The Boston Celtics will take on the Toronto Raptors tonight in their first game since the All-Star break.
A lot of people – fans, media, coaches and players included – would like to say that this starts the “second half” of the season, but that’s only a term tossed around because it’s an easy landmark point of the season to look upon. The true midway point of the regular season came a few weeks ago when Boston hit the 41 game mark and that’s when midseason grades were handed out here at Beantown Baskets.
Now it’s time to hand out “fake midseason” grades for everyone! The Celtics have played 16 games since the last report card and their 11-5 record shows that things are going well, which is reflected in a lot of grades.
Midseason: A-//Fake Midseason: B+
Bradley hasn’t played since the midseason report card came out. In fact, his last appearance fell on what was exactly the team’s 41st game of the season. His new grade is taking a slight hit simply because he hasn’t been available, but he should be back on the court shortly and making his impact felt once again.
Midseason: C//Fake Midseason: B
The Bradley injury opened up the door for Brown to get a few starts and he really showed some huge signs of growth with the opportunity. Brown averaged 9.6 PPG and just below five rebounds in his nine starts since the last report card and Boston went 8-1 during that stretch. The only reason Brown isn’t seen as a top rookie right now is because his minutes have been very limited due to being on a deep team. The top 12 scoring rookies are all on teams that currently have losing records and the 9.6 PPG would actually make Brown the fourth highest scoring rookie if that was his season average.
Midseason: B+//Fake Midseason: B+
His scoring is up since the last report card but his shooting percentages have actually taken a noticeable hit over that stretch of time. This is probably a result of not having Bradley available, forcing him to take more shots in general which allow him to score more points while also collecting more misses. The defense is still solid and when Bradley comes back he can slide back into lesser offensive role where he was an efficiency monster for the first part of the season.
Midseason: C-//Fake Midseason: C
It’s fitting that Avery Bradley was the first player in this alphabetical list because his injury has really changed the roles for so many different players. It looked like Green was falling out of the rotation the last time report cards were released but it was impossible for Stevens to forget about him when trying to fill up the minutes that Bradley left open. He’s had a few really big games over the past few weeks – most notably a 16 point performance against the Jazz where he shot 7-for-8 from the field – but he’s also gone quiet at times and he’s been the team’s most inconsistent player all year long.
Midseason: B+//Fake Midseason: B+
Horford makes everything click on the offensive end of the floor. Both Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas are having career years offensively and the addition of Horford is by far the biggest reason for it as he’s second among listed centers and power forwards in assists per game while also giving defenses an extra scorer to think about that just wasn’t there a year ago. But rebounding is still a big issue for the Celtics and the fact that Horford is behind Zeller, Olynyk, Johnson and Jerebko in rebounds per possession is really holding the team back in an area they’ve been weak in for years. Don’t take that as too big a negative though, his impact has been mostly positive and Boston has taken a leap forward this year mostly because of him.
Midseason: B-//Fake Midseason: C+
We were grading on a curve last time because he had only appeared in four NBA games and he hasn’t played with the Celtics at all since, but he’s also been struggling a bit with the Red Claws and that is why his grade is dropping. Through his first 16 appearances with Maine – which was the last time grades came out – Jackson was averaging 17.9 PPG, 5.3 APG and 4.8 RPG. All of those numbers have since dropped off a bit, but he’s still leading the team in assists and steals so let’s not get concerned now and see how the former Notre Dame star finishes off the D-League season.
Midseason: D+//Fake Midseason: D
Let’s look back at the first two sentences I wrote in regards to Jerebko’s season at the 41 game mark.
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.
Now Jerebko has scored seven points over the last seven games. He’s 3-for-12 (23.1%) from the floor in those appearances, 1-for-8 (12.5%) from beyond the arc and finally seems like Stevens has taken the hint to reduce his playing time. Jerebko has topped his season average of 16.6 minutes just once over the team’s last seven games and it’s opened up a window for James Young to play a bit. You’ll find out later in this report card that the James Young experiment has actually worked out quite well for the Celtics.
Midseason: C//Fake Midseason: C+
Like Jerebko, Johnson has also been playing a bit less since the midseason report card came out. The veteran power forward was averaging 20.3 minutes per game back when the last report card came out but he’s played just 18.1 in the 15 games since. But Johnson does get a small spike in his grade because he’s actually played better despite a loss in playing time. He’s shooting 67.7% from the floor over the last 15 games – up from 53.8% in the true first half of the season – and he’s also stayed steady at 4.6 RPG despite playing a bit less.
Jordan Mickey: C-
Midseason: C-//Fake Midseason: C-
Mickey has appeared in six games since the midseason report card came out, but five of them were six minutes or less at the end of a game decided by double-figures while so he really hasn’t done much to change his grade one way or the other. There is, however, a general concern that Mickey is not developing. He has now matched the 16 appearances which he made during his rookie season but he’s had far more “real minutes” and has almost tripled his minutes total from last year. But he’s also suffered from a decrease in production, going from 13.3 points per 36 minutes to just 10.6 and 6.9 blocks per 36 minutes to just 0.9.
Midseason: B-//Fake Midseason: B+
Olynyk missed all offseason workouts, all of training camp, every preseason game and the first six games of the regular season thanks to offseason shoulder surgery which all led to him getting off to a very slow start when he actually got on the floor. He was just finally starting to turn the corner when grades were released last time and it’s great to see that he’s still getting better every day. The former Gonzaga star is 11.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 2.0 APG with a 59.8% mark from the floor since Boston passed the 41 game mark, arguably the best stretch of his four year career. He did miss one game in early February with a precautionary shoulder issue which did scare a lot of people, but he’s been especially good since coming back from that by averaging 13.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 2.4 APG over eight games.
Midseason: C//Fake Midseason C
Rozier was slipping out of the rotation when report cards last came out but the Bradley injury has since made it impossible to completely set him aside, although his minutes average hasn’t increased in the wake of Bradley getting hurt and that could mean his playing time will completely vanish when Bradley is completely healthy again. Boston is only 9-8 on the season when Rozier plays 22 minutes or more, they’re 28-12 in all other instances. This includes an 8-3 mark when Rozier plays ten minutes or fewer and a 4-1 record when he doesn’t play at all.
Midseason: B//Fake Midseason: A-
This dude has been an animal of late and he can honestly have a game where he scores just five points and you still walk away saying “Smart was easily the best player wearing green tonight” because of just how much he’s been doing. His stat line of 11.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 5.0 APG over the last 15 games puts him right with what Evan Turner did last year for Boston (10.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.4 APG), but the difference is that Turner isn’t that strong of a defender while defense is the strongest part of Smart’s game. Turner finished fifth in the Sixth Man of the Year voting last season and even got a few first place votes, so assuming Smart goes back to the bench when Bradley is healthy again to keep his starts down you can expect him to be in the running for this award.
Midseason: A//Fake Midseason: A
The rest of the regular season really doesn’t matter for “The Little Guy” when you think about it. He’s solidified himself as one of the biggest scoring threats in the NBA and the Celtics are going to have home court in the first round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2010-11 season, barring some disastrous finish to the season. His next step is being a prime player in the postseason, something that most fans in Boston really seem to judge players on a lot. Yes, Thomas scored a lot against the Atlanta Hawks last year in the playoffs but he also shot below 40% from the field, just 28.3% from beyond the arc and he also had an equal or negative assist to turnover ratio in three of the six games. As bad as that sounds, this was actually a step up from when he shot 33.3% from the floor one year earlier in the first round against Cleveland with a 16.7% mark from three in the process. The fans who weigh postseason performances above what individuals do in the regular season might slowly start to feel differently about Thomas if he cranks out another inefficient postseason.
Midseason: D-//Fake Midseason: C
Boston has finally seen something from James Young, who is still just 21-years old and is not anywhere close to his ceiling. It appeared he was a total afterthought to the rotation the last time report cards came out but the four games heading into the All-Star break should be enough to give you enough reason to believe there is still hope for the former first round pick. Young shot 60.0% from the floor and 55.6% from three while averaging 7.5 PPG in the Celtics final four games heading into the break. This did all happen while Bradley and Brown were out, but it also appeared that he was taking minutes away from both Jerebko and Green in the process which means we could see more of him even as the team gets healthier.
Midseason: C+//Fake Midseason: C
Zeller remains the team’s best rebounder per possession, but that really doesn’t help him get minutes. You’d think the reserve center would get a bigger opportunity just because rebounding is a big weak spot on the team, but because he can’t really play offense outside of the paint it’s hard to pair him with Isaiah Thomas because he just clogs up driving lanes. He isn’t a true back of the bench guy like Mickey, Jackson or what Young appeared to be just a few short weeks ago and Zeller has appeared in most games since returning from a bad sinus infection that kept him out for almost two months, but there isn’t a defined role for him right now because he isn’t a great fit for the team right now. Zeller could be a huge steal for some team in free agency this summer if the right team picks him up, it just isn’t ever going to work out in Boston for him.