The Celtics have the 12th-best offense in the NBA through 12 games, an encouraging mark given the fact that Marcus Smart (12.2 ppg) has been the only double-digit scorer on the team besides Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
However, as the C’s delivered one of their worst home shooting performances in the last 15 years on Sunday afternoon, a glaring issue was on full display for a large percentage of the roster against a Knicks frontcourt with formidable size: An inability to finish at the rim.
The Celtics have their fair share of above-average finishers at the rim (Rob Williams, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Javonte Green) with varying levels of involvement in Boston’s offense. Yet, when you look at other vital members of the team’s rotation in the early part of the season, the finishing numbers (inside three feet) get ugly in a hurry. In fact, among 235 qualifying players across the NBA, the Celtics have four of the worst 60 shooters at the rim in the opening three weeks of the regular season.
Let’s take a closer look at these players and efficiency numbers at the rim to better sort out whether this is just a slow start to the 2020-21 campaign or a more concerning trend for the team over the long-term.
175. Tristan Thompson: 57.6 percent (5th lowest among centers): The C’s biggest offseason acquisition has had a relatively pedestrian start to his career in Green. His rebounding has been as advertised but his defense has not been as sharp as one would hope. That’s likely a byproduct of being out for training camp with a hamstring injury along with dealing with some tough matchups at power forward while playing in the double big starting lineup to begin the year.
While there is no question that Thompson is an immense upgrade over Enes Kanter defensively, Thompson’s offense has been underwhelming early. He’s shooting just 49 percent from the field (lowest mark since 2013) and his struggles around the rim have been far worse than his subpar career average for a big (62 percent). For a guy that’s elite at collecting offensive rebounds, his inability to finish those second chances in traffic is a bit concerning. The Celtics will begin to get back some more scoring weapons to help spread the floor around him in the coming days and that should help create more space for him to finish in the paint but this is a concerning number for a big who takes more than half of his shots at the rim. If he doesn't show some improvement, the Celtics may want to consider going in a different direction at center during crunch time.
212. Grant Williams: 50 percent (fourth-worst among qualifying power forwards): This is less concerning than