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Hollinger’s take on the 2012 Celtics

ESPN’s John Hollinger has published his 2012 scouting reports and player profiles for the Celtics.

For those of you without ESPN Insider Access, I’ve pulled out some of the more interesting (good and bad) analysis.

Rajon Rondo:

One of the league’s most unique players, Rondo is either great or horrible at nearly everything, producing wildly divergent viewpoints as to his overall value. In the same season, he was passed over in favor of Luol Deng for the All-Star team and named on eight MVP ballots…

The general consensus was that Rondo’s defense slipped a bit last season, that he gambled too much and his effort wavered. While opposing point guards mustered just a 10.9 PER against him, Boston gave up more points with him on the court, and his foul rate was so low (barely one every 20 minutes) that it supported the idea that he was saving himself for the offensive end. His steals rate was also a career low, although still well above par for his position.

Avery Bradley:

Bradley actually didn’t have an unusually high steal rate, as he didn’t take gambles off the ball, but on it he routinely devoured dribblers with his outstanding lateral quickness. Bradley had some of the best Synergy scores at his position and held opposing guards to barely double digit PERs; the Celtics also gave up 4.4 points per 100 possessions less with him on the court. Opposing 2s occasionally found success attacking him in the post, but even there he did a fairly solid job.

Paul Pierce:

Pierce turns 35 in October and will likely begin showing signs of age at some point. We just don’t know when that will be. Last season, he actually took on a much greater offensive load given the struggles of Boston’s secondary players, ranking fourth among small forwards in usage rate, and it didn’t seem to hurt him. Pierce’s TS% dropped, understandably, but he still finished a solid eighth among small forwards in this category and belied his age by converting 64.8 percent at the rim. He also still draws fouls like nobody’s business, ranking fourth in free throw rate at his position despite shooting mostly jumpers.

Kevin Garnett:

When Garnett finished the first month of the season, he couldn’t jump and was noticeably dragging his leg. But as the year went on, he turned into the KG of old, abetted by a midseason shift to center. His season-ending stats were nearly the same as the year before, although he continued his drift to the perimeter. Nearly two-thirds of his shots were beyond 10 feet, and he converted an excellent 45.9 percent of them. However, Garnett took advantage of his length, especially in the playoffs — he went to the post much more often for short-range turnarounds and showed he can still be extremely effective from that spot.

Brandon Bass:

Defensively, Bass had some of the highest Synergy ratings in the NBA last season, but subjective observation and other metrics fail to back that up. The Celtics gave up more points with him on the court than off of it, and opposing power forwards had a 13.7 PER against him — solid but hardly exceptional given the elite defensive team surrounding him. He’s tough and he’s become much sharper situationally than when he first got to Orlando, but it’s hard to rate him as more than a midtier defender at this spot.

Jason Terry:

The biggest negative, offensively, is that Terry’s turnover ratio keeps climbing. A jump shooter shouldn’t be in the bottom half of shooting guards in turnover ratio, but Terry was last season.

Nonetheless, his primary shortcoming is at the defensive end. Terry has to cross-match defensively and check the opposing point guard, but quicker players can get by him and bigger ones play right over the top. His rebound rates are among the worst in basketball, although he doesn’t foul — only Steve Nash was whistled less often last season (see chart). Boston’s personnel should allow Terry to keep cross-matching, and if so he’ll continue to be very effective in his sixth man role.

Hollinger isn’t too high on Jeff Green and Courtney Lee. He thinks the Celtics overpaid for both (Green’s contract “boggles the mind”). He also points out that Lee is much better on paper and his defensive reputation outweighs the results on the court.

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  • Larry Legend

    Guy sounds like a true Celtic hater. Pretty negative article. I wonder how many games he sees celts winning? I wonder if I care….oh yeah I don’t.

  • Tim

    Hollinger thinks the sport is a big numbers game that can be decided based on formulas. I don’t think too highly of his opinion to be honest. If we went by what the experts thought last year, and maybe some people did, nobody would’ve expected them to come within a game of the NBA finals.

    • Eric

      All of em picked the Celtics to win against the Heat when they were up 3-2. They talked A LOT of shit about the Heat when we went up 3-2. They don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re going waaaaaaaaaaaayy too in depth with all these numbers. Basketball is Basketball. Any team can be beat. It’s all about who wants it more and who’s healthier. Celtics should have like 4 championships since 08, but injuries f’d the team over.

  • WinstonSalems

    Hollinger tries to apply sabermetrics to basketball, but it’s much more complicated than that. Too many variables are involved in basketball. Defensive schemes, offensive sets, which players are on certain rotations, etc. NBA GM’s are making attempts to figure out these “numbers” by hiring statisticians, but they agree that it’s much more advanced than studying baseball. Hollinger’s PER stats make sense, in regards to the individual play and his calculations, but it can not truly predict nor set value to any player’s performance. There are too many outcomes on just one single offensive play, to try and understand it with calculations seems painfully tedious and unnecessary. Although i appreciate Hollinger’s effort and his attention to detail, i also understand that basketball is just too complicated of a sport to predict with saber metric-style analysis.

    • charlie

      The whole is equal to more than the sum of its parts. I agree with you.

  • Chuck – Red’s Army

    I’m with you guys on the stats. I do appreciate his scouting reports.

  • kg215

    I think most people would agree we overpaid for Green considering past play and expected minor improvements, only a huge improvement makes that contract worthwhile. Hollinger is indeed a Celtics hater though, and relies way too much on stats.

  • Nick

    I’m a huge celtics fan, can’t get enough of any article (from rondo’s gq “job” to ‘why c’s won’t contend this year’) because it just gets me so pumped for this season. It feels good, the offseason was a success, we kept who should still be in Boston and brought in much needed help.

    But PLEASE for the love of God and all things holy, I’m sick of reading “haters gon’ hate” or “here’s a true Celtic hater, you only hate us because we’re so good” comments. THAT’S why we hate the Heat. THAT’S why I hate Miami fans. They’re like fat 8th graders who are too dumb to say anything else. Please Boston, we are smarter than this. If people hate us, who gives a shit? I’m happy with the 17 banners and 18 being worked on without paying any attention to what Internet personalities or casual fans or basement Internet pussies have to say about my team. Celtics for life.

    • Larry Legend

      Hey nick if you read my post I ended it that I don’t care…stop with the high and mighty. I love that people don’t like the Celtics cuz they’re good.

      • Jayfox

        Right on man!!!

  • Jesse

    Hard to argue with most of that…

  • Reggie35RIP

    Pffft. Why is Terry in the bottom half of shooting guards in turnover ratio? Probably because he plays point some of the time and is a distributor.

    That’s a pretty shaky dig at Terry.

    “Rondo is either great or horrible at nearly everything”

    Exactly. If a part of his game isn’t going he figures out other ways to help his team. I’ve seen plenty of games where he can’t buy a bucket, but racks up double figures in assists and boards. Or when he’s not dropping many dimes he’ll score and rebound. And he’s always racking up steals.

    This guy is definitely not big on Rondo. Not one good thing to say about one of the top three PGs in the league. Pathetic.

    This guy obviously has a low opinion of the Celtics in general. It would be pretty easy to find the negatives in players on every team to paint a bad picture if you really wanted to.

    Talk’s cheap, bring on the season. Then everyone can stfu when the C’s bust out of the gates.

  • J

    I’m not surprise of Hollinger’s analysis of the 2012 season, he tends to use statistics to point out the negatives of the Celtics. With that said, I can’t argue his points on the 2012 Celtics, because that is exactly what most fans witness for a majority of the first-half season.

    2013, Celtics will need to be more consistent as unit especially the bench. I do agree Ainge overpaid on Green’s contract, but Ainge is obsessed with JG. But stats means nothing when you’re in the final 4 of the conference finals and one of two teams in the NBA finals.

    Bottom line ESPN can kiss my butt and no one respects them anymore. It’s hard to take serious a sports network that focuses on Tebow, Jets and Lebron 24/7.

  • Mitch

    He’s entitled to his opinion. Celtics fans should care less, honestly. Let’s move on, because there’s a critic or critique for every team and player.

  • Curt

    Hollinger contradicts himself In his FIRST review.

    “[Rondo’s] foul rate was so low (barely one every 20 minutes) that it supported the idea that he was saving himself for the offensive end.”

    “His steals rate was…well above par for his position.”

    First, Rondo doesn’t get fouls as a result of hustling to play PROPER defense, not a lack of effort as Hollinger contends. Rondo may have had fewer steals than normal, but I am pretty sure he was still in the top 5 in the LEAGUE. He is a defenese beast. Hollinger just enjoys his website hits.

  • Curt

    However, sabermetrics CAN be applied to basketball, but because the team dynamic influences each minute more than in baseball, it will take a while longer to understand just which parts of the game need to be studied.

    For example, PER rating can change for each player depending on who else is on the court on offense and defense. That changes A LOT. So tracking the data will be tough. I doubt it will be tracked due to cost. Even so, the whole game is about exploiting weaknesses before the other team sees them.

  • charlie

    Good point – individual dynamics make a difference at any point in time in basketball. I did love to see us steamrolling another team in the old days but they don’t seem to do that any more.