Over at MassLive.com, where Celtics Town authoritarian dictator (just kidding) Jay King gets paid to write about sports, Jay posted an interesting article on how Boston’s full-team plus/minus improves immensely when Jared Sullinger plays with the starters in place of Brandon Bass and/or Jason Collins.
“Consider this: During the 197 minutes when Sullinger has been paired with Kevin Garnett, the Celtics are outscoring opponents by 15.4 points per 48 minutes. During 60 minutes with Sullinger, Garnett and Paul Pierce on the court the Celtics are 25.7 points per 48 minutes better than their opponents. During 44 minutes with Sullinger, Garnett, Pierce and Rajon Rondo together, the Celtics are plus-26.1 points per 48 minutes. The trend continues almost universally – whenever Sullinger is surrounded by Boston’s best players, the Celtics play quite well.”
Jay goes on to cite Sully’s ability to play off the ball, his aggressive rebounding mentality and his high basketball IQ as reasons behind his success. There’s little doubt that Sully is very intelligent and that his rebounding has been a lone bright spot in a season filled with mediocrity on the boards. And looking at the numbers Jay lays out, it’s pretty difficult to argue that Bass or Collins should continue in the starter role over Sullinger.
Much has been made of Doc’s hesitance to play rookies, which isn’t entirely fair. Sullinger is the first rookie in Boston to be worthy of starters minutes in a very long time (Avery Bradley, obviously, earned his starter minutes in his sophomore year). Both Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins were given time to develop, and now Rondo is one of the best point guards in the NBA, while Perkins turned a successful stint in Boston into a big contract in OKC. Over the past five years, the Celtics have had Garnett, Pierce, Rondo, Ray Allen and no need for younger players in a successful system. Doc may not prefer to play young guys thanks to his talented veterans, but he doesn’t avoid playing them in the face of logic (see: Bradley over Ray Allen last year).
In Oklahoma City, there’s been an interesting debate going on among analysts between lineups that include Kendrick Perkins at center as opposed to lineups that feature Nick Collison at center. Nearly every metric points to Collison’s lineups as the more successful, but for some reason, Scott Brooks continues to play Perk in Collison’s place, in opposition to statistical logic.
Doc is a better coach than Scott Brooks. It would be a surprise if he proved to be as resistant to change, and it would be a surprise if Sullinger didn’t get starter-quantity minutes more consistently soon.
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