Blakely's midseason Celtics report card
If there was a midseason MVP award among Celtics players, Crowder would be that guy. No offense to Isaiah Thomas who is having an all-star caliber season, but Crowder more than any other player is what makes the Celtics go.
He’s putting up career numbers in just about every statistical category such as scoring (14.6), rebounding (5.2), shooting from the field (45.6 percent) as well as from 3-point range (36.0 percent).
Crowder is also a favorite of the analytic, number-crunchers too.
He has an offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor) of 104.8 and a defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor) of 98.4. His net rating of +6.4 is tops among Celtics players.
In addition, he also shares the team lead with Thomas on points scored off turnovers (3.9) per game and ranks among the top three or four in most of the hustle categories such as second-chance points (1.9, tied for2nd on the team) and fast break points (2.3, 3rd on the team).
Going forward, Crowder needs to continue bringing it at both ends of the floor.
Thomas has made the jump this season from being a good NBA player, to one who is firmly entrenched in the all-star conversation.
He’s leading the Celtics in scoring 21.8 points and assists (6.6) per game, the kind of numbers that typically garner all-star recognition.
But the difference between Thomas and others racking up such gaudy numbers (besides the fact that they are at or over 6-feet tall and he’s 5-9), is their numbers have been instrumental to wins.
Unfortunately for Thomas, some of his best scoring nights have ended with a Celtics loss. In fact, the Celtics are just 4-9 this season when he scores 24 or more points.
Still, there’s no denying that he is having an outstanding season for the Celtics that has done wonders not only for Boston but also for his chances to achieve the seemingly un-achievable for a player taken with the last pick of an NBA draft – to become an all-star.
For Thomas to continue contributing to the Celtics’ success going forward, he needs to continue to be solid defensively and make better decisions in the closing minutes of games. He has at times gotten ahead of himself in late-game scenarios which proved costly to Boston’s chances at winning.
When the Celtics signed him to a two-year, $24 million contract in the offseason (team option for the second year), it certainly caught many by surprise. It seemed a bit high a salary for a player who has been a role player – an important one, but a role player nonetheless – for the duration of his career. But as we have seen thus far, Johnson’s impact makes him an absolute invaluable part of Boston’s success at the moment and going forward.
Although he’s only 6-foot-9, Johnson has the length, athleticism, versatility and mental toughness to guard bigger, stronger players in addition to being an above-average help defender.
He has also made his mark offensively, shooting a team-best 59.1 percent from the field with a 105.6 offensive rating that’s also tops on the team.
And while he has been bothered at times by plantar fasciitis in his left foot, Johnson has been able to play through the pain with the exception of sitting out two games.
His health and versatility will be important for the Celtics going forward.
Bradley has been in a bit of a shooting funk since suffering a left hip injury last month, it shouldn’t diminish what has been a solid first half of the season.
He’s averaging 14.3 points while playing a career-high 32.2 minutes per game. While his scoring continues to show improvement, Bradley’s bread-and-butter in this league is still his defense.
The 6-2 guard is averaging a career-high 1.6 steals per game. In addition, opponents are shooting 5.9 percent worst from the field when he’s defending them.
Similar to Johnson, Bradley’s health more than anything will be key to his continued success for Boston.
Most forget that the season began with Sullinger out of the team’s regular rotation. Since then, he has played his way into a starting role and leads the team in rebounding at 8.7 per game.
He’s also averaging 9.8 points per game but is shooting just 43.2 percent from the field which is low for a big man. Part of that has to do with him looking to shoot from 3-point range where has connected on just 27.5 percent of his shots.
But the one area that more than any other has garnered him playing time this season, has been his defense. Sullinger has a defensive rating of 98.0 which is among the team leaders this season. Opponents are shooting 2.2 percent less when he’s guarding them on 2-point attempts.
And for teams that have used a stretch big in hopes that would draw him away from the basket and make him more susceptible to giving up easy shots, opponents have shot 3.2 percent less when guarded by Sullinger on field goal attempts of at least 15 feet from the basket.
Improved shooting and continued good health will be the keys for a good second half of the season for Sullinger.
They have asked him to start, come off the bench, play a limited role, play an expanded role. And to Olynyk’s credit, the issues he has had were not about effort or desire. With him, it always comes back to consistency and being locked into what the coaches want and his teammates need from him.
Olynyk has one of the most diverse skillsets of any Celtics player, but far too often he’s comfortable deferring rather than dominating play.
Still, a 7-footer “stretch center” who can give you 9.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and shoots better than 40 percent on threes is a player who can definitely help in terms of his own impact and that others who have more space to work with, when he’s in the game.
For Olynyk, he has to continue figuring out when to take over games like he did in the second quarter of Boston’s 117-103 win over Phoenix which is when he scored 15 of his team-high 21 points.
In what has been a revolving door in terms of player’s roles and minutes off the bench, Turner has been one of the few players that has been in Brad Stevens’ good graces all season. He has had his struggles shooting threes all season ( currently a career-worst 15.5 percent), but Turner has made his mark in other ways. He averages 9.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game while shooting 41.7 percent from the field.
But as the Celtics embark on the second half of the season, Turner needs to focus more on what he does best which is beating his man off the dribble for mid-range shots. This season, Turner is connecting on 46.9 percent of his field goal attempts when he takes 3-6 dribbles prior to shooting. The more he looks for those kind of shots, the better his shooting numbers as well as the Celtics’ chances at success, will be.
Smart has missed more games (21) than any other Celtic, making it difficult to truly evaluate what he has done this season for Boston. But since his return from a left knee injury, Smart has shown gradual improvement at both ends of the floor. Defensively, he’s not that far off from where he was earlier this season. His shooting touch? That’s another story. It’s clear that the lengthy lay-off has built up some rust on his shooting touch that Smart is still trying to shake. He’s a key performer on this team who going forward needs to stay healthy and continue working on his perimeter shooting touch.
One of the many Celtics with an undefined role most of this season, Jerebko does a lot of good things for Boston even if the stat sheet suggests otherwise. He’s a career 34.9 percent shooter from 3-point range and is shooting 41.5 percent on 3s this season. However, those numbers constitute an extremely small sample which makes one wonder if he can make that shot with consistency.
But Jerebko’s true value to the Celtics has to do with his versatility as a defender. At 6-10, 231 pounds, Jerebko has the size to play multiple frontcourt positions which is invaluable to a Boston team that seems to be at its best when they play small ball.
Jerebko has been especially impressive when it comes to defending the 3-point shoot. This season, opponents are shooting 13.7 percent less on 3s when he’s guarding them, compared to what they normally shoot on the season.
Of the three rookies on the roster, Hunter has been the biggest surprise in terms of getting on to the floor. Drafted with the 28th overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, Hunter was expected to spend the bulk of his rookie season going back and forth to the Celtic’s Development league affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.
While the Celtics were pleasantly surprised by his on-the-floor savvy and that he wasn’t as big a defensive liability as they feared, it’s clear that he has lots of room to grow before he can be a consistent contributor.
For starters, he has to get stronger. At this point, he’s just not strong enough to withstand the rigors of playing extended minutes. He must also do a better job of getting – and making – his shots. He has not looked like the sharpshooter many expected coming into the NBA. He’s shooting 34.7 percent from the field and just 25.5 percent from 3-point range.
A surprise selection on draft night by Boston, Rozier’s end-to-end speed with the ball is impressive. But his game, like most rookies, has plenty of room for growth. He’s stuck behind a roster that’s loaded with talented, battle-tested guards so opportunities to shine were few and far between.
Still, Rozier did show flashes as to why Danny Ainge is so high on him.
He’ll continue to hold up the end of the bench with his fellow rookies, while getting most of his court time with the Celtics’ Development League affiliate the Maine Red Claws.
Drafted as a sharpshooting guard, Young has been nothing close to that guy during his time with the Celtics. But to his credit, Young has added some much-needed weight to his still-thin frame and has shown significant growth as a defender. Boston needs him to become a better shooter, but there’s no denying the second-year wing has made progress in transforming his body and to some extent, his game as well.
He has spent more time in the D-League than any of Boston’s rookies, and he has done nothing but whet the appetite of Celtics nation with what has been seemingly one dominant performance after another. Danny Ainge told CSNNE.com that Mickey came into training camp and was more impressive than they anticipated. He is buried behind a Celtics frontline that already has too many bigs. His grade has nothing to do with his talent, and everything to do with the fact that he has had the least amount of opportunities to showcase his skills against NBA competition.
He began the season as a starter, but soon lost his job and is now out of the rotation altogether. It’s not so much what Zeller did but more what others can do in Brad Stevens’ system. The Celtics want bigs who can play multiple positions defensively and can help space the floor offensively. Zeller is a 7-foot center who can roll to the basket with the best of them, but isn’t much of a face-up, space-creating shooter. Couple that with the fact that he has not been all that impressive during most of his brief stints on the court, and you have a player who provides some depth at the end of their bench.
Things have not gone anything close to how David Lee envisioned they would after being traded from the NBA champion Golden State Warriors to the Boston Celtics during the offseason. A former two-time all-star, Lee has seen his playing time all but disappear in recent weeks to the point where he recently had a one-on-one conversation with head coach Brad Stevens about his playing time. Lee has not played (coaches decision) in seven of Boston’s last eight games. If the Celtics make a deal prior to the trade deadline next month, Lee is easily the most likely player to be moved. Because the impact that the Celtics and Lee were hoping he would have in Boston, just hasn’t panned out.