Chris Forsberg

Four stats that make an All-Star case for Celtics' starting five

Boston has strength in numbers with its deep, versatile starting unit.

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The Boston Celtics are campaigning for their entire starting five to land spots at NBA All-Star weekend.

Considering that group of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kristaps Porzingis, Derrick White, and Jrue Holiday have a net rating of +19.6 in 257 minutes together this season, you can understand why the Celtics have chosen to celebrate that entire first group.

Alas, Boston's depth is both a curse and a blessing, at least when it comes to All-Star voting. The Celtics could struggle to get even two representatives to the midseason classic in February because some of their players might split the vote, particularly when conference coaches vote for All-Star reserves.

That could open the door for less-deserving stars who play for a team devoid of other talent.

The good news: Tatum should land a spot among the fan-voted starters. Even as he navigates a minor slump -- at least by his lofty standards -- we feel confident that Tatum will find his way to Indy, one way or another. 

But which teammates deserve to join him?

For this week’s Forsberg Four on Celtics PostUp, we highlighted one stat from each of Boston's four other starters to accentuate their case for All-Star consideration. That quartet has been so solid recently that there is no obvious choice for Boston’s second star.

The Celtics own the best record in basketball at the moment and that could go a long way towards encouraging both fans and conference coaches to vote for multiple Boston players. Still, given all the individual talent in the East, it could complicate the All-Star path for some of Boston’s most impactful players.

All that said, if the Celtics' biggest problem through the first third of the season is getting squeezed on All-Star berths, then the team is in a pretty great spot overall. 

Let’s crunch some All-Star-worthy numbers: 


That is Brown's average assist points created per game over Boston’s last seven games. In fact, Brown leads the team with 5.1 assists per game in that same span.

Brown’s vision and playmaking were already showing signs of progress. Then ESPN posted a graphic on social media noting how Brown had taken 40+ shots with zero assists over two games last month. He’s seemingly been hell-bent on showcasing his creation skills ever since.

Brown is making all the right plays when teams send multiple defenders his way. His turnover percentage has dipped, even as the degree of difficulty on his passes seemingly elevates.

Brown is quickly evolving into a player who can impact winning in multiple ways. If scoring was his calling card and served as his fast pass to All-NBA status, Brown is now playing his most complete basketball, especially when All-NBA runningmate Tatum is off the court.

Brown’s 37 dunks this season -- the most by any player under 6-foot-8 -- has helped remind everyone of his scoring talents, too. All those highlight slams should help keep him fresh in the mind of those voting for reserves.


That is White's net rating differential this season. The Celtics post a team-best net rating of +13.2 with White on the court, and that number plummets to a team-worst +2.7 when he’s on the bench.

Those are some Tatum-like numbers. While White has long been an advanced metrics darling, his numbers really pop this season. Just look at White's net rating differential compared to Boston’s other four starters: 

  • White: +10.5
  • Holiday: +2.9
  • Porzingis: +2.1
  • Tatum: +0.1
  • Brown: -1.3

The Celtics’ ability to thrive regardless of who’s on the court has kept the differential modest for most players. Boston outscores opponents by 10.2 points per 100 possessions with Porzingis on the court. But they are still a solid +8.1 in his time on the bench, so his differential doesn’t pop the way that White’s does.

White missed a few games, including losses in Minnesota and Charlotte, which certainly aided his differential. Still, his mark is absurd. For the season, the Celtics have outscored opponents by 222 points in White’s 782 minutes on the court.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. White finished with a net rating differential of +9.7 last year. Still, even as his role has increased this year, White continues to make good things happen.

Heck, even Joe Mazzulla acknowledged after Wednesday’s win in Sacramento that White deserves All-Star consideration.  The fact that White is shooting 42.9 percent on 3-pointers and blocking 1.2 shots per game will further help distinguish him from the pack.

Joe Mazzulla emphatically calls Derrick White an All-Star and explains why he's so important to this team after the guard put up 28 points in the team's 144-119 win over the Kings.


That is Porzingis’ points per play on post-ups this season. Among all players with at least 2.5 posts up per game this season, Porzingis ranks No. 1 in scoring efficiency. He’s shooting 68.8 percent on all shots off post-ups this season.

It’s a monster luxury for the Celtics that, when the offense starts to sputter, they can simply toss the ball into their 7-foot-3 center and let him take advantage of mismatches.

The bottom line is that, with Porzingis on the court, Boston is 16-4 this season. That .800 winning percentage is only slightly better than Boston’s season mark, but it’s painfully obvious how important Porzingis has become. And that’s been emphasized by how big his absence looms when you watch this team without him.

When Boston seemingly couldn’t get any 3s to drop against Golden State, it highlighted the luxury of Porzingis' addition. His ability to end scoring lulls by entrenching himself near the basket and generating quality looks has been a game-changer.

Combine that with some fantastic defense -- opponents are shooting 12.1 percent below expected output on all shots inside six feet when defended by Porzingis -- and the 7-foot-3 big man has quickly made himself indispensable on both ends of the court.

-7.6 percent

That's the field goal percentage below expected that Holiday is holding opponents to inside of 10 feet this season.

Here’s why that’s particularly notable: The Celtics have routinely dispatched Holiday to defend bigger players, especially power forwards and centers. His versatility and willingness to take on those challenges is a big reason that Boston is tied for the third-best defense in the league -- and they’ve really only scratched the surface on their potential at that end.

Here are some of the names of Holiday’s most frequent matchups so far during the 2023-24 season: Donovan Mitchell, Julius Randle, Jalen Brunson, Paolo Banchero, Tyrese Maxey, Tyrese Haliburton, Darius Garland, Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Pascal Siakam, and Myles Turner. That’s a list heavy on All-Star candidates (and two former MVPs, too).

The Celtics can dispatch Holiday to hose down any player that’s having a big night, like when Banchero got hot early during a game in Boston last week.

Opponents are shooting 1.5 percent below expected overall against Holiday -- a solid number, especially considering the level of talent that he is being tasked with defending.

Holiday further highlights his case for All-Defense by grabbing 6.7 rebounds per game, second-best among all guards. He’s quietly nearing 40 percent shooting on 3-pointers this year, and his 13.5 assist points per game is best on the Celtics this season.

On a team overflowing with All-Star candidates, Holiday is giving the game what it needs.

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