Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens brought his former Butler numbers guru to town to help with statistical analysis. One of Cannon’s early tasks: Track hockey assists. In practice.
What are hockey assists? It’s an advanced hoops stat that spotlights the player who assists the player who assists a made field goal. In hockey, a second assist is often credited on goals, but it’s fairly easy to track when a typical game features only a handful of scoring plays. In basketball, where the Celtics, for instance, averaged 37 made field goals per game last season (61.4 percent of which were assisted), it’s a far more daunting chore that often requires video review to truly track with accuracy.
[...] “I’ve tracked it before in my career because I’ve coached for a lot of teams that didn’t have what you would consider to be a pure point guard,” Stevens said. “And I think it is important when you’re trying to emphasize the extra pass, and you’re only focused on assists, then you’re not giving any credit to the guy who created the play. So we do track that [and] we will start tracking it more. “
This is great. There’s no better way to get guys to do what you want than to create a statistic for it and let guys know who’s doing it well.
Guys love their stats. Anyone in the league who tells you he doesn’t know what his stats are is probably lying to you. Stats make contracts, and great stats make great contracts. So if a guy can go to a GM and say “I led my team in hockey assists last year,” that now means something.
I’ve long advocated for the hockey assist in basketball. The pass to set up the pass is just as important as the assist, so I’m glad guys are getting credit for it now. And on this team, with a lack of guys who can really create their own shot, assisting the assist is going to give the Celtics their best chance to score baskets.
I do think Jeff Green is going to get lost in this system a little bit, though, if he doesn’t ramp up the aggressiveness. There’s making the extra pass, and then there’s playing passively. Jeff’s got to understand that the Celtics not only need his scoring on the floor, they need the threat of his scoring to soften the defense and make those eventual extra passes more effective. He needs to be more of a threat out there because doing so forces more defensive attention on him, and it makes it tougher for defenders to rotate and chase the ball. If Green makes it tougher for defenses to do that, he gives his teammates that extra tick they need to get a clean look versus a contested shot.
C’s play the Knicks tonight… let’s see if they can clean it up a bit from Monday and get that crisp ball movement going.