Analyzing The Anomalous: Greg Stiemsma vs. Portland
I ask the following question with no disrespect and in the nicest possible way: Seriously, what is Greg Stiemsma? His inhabitance in the NBA is based on two things, size and desperate need for size. The fact that last night, in one of the most lopsided, dominant games played this season, Stiemsma posted a +/- of +1, playing more minutes than any Celtic except for Brandon Bass, is beyond weird, and only begins to devalue the logic of a traditional box score and what it can tell us about a player’s impact. I would feel legitimate guilt if I didn’t say Stiemsma was more than positive in influencing Boston’s merciless obliteration of Nate McMillan’s tenure. He swatted shots. He offered himself up as a threat in spacing the floor. He was an undeniable presence.
Let’s go inside for a closer look at one of the stranger games played this season.
Greg Stiemsma vs. Portland. Boston won 104-86. Stiemsma’s statistics: 27 minutes, 1 point (on 0-9 shooting), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 6 personal fouls.
- The shot attempts weren’t terrible, and if you’re an intelligent Celtics fan, you couldn’t be mad at anything he did. Here’s a rundown: The first shot was a wide open 20-footer in transition; the second had Stiemsma wide open under the basket, he went up after one pump fake and was probably fouled on the arm (no call); after holding things down on a great defensive possession, his third shot came with the score 45-19 in the form of a wide open dunk that clanked off the back of the rim; his fourth was with the shot clock near zero—a rushed jumper at the free-throw line; his fifth was a makable reverse layup that rolled off the rim; next came his first post move of the game, where Stiemsma forced something resembling a turn around jump shot that was blocked (although this also could have been called a foul); his seventh was a simple hook shot in front of the basket that, again, was blocked; his eighth and ninth attempts were shot in rapid succession from next to the hoop—the first was an ugly turn around jumper from the post, and the second was a failed attempt at putting back his miss. That about sums it up. When you look at these shots in the context in which they came (total blowout), none were “bad” in the sense that he should be benched or scolded. The missed dunk obviously should’ve gone in because he’s seven feet tall, but the post moves were aggressive and taken within the game’s natural flow. If you’re going to go 0-9 in an NBA game, this is the way to do it.
- Stiemsma’s reputation is solely based on his ability to block shots, but his energy level as a help defender can’t be denied. He understands Boston’s insanely complicated defensive rotation schemes and manages to lug his gigantic body from the paint to the perimeter, and back again, with relative fluidity. On a possession that resulted in him grabbing one of his seven total rebounds, Stiemsma hedged on a Felton/Aldridge pick and roll, flew to the basket to prevent a Gerald Wallace baseline drive, then scurried back to contest a wide open Felton three-pointer. The shot missed, and somehow Stiemsma managed to place himself back in the painted area to grab the board. This is the effort ever bench player in the league should give when it comes to defense.
- In my opinion, the play that effectively ended the game was also Stiemsma’s first assist. The score was 40-17 with eight minutes left in the second quarter when Marcus Camby attempted to lob an alley-oop at LaMarcus Aldridge, who was fronted in the post by Bass. The only problem? Aldridge chose not to jump. The ball smacked off the backboard straight into the hands of Stiemsma, who instinctively turned and threaded the needle on a beautiful lead pass to a streaking Sasha Pavlovic. With nobody in front of him, Pavlovic scored on a layup and was inexplicably fouled by Gerald Wallace, who gave very little effort on the entire sequence. Not only did this play end a game that was already getting out of hand, it may end up encapsulating why Nate McMillan loses his job. From the Aldridge/Camby miscommunication, to the lack of transition defense, to Wallace’s lazy foul at the end, I’ve never seen a team look less interested with playing basketball than Portland last night.
- On one play, the Celtics used Stiemsma in the high post as a passer, and it actually looked useful, resulting in a quick hit to a flashing Paul Pierce for a layup. When you mix his intelligence and high IQ with a giraffe’s point of view, you get a basketball player able to find cutters, then hit them with passes over the defense’s head.
- He posted a 20.4 usage rate, which doubled Kevin Garnett’s and was higher than Rondo’s.
- For someone with such gangly arms, Stiemsma controls his motion with precision, which is rare. When his man has the ball, he’s great at anticipating where it’s going next. And when he guesses right, he usually gobbles it up, as he did to both LaMarcus Aldridge and Ray Felton for two of his three steels.
- Stiemsma’s 7.7 blocking rate would be second highest in the entire league if he played enough minutes to qualify. Last night he had two. The first came on a weak layup attempt by Wallace and was swatted off the backboard to ignite a Celtics fast break. Greg Stiemsma’s impact on basketball is farther reaching than a simple tally in a box score, and plays like this one are proof. When he does something positive it tends to have a domino effect on the rest of his teammates, and whether he’s starting a play or ending it, there’s no denying when he’s on the court he needs to be accounted for. Boston doesn’t need him to thrive on offense, but when he gives his all on both ends the Celtics are simply a better basketball team.