There’s been lots of chatter (too much actually) on the early season struggles of Jeff Green. While it’s far too early to make any significant judgments, especially with such small sample sizes, it’s always good to at least take a look into certain patterns or issues. Green is not the only new(ish) member of the Celtics that has been off to a slow start. Jason Terry had been struggling with his trademark instant offense off the bench until Wednesday night’s OT win over the Wizards. While Avery Bradley is out rehabbing from double shoulder surgery, the man keeping his starting spot warm, Courtney Lee has had a tough time getting his shots to fall. Or is he taking bad shots? If you simply looked at a shot chart you couldn’t come to a complete conclusion because there are so many variables that go into a single shot whether it’s made or missed.
Was the play called for him? Did he come off a clean screen? Was it a catch-and-shoot? Was it under shot-clock duress? Did he attack the hoop, get fouled, but not get the whistle? Was the defender effectively challenging his shot? Was it a standstill corner three? Was it a rushed shot? The the passer accurately deliver the ball at the numbers, or did the shooter have to catch it too low or too high, then re-adjust? All of these factors, along with others, could influence a shot. Looking at a very, very small sample size from Wednesday’s game vs the Wizards, we can see if Lee is simply not getting shots to fall.
Here’s his shot chart:
From ESPN’s site we can see three misses and if you mouse over each “X” it will give you which quarter and at what time he missed. Looking at the video, we can see much more.
FGA1: With the shot clock winding down, Lee makes a nice baseline cut to the hoop, and KG delivers a perfect fastball at the numbers with enough space between Lee and the hoop. As Emeka Okafor rotates over, Lee makes a nice move to avoid the block and just misses a lay-up. Not the easiest lay-up and yes, he could have tried to draw a foul, but this is a quality shot that he simply missed.
FGA2: At the 0:08 mark, it’s a Floppy play that they used to run for Ray Allen all of the time. Lee cuts from the baseline to the right wing, and Jared Sullinger sets a good enough screen on his man to free Lee up. Rondo delivers the ball perfectly, Lee squares up and again just misses a high quality shot. I’ll take that every time.
FGA3: At the 0:14 mark, the Celtics effectively swing the ball from the right side of the court to the left in text-book fashion, setting up a wide-open left corner three (Lee’s hot spot) but he never officially gets it off due to Sullinger getting called for a 3-second lane violation. Unofficially? Lee front rimmed it in rhythm. Again, another great look that just didn’t fall.
FGA4: At the 0:27 mark, the C’s run a double-high post action set with Sullinger and Brandon Bass at each elbow. Lee initiates the set by passing to Bass on the left elbow. Lee cuts to the right, setting a screen for Pierce who acts as a decoy. As Pierce cuts to the lane, Sullinger screens for Lee who gets a solid pass from Bass. Lee makes a post entry pass to Sullinger then immediately cuts towards him so Sullinger can hand off and screen at the same time. It’s very effective as Lee is able to attempt a mid-range banker, and falls down (acts is more like it) as Bradley Beal gets called for the foul trying to fight through the screen. Another shot that he can make that just didn’t fall.
FGA5: At the 0:43 mark, with just 6.5 seconds left in the half, the C’s are inbounding at 3/4 court. This is a typical set up for the “Rondo Drill” where Rondo would take it coast to coast to see if he could lay it in just before the buzzer. Instead, Rondo does drive through the middle of the lane, but sets up Lee perfectly for a wide-open right wing three that he just misses again. Another front rim. And if you watch after the buzzer, he attempts another shot, misses and is clearly frustrated.
The point of this is to show how stats without context can be very misleading. If you looked at the boxscore as well as the game log and shot chart, you’d think Lee shot poorly. However, this was somewhat of a good-bad shooting night. They were all high quality shots that he’s fully capable of making, but they just didn’t fall down. There are tons of fantastic shot charts full of data that are busy and pretty at the same time. Lee will start knocking those down and all of a sudden he’ll be viewed differently in a positive way.
Jason Terry was also struggling in the same way. A lot of the shots he took were solid, good shots he normally makes. He just wasn’t. Sometimes this is not the case as some players just take a handful of bad shots to make their percentages tumble down. With Lee and Terry, this wasn’t the case. Terry broke out the other night and it’s likely a matter of time before Lee does as well.