The great debate over whether the Boston Celtics are a better team with or without Kyrie Irving began early and often this year. We’ve even debated it previously, and the numbers seem to tell the same story each time. Although attempting to say a team is consistently better without their most talented player isn’t easy, sometimes the stats can be revealing, and that’s the case here.
Things really escalated after a road win against the new-look Philadelphia Sixers prior to the NBA All-Star break. The Sixers had excelled in two games after acquiring Tobias Harris via trade, but Brad Stevens’ squad went into Philly and picked up a 112-109 victory with Irving sidelined.
This led to an interesting debate about whether Boston is actually better without their star and as a starting point, Adam Kaufman of WBZ NewsRadio provides some fun drama.
If you take an even deeper dive than that, the team’s record and stats back up the argument that the Celtics are better without Irving, even before this year. That’s not saying they’re a more talented group, but it is true that Brad Stevens’ squad is a better all-around team overall currently.
Considering how deep the Celtics roster is, this isn’t all that shocking, as other players have thrived without Irving.
Celtics Record, Stats With & Without Kyrie Irving
Irving has missed 11 games this season and the Celtics are 9-2 in that stretch. To compare, in the games he’s suited up for, Boston has a 28-22 mark. Looking back to last season, the team’s success without Irving was well-documented, considering Irving played in just 60 of 82 regular-season games and was out for the playoffs.
Over the three rounds of postseason play last year, the Celtics were 11-8 and eliminated the Sixers in five games after knocking off the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo in round one. Boston went 14-8 in regular-season games without Irving, including a stretch over the final month where they won 10 of 16 games.
Beyond that, the Celtics average 112.5 points per game this season over 61 games. In the 11 games Irving has missed, Boston averages 113.9 points. The Celtics have also been worse when their All-Star point guard attempts 20-plus shots, posting just an 8-11 record in those games. For good measure, if you include games with 19 or more attempts, the record moves to 12-14.
Stats, Usage of Celtics Players Without Irving
Virtually every other member of the Celtics sees a usage increase with Irving off the floor this season, and their stats obviously take a leap as well. As Basketball Monster details, all but one player who’s tallied 350 or more minutes with Irving off the floor has seen their usage go up.
- Terry Rozier (1,040.7 minutes): 18.5 to 19.8
- Jaylen Brown (771.2 minutes): 22.4 to 24.7
- Gordon Hayward (751.8 minutes): 19.2 to 21.2
- Jayson Tatum (707.4 minutes): 22.4 to 23.6
- Marcus Smart (651.1 minutes): 14.3 to 17.8
- Marcus Morris (586 minutes): 20.9 to 24.5
- Daniel Thies (469.7 minutes): 16.0 to 15.4
- Al Horford (356 minutes): 18.8 to 19.1
- Semi Ojeleye (366.7 minutes): 13.8 to 14.0
Daniel Theis is the only name on that list who’s usage decreases, but players like Marcus Morris, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Smart all see nice bumps in their point-per-36 numbers. Obviously, when taking a player such as Irving off the floor, it will lead to statistical increases for other players, but the fact that those numbers have led to wins is what stands out.