Celtics player grades at the three-quarter mark
BOSTON -- The last couple of on-the-floor tests we’ve seen the Celtics handle have not gone quite as well as they hoped.
Because those games are the most recent impressions folks have, those are the ones that stick.
But if you take a step back and look at how the Celtics have fared in the last 20 or so games, you get the image of a team that hasn’t reverted to the start of the season when they were .500 (10-10) to begin the campaign.
Even as the third quarter of this season comes to a conclusion, they continue to keep distance between themselves and the team that had such a lackluster start to the season.
Still, going into the final quarter of the season, no one should be feeling great about this team’s direction, which is concerning when you consider the Celtics will have one of the most difficult remaining schedules in the NBA.
Starters: Al Horford
Season: 13.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists; shooting 52.4 percent from the field, 36.7 percent on 3’s.
Past 20 games: 14.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists; shooting 54.8 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from 3-point range.
Summary: In his third season with the Celtics, this has been easily the best of Horford we have seen. He has had really good games in the past, but there has been an elite level of consistency with his play in the past 20 or so games. He has managed to impact the game in a major way whether it’s defense, scoring, rebounding or getting teammates involved. He is one of the few Celtics whose play has gotten better as the season has progressed. GRADE: B+
Season: 16.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists; shooting 45.6 percent from the field, 38.2 percent on 3’s.
Past 20: 17.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists; shooting 47.0 percent from the field, 43.1 percent on 3’s.
Summary: The expectations of superstardom have been there for Tatum all season. And while he hasn’t quite lived up to the hype, the second-year forward continues to get better with time. He still has too many games in which he dominates for a quarter and disappears for long stretches. But the past 20 or so games have brought about more consistency from Tatum in addition to a greater level of aggressiveness in comparison to what we saw the first half of the season. GRADE: B
Season: 23.8 points, 6.9 assists, 4.8 rebounds; shooting 49.6 percent from the field, 41.3 percent on 3’s.
Past 20: 27.1 points, 8.2 assists, 4.8 rebounds; shooting 51.1 percent from the field, 42.9 percent on 3’s.
Summary: There is a clear divide among fans as to how Irving has handled his impending free agency and all the hoopla surrounding him. But there’s one thing everyone agrees on — the dude has been ballin' out lately. He has had a stinker or two along the way, for sure. His numbers the past 20 games have been as good or better than his overall season average in just about every statistical category. And for a guy who is eager to lead this team into the playoffs, Irving stepping up his game in all facets is a promising sign for what to expect from him in the postseason. GRADE: B-
Season: 8.2 points, 4.1 assists, 2.9 rebounds; 40.0 percent from the field, 35.4 percent on 3’s.
Past 20: 9.9 points, 3.9 assists, 3.1 rebounds; 41.0 percent from the field, 37.0 percent on 3’s.
Summary: Smart’s numbers the past 20 games mirror what he has done shooting-wise this season. And there has been little difference in terms of his impact defensively, either. In the past 20, Smart’s defensive rating is 104.0, which is slightly better than his season rating of 106.4. There’s very little deviation between what he has done offensively, with a rating of 114.7 for the season, which is slightly better than his 112.4 rating in the last 20 games. GRADE: C+
Season: 14.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists; shooting 47.1 percent from the field, 40.3 percent on 3’s.
Past 20: 12.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists; shooting 42.0 percent from the field, 32.0 percent on 3’s.
Summary: One of the biggest surprises this season, the third quarter of the season saw Morris finally start to cool down from what had been a Jacuzzi-hot start to the season. Morris provides a much-needed brand of toughness on the floor, which has been instrumental in Boston continuing to benefit from his presence, even as his numbers in most categories take a bit of a dip. Going forward, Morris might want to pass on the corner threes. For the season, he’s connecting on just 19.7 percent of them. And in the past 20 games, he has been even worse, missing 14 of his 15 corner 3-point attempts (that’s 6.7 percent shooting). GRADE: C
Top Reserves: Jaylen Brown
Season: 12.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists; shooting 45.3 percent from the field, 32.7 percent on 3’s.
Past 20: 13.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists; shooting 46.5 percent from the field, 37.7 percent on 3’s.
Summary: One of the more maligned Celtics this season, Brown has shown improvement in his play from one quarter of the season to the next. He’s primarily a reserve now and, by and large, has provided the kind of offensive punch Boston desperately needs from the second unit. If he can continue playing the way he has over the past 20 or so games, he could be a pivotal performer going into the postseason. GRADE: C+
Season: 5.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists; shooting 46.6 percent from the field, 33.3 percent on 3’s.
Past 20: 6.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.2 blocks; shooting 50 percent from the field, 36.4 percent on 3’s.
Summary: There are few players who can impact the game the way Baynes can, and do so in 15 minutes or less. But that doesn’t do the Celtics much good if Baynes is on the bench in street clothes, a look he has donned for the past eight Celtics games. No one questions his ability to help this team. It’s his availability because of injuries that has been the problem for Baynes this season. GRADE: C+
Season: 11.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists; shooting 43.7 percent from the field, 33.7 percent on 3’s.
Past 20: 10.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists; shooting 46.6 percent from the field, 33.3 percent on 3’s.
Summary: The right ankle sprain near the end of the All-Star break seemed to stymie what had appeared to be Hayward’s breakthrough this season. The three games prior to the break showcased Hayward putting together arguably the best stretch this season, not just because of the numbers posted but also because they came against quality opponents who were playing some of their best basketball of the season. Since returning from the break, Hayward hasn’t been nearly as impactful. But if you look at how he has performed over the past 20 or so games, it’s clear that there’s progress there but obviously not as much as he, the Celtics or fans for that matter, would like to see at this point. GRADE: C+
Season: 6.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists; shooting 58.1 percent from the field, 45.1 percent on 3’s.
Past 20: 5.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists; shooting 66.7 percent from the field, 57.1 percent on 3’s.
Summary: Similar to Baynes, Daniel Theis’ health has been more of a hindrance this season than it was last season. Although Theis has been fairly productive when he has played, he has become more of a situational player whose playing time is more dependent on certain matchups, than it was a year ago. Since January, he has had not played (coaches decision) in four games. Still, you love the fact that defensively he has been among the league’s leaders among players who log 15 minutes or less per game. And his shooting both around the basket and from 3-point range has been instrumental in Boston’s quest to have a more balanced scoring attack from its second unit. GRADE: C
Season: 8.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists; shooting 37.7 percent from the field, 35.3 percent on 3’s.
Past 20: 8.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists; shooting 35.3 percent from the field, 33.7 percent on 3’s.
Summary: We all knew that there would be some adjustments needed for Terry Rozier to deliver the kind of impact he had a year ago, this time in fewer minutes. Still, it’s fair to say that Rozier’s play has been more all over the map than anyone anticipated. It’s no secret that he feels he’s a starter in this league, but knows that’s not happening as long as Kyrie Irving is here. Far too often it seems that he’s thinking more about his situation rather than just playing at the level he has shown himself to be capable of playing at in the past. GRADE: C-
Rest of the Bench: Brad Wanamaker
Season: 3.6 points, 1.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists; shooting 47.2 percent from the field, 51.6 percent on 3’s.
Past 20: 4.8 points, 1.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists; 48.4 percent from the field, 56.3 percent on 3's.
Summary: As in the first half of the season, opportunities for Wanamaker were limited. But as he has done throughout his time in Boston, the 29-year-old rookie has shown himself ready to play whenever his number has been called. And during this quarter of play, we saw Wanamaker looking more for his shot which resulted in a couple of double-digit scoring nights this month. GRADE: B
Season: 3.4 points, 1.6 rebounds, 0.4 assists; shooting 43.2 percent from the field, 30.9 percent on 3’s.
Past 20: 2.2 points, 1.3 rebounds, 0.6 assists; shooting 50 percent from the field, 44.4 percent on 3’s.
Summary: His playing time has also taken a bit of a dip this year, which is no surprise considering Hayward’s return to the lineup. But Ojeleye continues to be a solid, versatile defender when he gets a chance to play. And while he relies way too much on the 3-point shot still, Ojeleye has shown a greater desire to attack closeouts and look to finish at the rim or draw defenders and kick it out to a teammate on the perimeter. GRADE: C+
Season: 2.7 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks; shooting 73.7 percent from the field.
Past 20: 1.2 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.0 blocks; shooting 50 percent from the field.
Summary: We didn’t see as much of Williams in the past 20 games, in part because of the way Horford and Theis handled the big frontcourt position. Williams also had a series of short-term injuries that came at the absolute worst time. He wasn’t able to capitalize on the minutes available due to because of injuries to Celtics big men because most of that time he too was dealing with some sort of physical ailment. Lots of potential, for sure. But his impact over the past 20 or so games was minimal at best. GRADE: C-
Season: 1.8 points, 1.1 rebounds, 0.4 assists; shooting 43.8 percent from the field, 23.5 percent on 3’s.
Past 20: 1.9 points, 1.3 rebounds, 0.4 assists; shooting 66.7 percent from the field, 50 percent on 3’s.
Summary: The third-year big man has played sparingly the past 20 games. He has not played in seven of the past eight despite Boston being down one big body for most of that time. The Celtics love Yabusele’s size, strength and potential. But that’s pretty much what he has been about this season: potential. At some point, he has to make the most of his limited opportunities to play and force the Celtics to keep him on the floor for longer stretches if he’s going to stick in this league. GRADE: C-