The CeltsThe sudden recovery in the last two games of the Eastern Conference Finals did not include the resurgence of Malcolm Brogdon.
The sixth player of the year is still battling an unclear forearm injury that knocked him out after less than eight minutes of play in Game 5. Brogdon is listed as questionable on Boston’s Game 6 injury report from Friday night with a strain to his right forearm.
Jared Weiss from Athletic previously reported that Brogdon was playing through a partially torn tendon in his elbow and even struggled with pain extending into the second round before aggravating the injury in Game 1.
While Brogdon’s current health is somewhat unclear, the injury has undoubtedly hampered his impact. He shoots just 33% from the field in the Conference Finals and a dismal 3/16 from long range. Brogdon’s minutes have decreased significantly in every successive game in the series, and he has scored one field goal in his last three competitions.
If Brogdon can’t go on Saturday, more pressure obviously falls on Derrick White and Marcus Smart to shoot and drive the basketball. But even if Brogdon gets the green light, how effective can he be?
Brogdon plays a key role in the Celtics’ offensive goals. He carries the ball 7.8 times per game in the postseason, the third most on the team behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, even though he naturally drops to 6.4 this series due to limited minutes.
The Celtics traded Brogdon last summer because they needed his paint hit. Throughout that season, when they lost their spark, he wasn’t afraid to buckle up and go to the basket. Dribbling penetration will help Boston bend the Miami zone and overall defense. Brogdon helps keep that pressure down.
But his circuit scoring, in all aspects, helped him reach an award-winning level this year. The 30-year-old made an unreal jump as a goalscorer.
According to PBP Stats, Brogdon was one of 60 NBA players to make more than 100 “homemade” threes (attempts after holding the ball for at least two seconds) and “assisted” threes (attempts in less than two seconds). Amazingly, Brogdon scored almost identical 44.1% and 44.6% respectively in these contexts. He placed first in that group of 60 in pull-ups and third in catch and shoot.
Brogdon suited so many offensive roles for Boston. He could have been a standoff in a five-out line-up. He could initiate a threatening knight pull-up or bail out the team at the end of the game. We watched him extend his success in the post-season until he was injured prematurely.
It’s admirable that Brogdon fought the pain – but word got around. Can the Heat get off him because they know he’s recovering from an injury? Can Brogdon attract defenders as much?
The best make-or-miss team ☘️
As predicted, the Celtics will live and die until the age of 3.
They found a quality look from 3FG throughout the series. But the score was heavily tied to their 3FG% that night. pic.twitter.com/UhoY0BkqWU
— ShotQuality (@Shot_Quality) May 26, 2023
Then there is this note. Everyone knows that Boston wants to shoot three-pointers from everywhere on the floor at high speed. Brogdon can and should still shoot them even when he’s wounded. But how much do his misses hurt the team?
That being said, the Celtics need him on the floor for his additional roles as a driver and passer. An equally great marksman as he is, Payton Pritchard doesn’t offer much in the arc and would also be a problem against a Heat defense that loves to hunt for mismatches.
Joe Mazzulla may also decide to squeeze the rotation further, placing more emphasis on Marcus Smart and Derrick White to create a dribble with the Jays. Are they ready to add more ball use to their other responsibilities?
In the regular season – and even in another playoff series – Boston can settle for Brogdon’s rest or let him survive the struggle. But the Celtics wasted space for experimentation when they were down 3-0.
Mazzulla has to make virtually every managerial decision if his team is to make a historic comeback. Brogdon’s dilemma – whether to play with him, how much and in what contexts – is one of the next big tests for the young coach.