Blakely's New Year's resolutions for the Celtics
Blakely's New Year's resolutions for the Celtics
The new year will roll around with the Celtics (20-14) boasting the best record they have had at this point since the 2010-11 season.
While they would be the first to tell you that they’ve lost a few games that they should have won, record-wise they are essentially where most would have expected them to be at this point in what has been a road-heavy start to the season.
But as the calendar flips over to 2017, there are clear areas that can be improved upon by the Celtics on an individual basis.
So, here are a few New Year’s resolutions for the Green Team.
STARTERS - Isaiah Thomas: GOOD HEALTH
That’s the only real concern the Celtics have with Thomas going forward. He’s scoring 27.7 points per game, which is a career-high, and his 6.1 assists is on par with his best passing seasons. It seems injuries are the only thing that has slowed him down this season.
Avery Bradley: LOUDER VOICE
I know Avery loves to lead by example, but he has to become the voice of voices inside that locker room. No one on this roster has been a Celtic longer, nor is there anyone who plays both sides of the ball at as high a level as Bradley. It’s certainly out of his comfort zone, but for the steady growth of this franchise, it is necessary.
Jae Crowder: BETTER PLAY IN 2ND, 4TH QUARTERS
Maybe that will drown out the sound of coaches and teammates telling him he’s playing in the second and fourth quarters and not the first and third. In the first and third quarters this season, he’s shooting 50.0 and 54.9 percent. But in the second and fourth quarters, those numbers dip to 29.6 and 30.3 percent.
Amir Johnson: MORE REBOUNDS
It has been well-documented how Boston’s bigs are doing more boxing out around the rim in order for their guards to swoop in for rebounds. That’s good, but that doesn’t mean Boston’s frontcourt players like Amir Johnson shouldn’t rebound. He has to do a better job and help the Celtics close the gap with their opponents when it comes to rebounding. The better he is at this, the better the Celtics are. When Johnson grabs six or more rebounds, the Celtics are 6-3 this season.
Al Horford: MORE CONSISTENT POST PLAY
He’s 6-foot-10, 245 pounds and spent the better part of his career around the basket, but he's gone the way of most of today’s modern bigs and has looked to be more of a stretch big man. It’s great that he can stretch the floor from 3-point range, but he has more than enough size, strength and muscle to make an impact around the rim, which is something we saw him do plenty of against the Miami Heat on Friday. Six of his 21 points came in the paint, a total that was second only to Isaiah Thomas’ 10 points in the paint.
BENCH - Marcus Smart: CONSISTENT JUMPER
There’s so much to like about Marcus Smart’s game, especially when you consider that it’s trending in the right direction in just about every category … except shooting. He’s shooting just 35.9 percent from the field and 28.9 percent on 3’s. For Smart, he’s shooting 44.4 percent on shots taken after two dribbles. And when he has a defense “tight” on him (within 2-4 feet at the time he shoots), Smart’s connecting on 47.8 percent of his shots according to nba.com/stats.
Kelly Olynyk: STAND YOUR GROUND
Far too many times, Olynyk is picking himself off the floor, which is indicative of how often he gets knocked around. For him to be a truly effective stretch big, the 7-footer has to do a better job of holding his position around the rim. He does an excellent job when it comes to being in the right spot defensively and is one of the best shooting big men in the NBA. But for him to take that next step and become the kind of stretch big that the Celtics need him to be, doing a better job of holding his position around the basket is key.
Jonas Jerebko: TAKE THE SHOT
Jerebko is a high-energy, versatile defender who can knock down some shots when he steps on the floor. He’s averaging 4.0 shots per game this season, but teammates have consistently encouraged him to look for his shot more often. He has done just that lately, attempting at least four shots in three of the past four games. Because of Boston’s great spacing, often Jerebko will have a good look at the rim. In the past, he passed up the shot initially, more often than not. Now, he’s starting to look for his shot more. It not only helps his confidence, but also the team in terms of generating points as well as creating more scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Jaylen Brown: ENHANCE SKILLS TO COMPLEMENT ATHLETICISM
The Celtics drafted Jaylen Brown in part because he would bring an improved level of athleticism to the roster. But for him to ever reach the level he’s focused on attaining, his overall skill level has to continue to get better as well. Brown has made strides in terms of his understanding of what he needs to do and how to do it effectively. But that trend has to continue in 2017.
Gerald Green: DROP IT LIKE IT’S HOT
The excitement surrounding his return to the Celtics soon subsided when he started to play and struggled to make shots. Green has always been a streaky shooter, which is why he’ll stay in the Celtics regular rotation as long as he continues knocking down shots the way he has the past three games. In that span, Green has averaged 9.7 points on 11-for-18 shooting (61.1 percent) from the field and 5-for-9 (55.6 percent) from 3-point range to go with 2.0 rebounds.
Terry Rozier: RESTORATION OF CONFIDENCE
Registering three DNP-CDs in three of the past four games has dealt a blow to Rozier’s blossoming confidence. He saw 21 minutes of court time in the 117-114 win over Miami on Friday night, but seemed somewhat tentative at times, which is a far cry from the Teflon-tough swagger he played with prior to the demotion. Getting back to that place will be key for him in 2017.
Tyler Zeller: BE PRODUCTIVE
Zeller has had a roller coaster of a time with the Celtics. This season has been no different. In December, Zeller had the same number of games played as DNP-CDs. He has to find a way to be impactful when he gets his opportunity and that has to come when the game is at a point where his play can swing the tide towards Boston.
James Young: DEVELOP AN NBA STRENGTH
In his third season, Young knows he’s extremely fortunate to still be on the roster. While there’s no question he’s a better player now than he was when he arrived in Boston, the jury is still out on exactly what kind of player he is. Is he a defender? A shooter? Until he figures out exactly what he can do to help the Celtics, he’ll continue to spend time at the end of the bench in what’s likely to be his last season with the Celtics.
Jordan Mickey: BECOME MID-RANGE SHOOTER
Despite seeing limited time this season, the Celtics are still high on the second-year big man and his potential. But he has to show the ability to knock down mid-range jumpers. This season, Mickey has taken 20 shots from the field, 16 of which were within five feet or less of the rim. In fact, he has taken just two shots that were beyond 10 feet of the basket. Of course, he needs to continue getting stronger, which will help his rebounding and shot-blocking. But more than anything else, Mickey has to start taking – and making – shots outside the paint.
Demetrius Jackson: LEARN, LEARN AND LEARN SOME MORE
As the lone second-round pick on the roster, Jackson has too many bodies in front of him to have any shot at making an impact this season. But in the limited time he has been on the floor, Jackson has shown himself to be a player who can score at this level. But all the other things that go into getting on the floor and get meaningful minutes - defense, rebounding; play-making and decision-making – are all things that Jackson will get better at with experience in the D-League, along with paying attention to the work ethic and the overall play of the many veterans ahead of him on the depth chart.