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Just The Sports: The Celtics' Big Three

Just The Sports

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Celtics' Big Three

Originally this post was designed to advocate that Kevin Garnett is hurting the Boston Celtics with his unselfish play and that against certain teams, it is up for him to take over the game, take upwards of twenty shots, and dominate the competition the way his physical attributes indicate that he could. On the other hand, simply because it looks to the naked eye that a player should be performing in certain ways does not necessarily mean it would help the team. Of the Celtics' Big Three, Kevin Garnett is the most offensively efficient player as well the most consistent shooter, but he is neither the most important nor is he the player the Celtics should be depending on when it comes down to picking one of the three players to take over a game.

By running correlations between various shooting statistics, I took steps towards determining the Big Three's true places in the Celtics offense. Of the three Celtics players, Kevin Garnett has the lowest correlation coefficient in terms of the number of field goal and free throw attempts he takes to the team's offensive efficiency (-.210); the more attempts he took in the regular season, the less likely it was the team would benefit from such offensive usage. It is as if Garnett will take more shots, but he will only wait until every last possible recourse has been exhausted and by then there is no benefit to the Celtics. Paul Pierce was the only one of the three players who did not have a negative correlation coefficient in this category (.060) even if it is a non-existent linkage, meaning Pierce does not hurt the team when he takes more shots.

Paul Pierce is also the least affected (-.047) when it comes to how his true shooting percentage fluctuates as a result of his attempting more field goals and free throws. No matter if he took 12 field goal and free throw attempts or he took 25, it would have little to do with his final shooting percentages. Not so for Ray Allen, who has the lowest correlation coefficient (-.170) of the Big Three. Therefore, Allen would most likely benefit from cutting off a few attempts from his game. Kevin Garnett comes in second with a correlation coefficient of (-.113).

Most importantly is determining whose true shooting percentage has the highest positive correlation coefficient with the team's offensive efficiency for that player is the most valuable offensive player of the three. There again, Paul Pierce comes out of the Big Three smelling the rosiest. As his .470 correlation coefficient shows, as Pierce goes so go the Celtics. When he is having a great shooting night, as he did in game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, the Celtics assured of having a great shooting night. The same goes for Ray Allen, albeit to a lesser extent (.439). His true shooting percentage is the second most valuable barometer of the Celtics' offensive success. Kevin Garnett, though, by virtue of being a more consistent shooter than the other two perimeter-orientated players does not have as much influence on the Celtics offensive efficiency. His steadiness means the game will rarely if ever depend on how he shoots the ball.

When it comes to needing a player to take over a game, the Celtics will do best to put their faith in Paul Pierce. Not only is he more willing to take a large number of shots when the need arises, but his greater number of shots will, if not help the team a great deal, at least not adversely affect the team's of his offensive statistics. Garnett is the team's most important defensive player, but Pierce is the Celtics' most important offensive player.



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