It’s not often that a team reaches the Finals and then makes one of the biggest additions of the offseason.
Malcolm Brogdon joining the Boston Celtics isn’t quite (or close) to Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors in 2016. But the Celtics were the better team by far in the final three months of last season. And they fixed some weaknesses by adding a point guard — one of 13 players who averaged at least 18 points, five rebounds and five assists in each of the last two seasons — who will step into the paint and take balloon care.
Injuries were one of the reasons the Celtics struggled at the start of last season. Their starting lineup has played together in just 12 of their first 47 games. And one of the reasons they lost the final was their bench; Their starting lineup outscored the Warriors by 13.3 points per 100 possessions in 82 minutes, but all other Boston rosters were outscored by 11.5 per 100.
Of course, Brogdon himself only played 36 games last season. And he had the worst 3-point shooting season of his career, making just 31.2% of his shots from beyond the arc.
But if he’s healthy and shooting like he did a few seasons ago, the 29-year-old can give the Eastern Conference champions a real boost. And with three starters who will be 25 or younger on opening night, the Celtics remain a serious title contender.
Here are some notes, numbers and a movie on how Brogdon can help a team that doesn’t need much to get to the top of the mountain.
1. Attacker off the dribble
Brogdon’s off-dribble stats from last season contradict each other somewhat.
- According to Synergy tracking, he scored 1.02 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball handler, the best mark of his career and the seventh-highest mark among 79 players with at least 100 ball-handling possessions. .
- According to Second Spectrum, Brogdon’s effective field goal percentage on pull-up jumpers was just 43.4%, a rating that ranked only 80th out of 123 players with at least 150 attempted kicks. pull-up.
But Brogdon’s percentage of shots that were pull-up jumpers dropped from the previous season. And the percentage who “drove layups” (according to Second Spectrum) rose from 32% to 39%. With that, he also saw a big jump in his field goal percentage on those driving layups, from 50.8% to 56.7%.
In short, Brogdon became a more frequent and better finisher at the rim, someone the Celtics could use. Boston ranked only 23rd in field goal percentage (45%) and 22nd in free throw rate last season.
Brogdon ranked fourth with 18.3 drives per game, behind only Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luka Doncic and Ja Morant. His free throw rate (30.8 attempts per 100 shots from the field) was the best mark of his career and ranked 21st among 153 guards with at least 300 field goal attempts.
Brogdon will go after opposing big men and can waste his time by jumping from each foot:
And he’s more than willing to finish with his left hand:
Overall, Brogdon shot 56.3% in the paint, also the best mark of his career and a mark that ranked 22nd among 97 guards with at least 200 attempts in the paint.
2. A little more careful
The Celtics had a turnover problem in the last two rounds of the playoffs, committing 16.8 turnovers per 100 possessions (worse than the worst rate of any team in the regular season) against the Heat and the Warriors. Their Finals turnover rate (17.6 per 100) was the third-worst rate of any team in any series in the past five years.
Brogdon had the 10th-lowest turnover rate (8.6 per 100 possessions) among 49 players with a 24% or higher usage rate last season. He also had the lowest disc turnover rate (4.2 percent) among 42 players who averaged at least 10 discs per game. And it is with a relatively high success rate (he succeeded 48.9% of the time) on his readers.
He will occasionally attempt a jump pass, but Brogdon maintains relative control:
He likes to drive the baseline, which can tip the defense:
An extra ballhandler in the rotation should make things easier for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who have combined 99 (7.6 per game) of the Celtics’ 208 turnovers in these past two playoff rounds. Beyond the turnover issue, it could help these guys shoot more often.
Last season, 69% of Tatum’s jump shots, the 37th highest rate among 195 players with at least 250 total jumpers, were off the dribble. And in the playoffs, he had an effective field goal percentage of just 42.4% on pull-up jumpers, a rating that ranked 19th among 30 players who attempted at least 50.
Overall, the Celtics ranked 13th in the percentage of their 3-pointers (73%) that were caught. Neither Tatum (38.0% vs. 33.4%) nor Brown (36.7% vs. 34.8%) had huge difference between their 3-point catch-and-shoot percentage and their 3-point pull-up percentage, but every little bit counts.
A few additional transition opportunities will also come in handy. Brogdon is no all-court speed demon, that’s for sure. But he ranked 11th with 4.9 pass-ahead passes per game, according to Second Spectrum. And of the 43 players who averaged at least three, he had the fifth-lowest turnover rate (0.6%) on those passes.
3. Off the Ball
Of course, now that he’s teamed up with Tatum, Brown, Marcus Smart and Derrick White, Brogdon will be asked to play the ball more than he has in the past.
This is not the role Brogdon wants. Appearing on the JJ Redick podcast two years ago, Brogdon said he left Milwaukee for Indiana because he preferred to play point guard.
“I was playing fullback with the Bucks,” he said. “I like to shoot, but scoring is not my main concern on the pitch. It’s actually not what I want to do. It’s not my first option. I want to involve the guys. I want to win. I feel like a winner above all else and I’m competing on both sides.
“And Indiana brings out the best in me, when you look at what I just talked about. Putting myself in the point guard position allows me to play in my role, in my position, and to lead.”
But the Pacers traded for Tyrese Haliburton last season and to some extent took the ball out of Brogdon’s hands. In addition to missing 46 games last season, he shot just 29 for 88 (33.0%) on catch-and-shoot 3s.
But he was 189 for 427 (44.3%) on 3 catch and shoot in his previous three seasons. His 44.4% in 2020-21 ranked 15th among 141 players with at least 150 catch and shot attempts.
He doesn’t have the fastest release and he barely leaves the ground on his jumper. Brogdon therefore needs space and time to get started. But he’s not someone who can be ignored on the perimeter…
And of course playing with the ball isn’t just about catching and shooting 3s. As stated above, Brogdon is a striker. And he can certainly attack close-outs when playing off the ball:
Brogdon is not the most disruptive defender. He hasn’t stolen on average per game since his rookie season and his 1.5 deflections per 36 minutes last season ranked him 211th among 272 players who played at least 1,000 minutes.
He doesn’t seem light on his feet, a bit slow to change direction around the perimeter…
He may struggle to stay in front of very fast guards or provide a lot of resistance against big ones. But Brogdon is certainly not a bad defender. He does not fall asleep and is not surprised at this end of the floor. And over the last three seasons, opponents have scored 0.83 points per possession when they isolated against him. That ranks 16th among 269 players who have defended at least 200 isolations over those three seasons, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
He can stay ahead of the not-so-fast guys:
In his last game against the Celtics, Brogdon was Tatum’s main defenseman, switching to Brown when Tatum went to the bench. He was beaten by Brown at one point, but he had times where he held his own:
The Celtics, of course, had the No. 1 defense in the league last season. Brogdon shouldn’t hurt them at this end of the field, especially if he mostly takes minutes from 6-foot-1 Payton Pritchard. And if he can give the offense a little boost, he’ll definitely be worth what the Celtics gave up for him, which wasn’t much.
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John Schuhmann is a senior statistics analyst for NBA.com. You can email him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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