For most of the current season, three-point shooting has been the Boston Celtics Achilles heel, with the team often going cold from the perimeter.
As we saw in game one of the Celtics playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks, having consistent perimeter threats can make or break your season, especially when teams are daring you to take those shots. Luckily the Brooklyn Nets didn’t expose this flaw in the first round of the playoffs, as the Celtics made light work of their Eastern Conference counterparts.
Sure, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are respected marksmen, but their three-level scoring ability is their true value. Brad Stevens knows this, having coached both stars during his tenure on the sidelines, and made moves to ease some of Boston’s shooting woes throughout the season – converting Sam Hauser’s two-way deal into a full contract along with stretch-five Luke Kornet and acquiring Nik Stauskas from the G-League.
However, none of those players have seen much floor time due to their limited upside on the defensive end, meaning Boston’s scoring troubles remain intact. There’s a strong possibility that Stevens will look to resolve the Celtics’ floor spacing issues in the off-season, assuming he can generate the necessary cap space.
Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley recently suggested that Buddy Hield could be a potential answer to the Celtics’ three-point issues. The sharpshooter would join the team with just one season remaining on his contract, ensuring any potential move for him is considered low-risk.
“If Hield hits the open market, and if the Celtics could find a way to add his contract—by far the bigger if of the two—he would be a no-brainer for Boston.
For his career, he’s a per-game supplier of 3.0 threes in just 29.2 minutes of action. He has also splashed those long-range looks at a 39.8-percent clip. Having him to pull away attention from Tatum and Jaylen Brown would make the Celtics offense even harder for opponents to handle,” Buckley wrote.
Hield’s Defense Could be a Concern
There’s no doubt that Hield is one of the better sharpshooters in the NBA and that his presence on the floor ensures defenses remain engaged at all times. However, as with most three-point specialists, there are questions about the viability of plugging Hield into a defensive-minded system.
Udoka has developed a reputation for putting defense above all this season. If Hield struggled to adapt to the Celtics’ switch everything scheme, he could quickly find his playing time marginalized.
However, there’s no doubting the 29-year-old’s pedigree, as he currently boasts a 39.8% success rate from the perimeter for his career on an average of 7.6 attempts per game. Such high-level scoring would certainly provide extra driving lanes for Tatum and Brown. At the same time, Robert Williams could also benefit from additional space in the lanes when driving towards the rim to provide vertical spacing.
Still, the Celtics might prefer to take a closer look at Sam Hauser, who has proven to be a reliable three-point threat on the wing and will be far cheaper to retain than Hield’s $18 million salary next season.
Celtics Still Have Aaron Nesmith
The future of Aaron Nesmith is still a topic of discussion for Celtics fans. Following a stop-start rookie season, Nesmith was projected to earn a prominent role within the rotation throughout his sophomore year. However, the energetic shooter is still raw defensively and has often struggled at controlling his pace of play when given the opportunity.
Nesmith always looks like he’s playing at a hundred miles an hour, which often causes him to get caught out of position or give away cheap fouls, limiting his chances of playing time under Udoka. There are also valid concerns around the young wing’s three-point shooting, which doesn’t bode well, considering he was drafted to be a perimeter sniper.
The Vanderbilt product has shot just 27% from the perimeter throughout the season, 10% worse than his rookie year, taking his career three-point average to 31.8% – a far cry from the sharpshooter he was projected to be. However, it is possible that Nesmith was miscast coming into the league because when attacking the rim, he has been a viable scoring outlet, finishing 74% of his looks within four feet of the bucket.
As such, the Celtics look to have another slashing wing on their hands, one that has shown potential upside as an on-ball defender and transition outlet. But if Boston is glued to labeling Nesmith as a perimeter scorer, any sharpshooting additions in the off-season could spell the end of his time with the franchise.