Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Your Official Milestone Preview of the 2015-16 Boston Celtics

Isaiah Thomas only played a quarter-season for Boston last year, but he could put himself in the franchise record books with a full year of work in 2015-16.
By Adam Lowenstein (@StatsAdam)

Last year, I wrote about how Jeff Green 16.9 points per game in 2013-14 represented the Celtics’ lowest single-season leading scorer since Dee Brown’s 15.5 two decades prior. Well, among Celtics players who played at least 25 games last season, he again led the team in scoring.

However, Isaiah Thomas averaged more than 19 points in just 26 minutes per contest in his 21 games with the Green during the 2014-15 season. To put his one-fourth of a season in a bit of perspective, do you know how many players accomplished that feat, averaged 26.4 points per 36 minutes, in at least 20 games last season?

The answer is three – James Harden (81 games; 26.8 points per 36 minutes), Russell Westbrook (67; 29.5) and Kevin Durant (27; 27.0).

I understand I'm stretching it a bit, but Thomas’ scoring per minute over his 67 games in 2014-15 was still in the top 10 in the league. With his ability to create his own shot and his propensity to get to the free throw line, he could make his mark in Boston’s single-season record books in terms of points, 3-pointers and free throws.

In 2014-15, the C’s were arguably at their worst ever in both 3-point and free throw shooting. Their 32.7-percent 3-point shooting was their worst for seasons in which they attempted at least 500 threes. The team attempted 2,021, the second-most in any Celtics season.

In addition, their 20.5 free throw attempts per game were their second-fewest in a season in franchise history. The worst was their 19.8 per contest in 2011-12, the lockout-shortened season.

Thomas, who played in just five games during the C’s 6-1 preseason, was still able to lead the team in total points and assists. He is just 46 made 3-pointers away from 500 for his career and could make his way into the Celtics’ single-season 3-point leaderboard if he tops Danny Ainge’s 10th-place 148 from 1987-88.

While offensive projections for Thomas may be mostly sunshine and roses, we will have to see if he can help improve the team in terms of scoring, specifically from downtown and from the line.

Although the C’s improved from being one of the worst offensive efficiency teams in 2013-14 to 20th overall last year, they will have to continue to move up that ranking to show growth.

The two areas to target would be their 3-point percentage and free throw attempts. If they can push those two statistics closer to the upper echelon (the place where their high number of field goal attempts and assists were in 2014-15), then the Celtics will be in business.

They head into this season hoping to avoid their third consecutive below-.500 season for the first time since 2000-01. Although I was skeptical at this time last year, most experts’ projections do have Brad Stevens’ squad avoiding its third straight year with fewer than 41 wins. The 2014-15 season will most likely be the first one for the Stevens in which he will be coaching multiple rotation players with double-digit years of NBA experience at the same time for a full season.

The two men – David Lee and Amir Johnson – who both came to the team this past offseason, have racked up some solid numbers. Lee’s career has been an impressive one, as he owns top-10 field goal and 2-point shooting percentages among active players. In addition, he is 94 free throws away from 2,000 for his career, as well as 100 offensive rebounds away from 2,000 in that category.

Unlike Lee, Johnson got into the true-shooting percentage leaderboard last regular season. His 60.3 percentage ranked 11th, and new teammate Tyler Zeller had the 17th-best true-shooting percentage in the league last season.

As you might have been able to see, I once again had trouble finding record-making opportunities for current Celtics. Many are happy that Boston will most likely be better than last year, but it will still be fun to keep an eye on former Celtics Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

The Big Ticket is just 89 rebounds away from moving past Karl Malone for the most defensive rebounds in league history. With just 197 defensive rebounds, Garnett would overtake Artis Gilmore in the combined NBA and ABA histories.

Tim Duncan, who has the 14th-most points in league history, is just 25 points in front of Garnett and 51 in front of Pierce. This season, all three are looking to overtake John Havlicek, who currently owns the 13th spot with 26,395 points.

Garnett is also just one game played away from breaking a tie with Kevin Willis for the fifth-most contests in NBA history. In his second matchup with the Celtics this season on February 22, he should be closing in on Malone for fourth place. Maybe we will see some more classic KG moments that evening, and by that time, maybe Celtics fans will be making plans for the playoffs.

For more sports coverage, follow Adam Lowenstein on Twitter at @StatsAdam. Statistics used from

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