The Celtics are more than halfway through their seeding games in the Orlando bubble, with plenty of good and bad trends mixed in during the team's 3-2 performance thus far. Let's take a look at some telling numbers for key players of the rotation and how they could impact the Celtics heading into the postseason next week.
+10.3 net rating for Rob Williams: Outside of the final minute of Tuesday’s loss against the Heat, the second-year center did not see the floor in Boston’s first three seeding games in Orlando. Brad Stevens saw enough defensive struggles over the C’s 1-2 start that he gave Williams a chance against the Nets with the second unit and the big man has done nothing but make the case for more opportunity. His +10.3 net rating over 31 minutes is the highest mark on the C’s roster as he was on the floor for a pair of game-changing runs against the Nets and Raptors. He’s knocked down 11 of his 12 shots in Orlando, providing a surprise offensive boost around the rim while contributing to Boston shoring up their defense with the reserves in the middle. After opening up the seeding games as the No. 4 center on the roster, a strong case now that he could be the first big off the bench until further notice.
“He’s way more comfortable with what’s expected of him at both ends of the court – getting better in a bunch of the little things,” Stevens said Saturday. “He’s always been a great vertical threat, he’s playing very hard, doing a very good job in our coverages. It’s a matter of experience, and hard work. He’s done a lot of hard work. His attitude has also been very good. He didn’t play in any of the first three games, or not much, and that’s a huge part of it. He’s ready for when his number is called.”
Williams has also helped Boston’s offense rise up to No. 2 overall in Orlando through Saturday with his size and vision.
“He’s just so bouncy and quick off the floor as well as being as tall and long as he is, so he definitely provides a rim threat for us,” Gordon Hayward added. “He’s also another big that can pass, and we can use that - whether it’s back doors on the wing or just reading different things, he’s got a really good feel for the game.”
With a pair of crafty and tough big men on the schedule this week in Nikola Vucevic and Jonas Valanciunas, Williams will have a pair of good tests to prove his strong outings were not just a flash in the pan.
8 3-point attempts per game for Jaylen Brown: The swingman has come a long way from being a lottery prospect with a huge question mark about their jump shot coming out of Cal. Less than four years later, Brown is firing away like he’s Steph Curry (from a volume standpoint) in the bubble, leading the team with eight attempts from downtown per game over Boston’s 3-2 start. The high volume is a welcome sign since Brown has been taking advantage of countless open looks created by any number of his teammates slashing through the paint and drawing help. Those uncontested shots have helped Brown knock down 45 percent of his 3s despite the increased volume, setting the tone for Boston’s offensive firepower. He’s been a surprise leader in scoring (22.2 ppg) thanks to this efficiency and that’s helped Boston’s offense pick up from where it left off before the hiatus.
5.2 free throws per game for Gordon Hayward: One of the things that had diminished for Hayward since returning from a catastrophic ankle injury over the past two years was his ability to get to the line. That was one of his greatest strengths in Utah yet this year, he was only fourth on the team in attempts per game with 2.7 per game, more than a 50 percent decline from his best seasons in Utah. While Hayward isn’t getting a big share of shot attempts in Florida after hot starts from Tatum and Brown, he is showing some increased aggression in the paint, leading the team with 5.2 free throw attempts per game. This has been a weak part of Boston’s offense for the past two seasons (getting to the line) but the C’s have used Hayward’s additional aggression to help catapult them in a top-10 team at getting to the line. On nights when the 3-point shot isn’t falling in the postseason, Hayward’s ability to draw contact in the paint will be one of the team’s best weapons at keeping them in games.
52.6 percent shooting for Kemba Walker: The All-Star incredibly is shooting it just as well from 3-point range (52 percent) as the field in his first four games in Orlando. His minutes limit has kept his attempts per game on the low end (9.5 per game) compared to other starters but Walker’s shooting touch was the biggest cause of concern for this team before the hiatus. He hadn’t shot above 50 percent from the field in two straight games since mid-January once his knee struggles popped up before the season hiatus. However, Walker snapped out of that slump in Orlando with two straight 50+ percent performances and has shot above his season average from the field (43 percent) in all four games. That type of consistency made him an All-Star earlier this year and will add a dynamic threat for 35+ minutes per game once he gets his minutes limit up.
3.6 assists per game for Jayson Tatum: The modest mark still leads the Celtics in Orlando so far and is more