Wilcox's energy leading to easy buckets

December, 10, 2012
12/10/12
8:15
AM ET
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesChris Wilcox goes up near the basket on Saturday vs. the 76ers.
Celtics forward/center Chris Wilcox landed in the headlines on Sunday for less-than-flattering reasons as the league fined him $25,000 for an obscene gesture that appeared on the JumboTron in Philadelphia on Friday. It's unfortunate because Wilcox deserves a more flattering spotlight for the impact he's had in Boston's rotation this season.

Less than nine months removed from surgery to repair an enlarged aorta that cut his 2011-12 season short, the 30-year-old Wilcox is quietly averaging 4.5 points and 2.3 rebounds over 13.1 minutes per game. Maybe most noteworthy, Wilcox is shooting a staggering 70.8 percent from the floor, which would easily be a Celtics' franchise record if he could reach the minimum-attempt threshold.

NBA.com Shooting ChartChris Wilcox's shot distribution this season.
His shooting percentage really hammers home Wilcox's impact: He's running the floor or finding space as a cutter and finishing easy opportunities around the hoop -- often of the alley-oop variety with help from Rajon Rondo. Wilcox doesn't step outside his comfort area very often (see his shooting chart at right).

Eased into the new campaign after battling some health woes that forced him to miss much of training camp and the exhibition season, Wilcox has emerged as a key frontcourt reserve, providing a much-needed length when Kevin Garnett goes to the bench.

"He’s good; A lot of energy," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "Still, defensively, we need him to be better. But the one thing he really does is run the floor. He sets picks, and he can roll; he’s a great pick-and-roller. And Rondo takes advantage of that.”

Offensively, Wilcox has been rather spectacular. He actually ranks in the 99th percentile among all NBA players, averaging a whopping 1.232 points per play overall, according to Synergy Sports data. The majority of Wilcox's points come off cuts in the offensive end, sneaking into the paint when the defense collapse on Boston's shooters. Yes, he can run with Rondo, but his transition numbers don't leap off the page.

It's actually Wilcox's numbers in the pick-and-roll that shine brightest as Wilcox is shooting 77.8 percent in plays he finishes as the roll man. If he doesn't turn the ball over, he's likely putting points on the scoreboard, having made seven of nine shots in 12 roll situations this season.

Defensively, his numbers are nothing to sneeze at either, allowing a mere 0.747 points per play (82nd percentile). Teams have gone at him in the post, but Wilcox's athleticism allows him to contest bigs in the pick-and-roll. Like the rest of Boston's bigs not named Kevin Garnett, the key for Wilcox is making sure he's in the right spots with his rotations.

Wilcox is still reestablishing himself on the glass, maybe the strongest aspect of his game when health woes cropped up last season. His total rebound percentage is a mere 10.4, down four percent from his career average.

But Wilcox is sort of the posterchild for what the Celtics want from a role player. He doesn't get big minutes, but he finds a way to impact the game when he's on the floor. The Celtics are +9 with Wilcox on the floor this season, suggesting he's not a liability out there and his ridiculous offensive rating of 126 points per 100 possessions shows just how much of a spark he's given the offense.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
18.8 1.7 0.9 33.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 7.9
AssistsJ. Nelson 7.3
StealsJ. Nelson 1.7
BlocksK. Olynyk 0.8