Here’s an annoying early season NBA trend: The Boston Celtics, favorites to gain supremacy in a LeBron-less Eastern Conference, have the worst offensive rating in the NBA, following an ugly 93–90 home loss to the lowly Orlando Magic Monday night. In a season thus far marked by outrageously prolific scoring league-wide, the Celtics—loaded with slick and interchangeable perimeter weapons—are mustering a crummy sub-100 offensive rating through four games.
As pointed out by Jay King for The Athletic, their whole shit is all inside out. The Celtics had attempted the fourth highest percentage of long twos in the NBA prior to Monday night’s loss, a whopping 21 percent of their total field goals. To make matters worse, the Celtics are attempting the fourth-lowest percentage of shots at the rim. Those numbers didn’t necessarily hold up against the Magic—by my count, just seven of their shots Monday night would be considered long twos, and the Celtics generated a healthy 34 attempts at the rim—but their overall distribution of shots was still highly suspect. Just five of their 40 three-point attempts came from the corners; they attempted 24 shots from either the midrange or the non-restricted paint; and the entire team attempted just nine free throws.
The start is concerning because last year’s Celtics were a similarly low-wattage offensive outfit. It was assumed, then, that mostly this had to do with the absence of Gordon Hayward, and, later, the absence of Kyrie Irving. Both those guys are back now, but neither has looked all that up to speed. Kyrie did some things Monday night, but so far this season Kyrie doing some things has meant 20-ish points on 20-ish shots with some unimpressive playmaking numbers, and not the destroyer-of-worlds domination of early last season. And Hayward is returning from one of the most gruesome injuries in NBA history. No one knows when or even if he’ll ever get back to his pre-injury level of play, only that he for sure hasn’t gotten there yet. In the meantime, Boston’s most-used lineup—the terrifying Kyrie-Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown-Hayward-Al Horford group—is producing an alarmingly bad 79.3 offensive rating, per Cleaning the Glass. Not only is that the worst on the team, it’s like 20 points worse than the worst offense in basketball.
It’s not all doom and gloom. First of all, the season is very young, and Irving and Hayward are bound to get better as the season progresses. And some of this is just crappy luck—these same Celtics were the second-best three-shooting team by percentage last regular season; this season they’re sixth from the bottom. There will be some regression. And the Celtics are far-and-away the best defensive team in basketball, both in theory and in practice. But they were thumped by the Raptors (who are great) and now have lost at home to the Magic (who very much are not great). They should score more! It’s better to score more points, guys.