the team can be remedied by just calling for Ray to run off a few picks. We know Ray Allen is in great shape, so if he's the only guy who can run around on offense, so be it.
Scenario 3: Ray just needs more help
Ray Allen IS a 36 year-old, 15-year NBA veteran. Yes, he's in impeccable physical condition… yes, he's a workout fiend… and yes, he's in the best possible condition he can be in. But, 36 years old and 15 years of pounding take their toll. Like I've said in the past, Father Time is an unforgiving bastard who saps speed, agility and power from everyone without discretion. It's been a tougher fight with Mr. Walter Ray Allen, but Father Time always wins. And maybe this is just the end result. More screens, more assists, and less taking guys off the dribble.
The actual truth probably lies within a combination of all three scenarios. Sure, Ray is older, so he's going to need more help. And he has most certainly been our best scoring option. And when guys are tired, it's not that hard to set a pick for Ray and watch him shoot.
Paul Pierce's return, and return to form, may drop the numbers a bit. So will better conditioning, an improved bench, and the team's overall grasp of the offense. But nothing stops the sands of time. Even if the numbers drop some, Ray will probably still need more and more help as time goes on. That's just how it's going to be. That's going to have an impact on the offense as we move forward. The more screens that have to be set for Ray, the less some other guys do on offense. Time will tell how positive or negative the impact may be. But it is definitely something to watch.