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Making Sense of the N.B.A.'s Wacky Start

The Boston Celtics could have four first-rounders in next year's draft, from: the Kings (top 1 protected), the Grizzlies (1…

The Boston Celtics could have four first-rounders in next year’s draft, from: the Kings (top 1 protected), the Grizzlies (1 to 8 protected) and the Clippers (1 to 14 protected), plus their own. We are almost a quarter of the way through the season. Who would have thought that the Celtics would be on track to end the highest pick of them all by season’s end?

I’m being hyperbolic. Men vi går forbi det “det er tidlige” stadium for å vurdere teamet, og resultatene er skuffende. Boston lost home against a terrible Knicks team. Before that, there was a blown double-digit, fourth-quarter lead against a tired Charlotte Hornets team. It’s nothing short of baffling. One of their wins required an unlikely, otherworldly late comeback against an objectively bad Phoenix team.

Brad Stevens’s offense moves the ball well and generates open looks with ease. It’s not the Celtics, it’s the only team that has had to incorporate players into new roles. It’s not a lethargy thing, either: The players seem to like playing with one another and for Stevens. And besides, how do you have one of the league’s best defenses without playing hard?

But the open looks just are not falling, and neither are the shots around the paint, in the rare instances players actually try to go to the rhyme. The offense is designed to emphasize the shooting talent of the roster. Everyone has some semblance of a jumper. In today’s N.B.A., this should, in theory, make for a lethal offense. Early on, it was easy to say the bricks were a bug, not a feature. Nu er du nødt til at spørre om der er mere på vej her. Boston shoots below 35 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, well below the league average.

Boston has not found alternatives when the open looks have not fallen. The Celtics are near the bottom of the league in drives to the rim per game, which you can get away with if the offense is hitting its jumpers, which it’s not. And when the ball finds its way into the paint, in the restricted area, the Celtics shoot 61 percent, also below mediocre.

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