The 2020-21 Boston Celtics’ ball movement was so bad that in his first interview after being hired to replace Brad Stevens, Ime Udoka commented on our assists rankings league-wide. Udoka was spot on, though; the Celtics ranked near the league’s bottom in every passing statistic because they rarely moved the ball between players on offensive possessions.
Instead, the Cs resorted to isolation play from their two best players, leading to stagnant offenses when one of the two was off the floor.
If the Boston Celtics want to contend for a title, they need to evolve as a passing team. Isolation ball doesn’t work with even the best isolation players because it is easy to scheme against in the playoffs.
Even the Brooklyn Nets, who had three of the best isolation scorers in NBA history, consistently moved the ball between their guys until they got the best shot, and more often than not, they did. The Cs don’t have to be the Brooklyn Nets, but they should want to mimic their best attributes this coming season.
They have a variant of the scoring, and they are a much better defensive team than the Nets, but what Udoka currently lacks in the passing department. Here are a few things Stevens can do this offseason to help him out.
Improvement #1 to the Boston Celtics passing: Acquire high-level passers
The first step in improving the Celtics’ passing should be acquiring more passers. Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart were the only high-level passers on the Celtics last season, and there’s only so much the two could do. Relying on Semi Ojeleye or Tristan Thompson to make the necessary reads that generate good shots is slippery. The Celtics need guys that process the game faster, see the floor more clearly, and have a softer touch when passing the ball.
One guy that the Celtics have had an interest in before is Kyle Anderson. Reportedly, a Smart-Anderson swap was discussed at the deadline, but neither side could agree, so the deal fell through.
However, the idea of trading for Anderson should not be forgotten. He should be at the top of the Celtics TPE board, given his salary and the length of his deal. $8 million for one season is a bargain and would keep the Celtics financially flexible.
Aside from the practical point of view of trading for Anderson, he fulfills a need on the court. At 6’9, Anderson can see the floor clearly and has the touch of a 6’3 guard. He is slow, but he’s balanced, which helps him go through his progressions and make the best pass available. He averaged 3.6 assists and 6.3 potential assists in 27 minutes per game with the Grizzlies; if the Celtics trade for him, he can replicate this production off the bench and drastically change the Celtics ball movement.