The Boston Celtics Biggest Need

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Everybody has their theories on how to fix the slumping Boston Celtics. Some are calling for the jobs of Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens. Some are looking to blow the team up and trade anybody outside of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Some fans are so frustrated that they are even willing to part with Tatum or Brown for the right return. The bottom line is the team needs to do something. To me, there is one thing this team is in desperate need of, a facilitator.

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It won't fix all of their problems, but it will make a major difference.  The Celtics need somebody whose top priority is getting others involved.  Somebody with a pass-first mindset, who will run the offense and look to set guys up for scoring opportunities.  Ball movement is one of Boston's biggest weaknesses at this point. 

When they are sharing, and moving the ball, they are winning games.  The problem is they don't do it nearly enough.  Too often, the offense turns into Tatum, Brown or Kemba Walker holding the ball for the entire possession and trying to beat their defender one one one.  When things start to go awry, the Celtics get stuck in isolation basketball and the game starts to spiral out of control.  Big leads get blown. Small deficits balloon. 

What this team needs in those times of struggle, is for somebody to slow it down and run a play.  Somebody who after a few empty possessions will stop and run something in order to get somebody a good shot.  Somebody who directs the offense, and attacks with the intention of passing/finding an open teammate.  Tatum, Brown and Walker are all capable passers, but they all have a scorer's mindset.

All three are capable of getting others involved, they just don't do it consistently enough.  Walker is a great passer coming off of a screen.  Whether he's dropping it off to a big man rolling to the hoop, or finding a jump shooter out of the pick and pop.  He's not a "run the offense" type of guy though, and he has particularly struggled this year; currently averaging a career low 4.1 assists per game.  His offensive struggles have been well documented this year, and I think he's focused more on trying to get himself on track.

Tatum and Brown show flashes of playmaking ability, but the next step in their development will be consistently creating for their teammates.  Maybe that will come as they get surrounded with better players, who knows?  All I know is that the Celtics need somebody to run the show.  Think of some of the notable "Big 3's" in recent NBA.  The successful ones have always had somebody to help move the ball.

For now, the Celtics need help.  Enter Marcus Smart. I will start by saying the return of Smart won't solve all of their problems, but you're out of your mind if you don't think he will help.  Boston still needs to find upgrades elsewhere.  Based on everything Ainge has been saying, it certainly seems like a trade is coming.  Smart alone won't make them championship caliber, but they certainly won't be a sub .500 team. 

That was the sound of the anti-Smart crowd rolling their eyes.  Like it or not, Smart is Boston's best passer and facilitator.  He was averaging a career-high 6.1 assists per game before his injury.  That may not seem like a lot, but every other Celtic averages less than five.  Coming into the year, he talked about making the right play, and getting others involved.  Sure, he still takes some ill-advised shots, but you can tell he is making a concerted effort to "make the right play".

If you're still not convinced of Smart's ability to create for his teammates, let's look at Brown.  Brown has played 17 games with Smart in the lineup this year, compared to 13 without.  In those 13 games without Smart, Brown is not only averaging five fewer points per game, but his shooting efficiency is way down. 

With Smart in the lineup, Brown has shot 53% from the field and 44% from three-point range.  Without Smart, those numbers plummet to 44% and 32% respectively.  Smart does a great job of getting the ball to Brown, and the rest of his teammates, in favorable spots.  At one point towards the end of January, shortly before Smart was injured, Smart had assisted on 45% of Brown's field goals.  Meaning just about every other made basket for Brown was coming off of a Smart assist. 

Now, assist numbers can be inflated in the NBA, but it helps illustrate the type of playmaking ability Smart has, and the type of playmaking ability that this Celtics team currently lacks. 


Follow Derek on Twitter @mcvay34.

Check out Above The Parquet, the Syndicate’s podcast dedicated solely to the Boston Celtics and the rest of the NBA.  Follow on Twitter @AboveTheParquet.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: The Boston Celtics Biggest Need
The Boston Celtics Biggest Need
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