Pressure is mounting on the Boston Celtics star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. First, Marcus Smart criticized their unwillingness to pass the ball, and now Celtics insider Chris Mannix has weighed in with his own assessment.
“Early on last season, there was a lot of selfishness in how they played, and people internally would tell me a lot of it had to do with making the All-Star team. In a way, they thought they were competing with each other. They wanted to make sure they got their numbers early in the season,” Mannix said. “I’ve seen a little bit of this in the past, where they’ve gone off on their own to get their numbers and not be focused on getting shots within the flow of the offense.”
Mannix’s comments come hot on the heels of Smart’s brutally honest assessment of how the Celtics star duo approach games down the stretch.
“I think everybody’s scouting report is to make those guys try to pass the ball. They don’t want to pass the ball, and that’s something they’re going to learn,” Smart told the media after the Celtics fell to their third loss in a row against the Chicago Bulls.
The Numbers Don’t Back Up Mannix’s Claim
From a statistical standpoint, the numbers don’t support Mannix’s claim. According to PBP Stats, Tatum has 26 assists to his name, with seven players being the beneficiary of his playmaking. Brown has benefited the most of those seven players, claiming 17 points off Tatums seven assists, and Al Horford comes second with 14 points off six assists.
Brown is creating far less, with only 15 assists to his name; however, he’s been asked to score more than facilitating to begin the season, so his lower assists numbers are to be expected. Still, Brown is ranked fourth on the Celtics for total assists, while Tatum is ranked second, behind Dennis Schroder, who has dropped 45 dimes in seven games per Basketball-Reference.
Peeling another layer off, NBA Stats tells us that Tatum averages 45.4 passes per game, with an average of eight potential assists. In comparison, Brown averages 33.7 passes with a potential 5.7 dimes per game.
Simply put, neither Tatum nor Brown acts as a ballhog, and each distributes the ball at a reliable rate. Furthermore, Cleaning The Glass has tracked the percentage of shots both Tatum and Brown have been assisted on, with Tatum being set up for 38% of his buckets and Brown on 46% of his made shots.
Selfish players usually rank far lower in the percentage of shots that come off assists, as they self-create their own opportunities.
Al Horford Believes the Celtics are Figuring it Out
Speaking to the media after the Celtics’ latest loss, Al Horford discussed the Celtics’ lack of urgency before stating that the new roster is still figuring things out. “As a group, we have to come in tighter in those situations, which is all part of learning how to win. I know we have some guys who have some years and all that, but as a group, we’re figuring it out,” Horford explained to the media after the Celtics lost the second half against the Bulls by 22 points.
Currently, with a 2-5 record, the Celtics have failed to live up to the expectations placed on their shoulders. A series of off-season roster moves meant the Celtics were supposed to be a more robust unit, capable of handling the rigors of an NBA season.
“Right now at 2-5, I feel a lot better from the structural stuff than 2-5,” Brad Stevens’ explained as he spoke about the team’s depth during an exclusive interview with Michael Holley.
Luckily, the Celtics have another 75 games to turn the tide on their slow start, and it all begins with figuring out how to utilize the team’s star wing duo on offense.