41 games in.
The Boston Celtics are now officially halfway through their regular season schedule and their 26-15 record puts them on pace for 52 wins, which would be their most since winning 56 in the 2010-11 season when they wound up falling to the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs.
Being halfway though the season gives us a good look at what this team can be down the road but it’s also given us all a solid sample size to judge guys off of and it’s always a solid point in the season to hand out a nice little report card!
Avery Bradley: A-
This guy is still just 26-years old and he continues to trend upwards each season. After scoring a career high 15.2 PPG last year to go along with First Team All-Defense honors, Bradley has come out and established himself as a very reliable second scoring option by averaging 18.0 PPG with a career best 41.7% mark from beyond the arc. He’s the number two scoring threat on a top ten offense while also serving as the Celtics best defensive player, so it’s impossible to mount any argument against the value that Bradley is bringing to the table.
Jaylen Brown: C
There have been many ups-and-downs through the first half of Brown’s rookie season, but all the tools are clearly there for him to succeed. This is very different from the rookie years Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart had under Brad Stevens when the team was so bad, they almost had to play no matter what through good and bad. When Brown struggles early in a game, Stevens just gives extra minutes that night to a guy like Gerald Green and then they see if the 20-year old can regroup the next night. Shooting was a big concern for Brown coming out of college, but it is reassuing to see his field goal and three point percentages are both above what they were last year at California.
Jae Crowder: B+
His scoring averages have taken a hit this season, but Crowder is still by far the team’s most improved offensive player. Crowder was the Celtics third leading scorer behind Thomas and Bradley last year, but he wasn’t a very efficient player on the offensive end and that has changed dramatically. His field goal percentage has jumped up from 44.3% to 48.5% and his three point clip has exploded from just 33.6% to a team best 42.9%; the former Marquette standout is also averaging over two assists per game for the first time in his NBA career. Crowder has seen a hit in his defensive rating this year – which has been his calling card since coming to the Celtics – but his offensive spark has done more than enough to make up for that hit, which could still easily wind up correcting itself in the second half.
Gerald Green: C-
Inconsistency has defined Green’s return to Boston. There have been 18 games where Green dressed but didn’t play and other times he’s been the perfect spark off the bench, like when he dropped 19 points in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies after having not played in seven of the nine games leading up to it. He seems to mostly get minutes when either Terry Rozier or Jaylen Brown are having bad days and you’d have to assume he isn’t a regular rotational player in the playoffs if everyone is healthy. For example, he played just four minutes in their win against the Hornets last night with Brown having one of his better games.
Al Horford: B+
Horford’s value was showcased earlier in the season as Boston went 4-5 when he was out with a concussion, with all four wins coming against teams that are below the .500 mark. He’s averaging 15.2 PPG right now – which is exactly what he averaged each of the past two seasons – but a career high 4.9 APG is a lot more then Boston could have expected as the big man is first among all centers in assists and second behind Draymond Green when you put centers and power forwards together. His 1.9 BPG is also a career high as he’s been a defensive force for the Celtics down low.
Demetrius Jackson: B-
This grade is clearly on a curve. He’s appeared in just four games for the Celtics this season and has done relatively well. He’s scored 10 points on 3-for-4 shooting in 17 minutes of NBA playing time to go along with four rebounds and three assists, but it’s his 16 appearances with the Maine Red Claws that really earn him a good grade. Jackson is averaging 17.9 PPG in Maine to go along with 5.3 APG and 4.8 RPG. Many analysts saw him as one of the biggest steals of the draft, but with so many point guards ahead of him on the Celtics this is all you’ll get from him right now.
Jonas Jerebko: D+
At some point you need to start asking what Jerebko adds to this roster. His playing time has actually gone up this year compared to last season but his scoring average is the same and his rebounding numbers are down. Many fans fell in love with Jerebko during the second half of the 2013-14 season when he averaged 7.1 PPG after coming over at the deadline but he went below his career averages in almost everything during his first full season as a Celtic and he’s basically the same player this year, although those same averages are coming with a minutes increase. There’s really nothing he does that Kelly Olynyk doesn’t and it’s pretty clear that Olynyk is a better head-to-head player.
Amir Johnson: C
Johnson isn’t a terrible player, but he was handed a contract that pays him $12 million a year to rebound and protect the rim and now those are the areas that fans are clamoring for Danny Ainge to upgrade in the trade market. The veteran big man gets the job done, but there really isn’t anything special about him and he’s been a bit of a disapointment through a year and a half in Boston. He’s had some big games along the way this year, but he’s averaging just 20.3 minutes per game as the Celtics starting power forward and his 6.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 0.7 BPG is pretty pedestrian.
Jordan Mickey: C-
Brad Stevens tried to sneak Mickey into the rotation but it then became clear he wasn’t going to solve any of the Celtics issues, which mostly center around rebounding. The former NCAA blocks champion racked up eight appearances through Boston’s first 12 games, but he’s played only twice in the last 29 games after struggling in those early appearances. Mickey did get a spot start last week against the Washington Wizards when a string of injuries left the Celtics very shorthanded, and all he could muster up was four points, two rebounds and two turnovers in 16 minutes. He has potential as a rim protector, but the offense just isn’t at an NBA level right now and he isn’t a good enough rebounder to fix the team’s issues.
Kelly Olynyk: B-
Boston got off to a 13-12 start – which fans saw as underwhelming – but Olynyk missed a chunk of those games while still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and played pretty poorly once he returned to the lineup. But the Celtics have now won 12 of their last 15 and the seven foot Canadian emerging as a dominant floor stretching threat has been a big reason for the team’s turnaround. After shooting 33.9% from beyond the arc during that 13-12 start, Olynyk has shot 44.4% over these last 16 games and the wins have started to take care of themselves with him starting to heat up. He’s also averaging 2.0 APG on the season, which is a fantastic number for a backup center who plays just 20 minutes a night. Boston is 13-3 over those last 16 games when he’s been hot, so clearly when Kelly Olynyk is on this team is hard to stop.
Terry Rozier: C
A strong summer league showing caused Rozier’s stock to skyrocket and so many people were excited to see what was in store for the point guard heading into his second season. He’s clearly an improved player compared to where he was at the end of the rookie season, but he was still taken out of the rotation on Christmas – not playing in the team’s win against the New York Knicks – and he didn’t really get back in until Bradley was sidelined with an Achillies injury. Improvements aside, the former Louisville standout still doesn’t seem good enough to be in the rotation when everyone is healthy after being taken out for his struggles and inconsistency.
Marcus Smart: B
Smart is averaging above 10 PPG for the first time in his three year career right now, but a lot of that could be traced back to a big minutes increase instead of greater offensive production. While his shooting numbers are up from a year ago, he’s still shooting below 40% from the floor and just 30.3% from beyond the arc. The defense has always been there and probably always will be, but Smart’s inconsistency on the offensive side of the floor has kept him as the clear cut third wheel in Boston’s strong three guard trio. It’s hard to really complain because there probably isn’t a team with a better third guard then Smart, but for him to reach his ceiling the offense needs to get better.
Isaiah Thomas: A
The scoring output is simply incredible. Boston has scored more during every year of the Brad Stevens-era and his explosion has been a big reason for that. He’s not a complete player by any means – placing 16th in assists per game while often getting to hide behind Bradley and Smart on the defensive end of the floor – but Thomas has a defined roll with this team and he carries it out to perfection. That role is to get buckets, and whenever Boston needs one it’s easy to get because of his ability to almost score at will. Playoffs are the only thing holding him back from starting a trek towards “legacy” status in Beantown. Despite averaging 22.8 PPG over the last two years in the postseason, “The Little Guy” is shooting below 40% from the floor, below 25% from three and he had an equal or negative assist to turnover mark in three of their six games against the Atlanta Hawks last year. The crowd of people that uses playoff stats to define how good a single player is – which is a crowd of people I actually tend to disagree with a lot – will start to label him as a guy “who can’t get it done when it matters” if he’s this inefficient again in the postseason, so this next playoff run needs to be a good one.
James Young: D-
He’s having a better season than R.J. Hunter, so at the very least you can say that Danny Ainge made the right call by keeping Young at the end of camp. After that though, there’s really nothing much else to say. Young has played in just 11 of the first 41 games which actually puts him on pace for the least appearances of his three year career and when he’s on the floor it hasn’t been that pretty. Signing a veteran like Gerald Green to sit on the bench and not be a regular in the rotation has really blocked a lot of opportunities that Young would have on nights when somebody like Brown is struggling, but it probably wouldn’t matter anyway as Brown on a bad day would probably still outplay him. In case you were wondering what happened to Hunter, he appeared in three games for the Chicago Bulls, never scored a single point, got cut and now he’s with the Long Island Nets in the D-League with an unattached contract.
Tyler Zeller: C+
By no means is Zeller a great rebounder, but he is the team’s best rebounder per possession so far this year and because he’s also scoring more and getting more blocks than Amir Johnson per possession it might be fair to ask why their minutes aren’t flip-flopped. The former North Carolina Tar Heel has had his role change so often with this team, but he’s been a consistently good – not great, but good – player no matter how many minutes Stevens has given him and it’s just baffling at times why the biggest rebounding threat you have on a team that doesn’t really have any rebounding threats – including Zeller – isn’t getting more burn. He’s been out of a while now with a mysterious illness but he’s apparently getting better by the day and he will finally address the media next week.