Perk a Difference-Maker … On Offense?
Posted by Zach Lowe on Feb 18, 2009
I’ll admit, I went into this post with an agenda: I wanted to prove that the Celtics win more often when Rajon Rondo takes an above average (for him) amount of shots and scores more points in a game than his average. I worry a lot about offensive stagnation (don’t we all?), and I think we can agree that the more varied the C’s offense is, the less likely they are to fall into a prolonged slump that can cost them a game–and a playoff series.
But the numbers didn’t bear my hypothesis out. The Celtics (since the start of last season) are 55-14 when Rondo scores in double figures, 44-11 when he scores 13 or more points and 48-16 when he takes 10 more shots (all stats via Basketball Reference). Those win-loss records essentially match the C’s overall winning percentage.
In fact, there are almost no meaningful variables that have a significant positive impact on the C’s record; they win so often already that it’s tough to isolate anything that helps them win more. Sure, the team is 34-4 when Big Baby or Powe score 10 or more points, but that could be because those guys play (and shoot) more in blowouts, not because Powe and Baby played decisive roles in those games.
But one variable did make a difference: The C’s win more often when Kendrick Perkins is more involved in the offense. Perkins averaged 6.9 points per game on 4.5 shots last year; he’s upped those numbers to 8.0 points on 5.7 shots this season. Let’s see what happens when Perk exceeds those averages.
C’s record when Perk scores 10 points or more: 25-5
C’s record when Perk takes seven shots or more: 32-2
C’s record when Perk takes eight shots or more: 22-0
That’s right. The C’s haven’t lost a game in two seasons in which Perk has taken at least eight shots. We discuss whether this means anything after the jump.I think this may be more than just random statistical noise. First, Perk isn’t jacking up shots in garbage time, because he rarely plays garbage time. Second, the 34 games in which he took at least seven shots were against a random cross-section of league teams, from basement-dwellers to the Lakers and Cavs. Fifteen either made the playoffs last year or are likely to this season, and that’s not including the Knicks this season or the Heat of ’07-08.
And you can’t say Perk is only shooting more against teams that lack big, physical or skilled centers. The list includes two games against the Magic (Dwight Howard), two against Shaq, a game against the Lakers (with Andrew Bynum) and one against the Rockets (with Yao).
Overall, in those 34 games, the C’s averaged 103.4 points per game–about three points above their season average last year and 2.3 points above their average this season.
Frankly, this didn’t surprise me. Perk is a nifty scorer when he gets the ball deep in the post, where he can back smaller/skinnier guys down and hit that little hook off the glass. He’s also become a better jump-shooter this season compared with last, though his hot spot data shows he shouldn’t be taking them from too far outside of the paint. (He also appears to be much more comfortable facing up from the left side).
Again, maybe this is all a coincidence. Maybe the Celtics are about to lose three or four games in which Perk takes a bunch of shots. But I don’t think you can dismiss the overall trend. Offensive stagnation is the Celtics enemy, and when someone other than the Big Three Plus Rondo contributes, it stands to reason the team will play better.
In fact, the Perk Effect extends beyond offense. The C’s are 23-2 when he grabs at least 10 boards (per game averages: 6.1 last season, 7.9 this season) and undefeated when he records a double-double (10-0) or combines 10 boards with at least two blocked shots (12-0). (Perk blocked 1.5 shots per game last year, and he’s up to 1.8 this year).
So perhaps it’s more accurate to say this: The Celtics are a different team when Perk is active and involved on both ends of the floor. So let’s hope we get Perk the Beast when the games really matter.
Also of note: We and others, especially Celtics Blog, have harped often about the C’s turnover problems. The C’s turn the ball over 15.8 times per game (28th in the league). That’s a bit worse than last year (15.2 per game, also 28th in the league). When they cut their turnovers just a little, they transform from a great team into an historically elite team. When they turn the ball over 14 times or less–only a bit below their average, they are 60-10; eleven or fewer turnovers, and it’s 35-5–a pace right there with the ’95-96 Bulls. So guys, be gentle with the rock come May and June, OK?