A lot of fans seems to think that Jonas Jerebko is just another unknown player that Danny Ainge stole from another team and then was turned into something by the Celtics, but that’s only because most fans don’t know much about role players on the Detroit Pistons and had never heard of the guy. While guys like Jordan Crawford, Jae Crowder and even Isaiah Thomas to some extent fall into this category, Jerebko’s tenure with the Pistons is actually better compared to what he’s done in Boston.
After being taken in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft, Jerebko has a great rookie season. After being suspended for the first regular season game for punching Jamaal Magloire during a preseason game, he averaged 9.3 PPG and 6.0 RPG en route to earning Second Team All-Rookie honors. He would miss the entire 2010-11 season due to a torn Achilles but he came back and continued to be a productive role player and scored 8.7 PPG and 4.8 RPG during the 2011-12 season.
While his numbers slowly dropped through the years in Detroit, the closest you’ve ever seen him come to numbers like that were when he averaged 7.1 PPG and 4.8 RPG though half a season right after Boston traded for him. Jerebko actually had what was arguably the worst year of his career last year – in what was his first full season with the Celtics – by scoring just 4.4 PPG in a bench role.
Their overtime loss against the Portland Trail Blazers over the weekend showed that this team can fully get by without Jerebko, even though the end result wasn’t a good one for Boston. He was inactive with flu like symptoms and this forced Brad Stevens to lean on both Kelly Olynyk and Amir Johnson a bit more, with each player going at least five minutes above their season average for playing time. They both stepped up in big ways. Olynyk was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field and finished with ten points to go along with eight rebounds while Johnson didn’t really do much through three frames, but he came up with an amazing fourth quarter where he offensive rebounds, five total rebounds, dished out two assists and drew three fouls.
Now the Celtics are getting Tyler Zeller back on top of that, and he’s a guy who should be getting more minutes then he was before a mysterious sinus problem sidelined him for close to a month. Zeller is the team’s best rebounder per possession while he also provides a reliable player on both ends of the floor, giving you a number of reasons why he should be in over a guy like Jerebko.
What do you even lose by benching Jerebko? The Celtics have established themselves as – at the very least – the third best team in the Eastern Conference by going 13-5 over their last 18 games and Jerebko hasn’t done anything special over that stretch, averaging 4.1 PPG and 2.9 RPG over those last 18 games. While he can pull up and shoot the three pretty well, his shot still isn’t as reliable as Olynyk – who has been hot over this 18 game period by connecting on 43.5% of his threes – and Jerebko also doesn’t give you the defense and post play that Johnson and Zeller provide; Jerebko is also the weakest rebounder of the bunch and is the only one averaging below ten rebounds per 100 possessions so far this year.
Jerebko gave you a great stretch run the year Boston traded for him and he was a huge help in them rallying late in the year to make the playoffs. He also came up big for them in two and a half playoff games or so last spring as he was a big part in extending that series against the Atlanta Hawks, but for the most part he’s kind of just been there and better players can take those minutes. It’s been impossible to question Jerebko’s drive and effort over his time with the Celtics, but his run as a rotational mainstay has to end because it’s simply what’s best for the team.