How Boston Celtics Can Get Jason Terry Back on Track

Michael PinaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 27:  Jason Terry #4 of the Boston Celtics dribbles from the hand of Eric Bledsoe #12 of the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on December 27, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Jason Terry was supposed to be Ray Allen 2.0, a player the Celtics could utilize from behind the three-point line who was also capable of creating his own offense in pick-and-roll situations. Terry was supposed to blitz opposing second units as he did in Dallas, bombarding them with one of the best individual offensive attacks in the league. So far, it hasn't happened that way. 

By a slew of statistical measures, Terry is having his worst per game statistical season since entering the league 13 years ago. He's averaging a career-worst 2.2 assists per game, and his 11.5 points per game are his lowest since his rookie season. Two years ago, when he was one of the three most important players on a championship winning team, Terry's usage percentage was 24.7 percent (meaning nearly a quarter of all Dallas' possessions ended with the ball in his hands whenever he was on the court).

This year that number has dropped to 17.6 percent, another career-low. (Has Terry's 12.2 PER been mentioned? That would also qualify as the worst of his career.) 

Terry's shot attempts have gone down, but that was to be expected with his arrival on a team that has more than a few players capable of scoring at an efficient rate. What's unexpected is the decrease in both consistency and accuracy.

According to, last year Terry attempted 1.5 attempts at the rim, making a perfectly respectable 68 percent of them with just 19.7 percent coming on an assist. This year the attempts at the rim have trickled to one shot per game, but the percentage tumbled to 54.5 percent with half of them coming by way of a teammate's assist. 

It's a marginal drop off, but one that speaks to a larger problem: Terry isn't regularly being placed in positions to succeed. Not all of it can be blamed on Boston's offensive scheme—he's shot 1-15, 3-10, 5-17 and 6-19 in games this season—but in order for this relationship to take a turn for the better, Doc Rivers needs to give Terry a firm role, even if the consequence is a shift in Boston's offensive strategy. 

The biggest reason for Terry's low usage rate is Rajon Rondo. He's never played with a point guard who commands ball possession so often (and deservedly so). But if Boston is to see more efficient success from Terry, it'd be wise to put the ball in his hands more often in scoring situations he's familiar with.

Terry is more than capable of spotting up or running around screens for a catch-and-shoot opportunity, but to not use him in the pick-and-roll would be ignoring all he has to offer. It'd be like using an iPhone to strictly make phone calls. 

According to Synergy Sports, Terry is finishing just 13.1 percent of his possessions as the ball-handler on pick-and-rolls—compared to 25.8 percent last year—but he still qualifies as the 10th most efficient player in the entire league in these scenarios, scoring 0.95 points per possession. Whenever an opponent opts to go beneath the screen, Terry can simply rise up for an uncontested shot (most likely a three-pointer), and he's good enough of a ball-handler to force the defense to collapse, opening the floor up for other Celtics shooters or finishing at the rim by himself.



A lot of Terry's looks have been wide open this season, and he simply isn't knocking them down. Known as one of the more clutch shot takers of his generation, Terry has been anything but this season. Here's a shot chart showing how he's performed in the last five minutes of games where the scoring margin is six points or less. 

It's mysterious as to why he's missing so many shots in tight situations, but making his experience on the court more pleasant from the start couldn't hurt in turning this trend around. (He's too good of a shooter to miss 11 of 12 shots in 44 minutes of action, as he did in a loss against Philadelphia earlier this season.)

At 35 years old, a natural decline is imminent, but the shots he's missing would suggest the cause to be more inscrutable. His poor shooting, both in the clutch and overall, should turn around eventually. But a great way to expedite the process would be to make Terry even more comfortable within his new team's offensive system.

One option would be getting him even more open looks from the corner (arguably the best shot in basketball). This season Terry has attempted 43 corner threes—good for the 23rd most by one player in the league—but he's only making 39.5 percent of them (by contrast, Ray Allen is shooting 57.1 percent on 42 attempts). 

Another is putting the ball in his hands more often, even if it comes at the price of removing it from an equally qualified teammate. Terry is a crucial puzzle piece, and squeezing all the offensive ability they possibly can from him should be a number one priority. He's too versatile of a weapon for the Celtics to ignore, and it all begins with increasing his action in the pick-and-roll.