A. Sherrod Blakely's 2015-16 Boston Celtics report card
Blakely's Celtics Report Card
By A. Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON – Throughout the season, the Boston Celtics reminded us that their strength lied in their collective efforts rather than any individual talent.
But as we all saw this season, the Celtics have some pretty good players who are productive on their own merit.
And those individual talents helped mold a team that many thought was a borderline playoff team at the start of the season, into one that was competing for home court advantage up until the final game of the season.
Here we take a look at how the Celtics’ roster graded out individually this season, breaking them up into the regular season starters and reserves.
Isaiah Thomas, Grade: A-
He amazed us all season in being able to carry this team for so long, lulling us into a false sense of comfort that he could do it in the postseason as well. Thomas’ numbers for the playoffs were impressive – 24.2 points and 5.0 assists per game – but he was unable to elevate the play of those around. Still, Thomas had an incredible season and established himself at the top of the class on this roster.
Avery Bradley, Grade: A-
Similar to Thomas, there was a lot to like about Bradley’s play this past season. He wound up averaging a career-high 15.2 points per game and was to figure prominently in Boston’s playoff series with Atlanta. But a hamstring injury suffered in the fourth quarter of Boston’s Game 1 loss ended his season and with it, Boston’s best shot at knocking off the higher-seeded Hawks. Still, Bradley made a number of strides this season at both ends of the floor.
Jae Crowder, Grade: B+
The throw-in to the Rajon Rondo trade in 2014, Crowder was arguably Boston’s best two-way player. He was in many ways the Celtics’ equivalent to Golden State’s Draymond Green, a player who was physical enough and athletic enough to defend just about every position on the floor. The high right ankle sprain injury that sidelined him for eight games and limited to some degree for the rest of the season, really affected his shot-making in the playoffs.
Jared Sullinger, Grade: C-
He led the team in rebounding, but seemed to tail off noticeably as the season progressed. Questions about his weight only grew as the season went along and his play became more inconsistent. He will be a restricted free agent this summer, and there’s no telling whether the Celtics will match an offer sheet for him. The concerns about his weight and conditioning will certainly factor into the type of offers he receives this summer. Depending on what those offers look like, it’s unclear if the Celtics will exercise their right to match any offer he receives.
Amir Johnson, Grade: C+
Adjusting to his new team and Boston’s system took Johnson a bit longer than he or the Celtics would have liked. But for the most part, Boston got what they expected from Johnson. He runs the floor, defends, rebounds and occasionally scores. It remains to be seen if the Celtics believe that’s worth another $12 million for Johnson whose contract for next season may be picked by the Celtics in July.
Evan Turner, Grade: B+
One of the top vote-getters for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award, Turner had a great season for the Celtics both individually and within the framework of the team. His ability to score as well as create for others was huge for the Celtics this season. And his defense, while not on the level of a Marcus Smart or Avery Bradley, was much-improved during his two seasons with the Celtics.
Marcus Smart, Grade: B-
While it was a roller coaster of a season in terms of shooting the ball for Smart, his elite level defense for the most part was a constant in his game. He became more of a playmaker as the season progressed, in addition to using that strong, muscular body of his to attack the paint more and draw contact. There was definitely progress in his game, but certainly not as much as he would have liked to have experienced.
Jonas Jerebko, Grade: B+
No Celtic saw his stock rise more in the postseason than Jerebko who went from being a key reserve to a starter whose presence was instrumental in allowing Boston to get back into the series. He’s 6-foot-10, can defend multiple positions and can help space the floor because of his 3-point shooting. The Celtics will have to make a decision on whether to keep him around beyond this summer as well, but it looks like a no-brainer when you consider what he makes ($5 million) and the versatility he provides at both ends of the floor.
Kelly Olynyk, Grade: C
A right shoulder injury really short-circuited what was looking like a promising season for Olynyk. He still wound up averaging 10.0 points per game this season, but he was a shell of the player Boston needed him to be for essentially the entire playoff series. Potential shoulder surgery is definitely in his future, a future that when healthy is a bright one for Olynyk.
Tyler Zeller, Grade: C
Opportunities to play were few and far between for Zeller who continued to make the most of limited court time, when it presented itself. Boston’s desire to have bigs that can space the floor was one of the main reasons why Zeller didn’t play as consistently as he would have liked. And now that he’s a restricted free agent, there’s no telling if the Celtics will match an offer for him or whether he would even want the Celtics to do so. Decisions, decisions, decisions.
Terry Rozier, Grade: B-
Like most rookies, Rozier had his moments of great play and others, which left a lot to be desired. But he got a chance to play in the postseason, get a better feel for what the intensity level is really like in a playoff game and use that knowledge going forward. His shooting still needs to get better, but his speed on the ball and in transition are both key assets to his game, which will improve with time.
R.J. Hunter, Grade: B-
Showed a tremendous basketball IQ that no one saw prior to him getting on the floor. Hunter has to do a better job of taking the right shot more often. He’s too good a shooter to be connecting on less than 30 percent of his 3s. Added strength and more film study will go far in his continued development.
Jordan Mickey, Grade: B-
He is the Celtics’ equivalent of an NFL backup quarterback in the sense that everyone is calling for him to play more, ignoring the fact that he’s got some pretty good – and older – players ahead of him. You love his knack for blocking shots, but he has to get stronger, gain more experience besides the D-league, and be patient. Because folks, his turn to shine will come soon enough.
James Young, Grade: D
There’s no other way to describe James Young’s season other than it being a disappointment. While he has added weight and presumably muscle to his frame, he still hasn’t shown a specific skill that one can imagine easily translates to potential playing time this upcoming season. Do not be surprised if Young finds himself on another team next fall.
John Holland, Grade: N/A
He hasn’t been with the Celtics long enough to truly evaluate his season one way or another. And while his D-League numbers with the Canton Charge (16 points on 52 percent shooting) are solid, D-League stats mean little when it comes to measuring a player’s ability to find success in the NBA.