Boston Celtics: Advanced statistics and the starting lineup

The Boston Celtics have a lot of work to do to get back to the level of success they have achieved in the past, even as recently as 2012. This current roster will not be the roster that gets them back to the Finals, and the starting lineup needs some help. With the draft and free agency looming, which position should the Celtics be focused on improving? Let’s take a look at some advanced statistics of the starting lineup 

Statistics are not perfect, but they can be a great tool to help evaluate players. The three statistics I used to evaluate the Celtics starting five are Player Efficiency Rating (PER), Real Plus-Minus (RPM), and Wins Above Replacement (WAR).

For a crash course in those three stats, PER is a rating of a player based on their per-minute production. It helps evaluate players, acknowledging the fact that they may not play the same amount of minutes-per-game as another player of their position.

RPM is the estimated impact a player has on his team’s net point differential per 100 positions. It takes into account factors such as teammates and opponents, which makes it better than the simple plus/minus stat that tracks how the team scores while that player is on the floor.

A player’s WAR, which is based on their RPM, is the estimated number of team wins attributable to the player. Between these three stats, we should gain a solid understanding of what a given player is contributing. 

The lineup I chose to analyze is my best guess as the Celtics starting five if the season were to start today. Those players are Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Jared Sullinger. With this lineup in mind, let’s look at their stats to see where improvement is needed.

Celtics Starting Lineup

A couple of quick reactions. First, Rondo only played in 30 games, which would explain his surprisingly low numbers. I was also surprised to see that only Sullinger was above average in all three categories. It is interesting to see Bradley having the highest WAR of the five, which can be attributed to his above average defensive ability. 

The position that sticks out that needs the most improvement is small forward. Jeff Green was below average in all three areas, the only starter to not be average in at least one category. Granted, he did play 539 minutes, or almost three whole games more than the next closest Celtic, Brandon Bass. However, these stats do seek to accommodate for such factors, so we should be safe in concluding he is the weakest link of the starting lineup. 

The next position the Celtics could benefit in upgrading would be power forward. Brandon Bass was exactly at league average according to PER and well below average in regards to RPM and WAR. He ranks 58th for power forwards in regard to RPM and 50th in WAR. He also ranks 34th in PER. With 30 teams in the league, it would only make sense to have a power forward ranking in at least the top 30. The Celtics can do better than Bass. 

The forward positions are where the Celtics need the most help. The foundation of Rondo, Bradley, and Sullinger will be solid enough for contention with the right additions. Next week, we will look at a couple of players, both in the draft and free agency, who would be the ideal fit for this rebuilding project.