Celtics

Celtics Report Card: Power ranking Boston's roster, Part 2

Celtics Report Card: Power ranking Boston's roster, Part 2

Around the quarter pole of the 2019-20 season, we power ranked the Celtics' roster based on each player's importance to the team’s overall success.

With the midseason mark approaching — Boston will play game No. 41 on Saturday when it hosts the Phoenix Suns — it felt like a good time to re-rank the roster and see what movement has occurred since the first attempt:

1. KEMBA WALKER (Last: 2 ⬆️)

Walker’s importance to Boston’s offense was very much confirmed when he sat out three games recently due to the flu.

The Celtics own an offensive rating of 116.5 during Walker’s 1,049 minutes of court time and it plummets to a team-worst 102.5 in the 732 minutes without him. To give you context on those numbers, the Mavericks lead the NBA with an offensive rating of 115.3, while the Golden State Warriors own the NBA’s worst mark at 102.7. So, essentially, the Celtics go from the best offense in the NBA with Walker to the worst.

Walker makes things easier for his teammates and is the primary reason Boston has the fifth-best offense in the league.

2. JAYSON TATUM (Last: 1 ⬇️)

The Celtics are no longer a net negative when Tatum is off the court — but just barely, with a net rating of plus-0.3 in the 520 minutes without Tatum. It’s still jarring that the next closest player is nearly 4.5 points away (Enes Kanter, plus-4.6). Balance that with Tatum’s plus-10.3 net rating on the floor and it’s clear to see his overall value.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Yes, he’s struggled to score efficiently and, yet, performances like his 41-point outburst Saturday against the Pelicans remind us just how good he can be. When Tatum attacks the basket and utilizes his length to finish near the rim, he’s been exceptional. And his defense has quietly been fantastic with his Team USA coach Gregg Popovich the most recent to rave about his two-way potential.

3. JAYLEN BROWN (Last: 3 ↔️)

It would be a case of recency bias to drop Brown out of the top 3. Yes, he’s struggled a bit since getting that Eastern Conference Player of the Week award. In his last four games, Brown is shooting 28.6 percent from the floor and 29.2 percent beyond the arc, and his All-Star chances have taken a small hit, but there’s still plenty of time to state a final case before coaches vote for reserves.

For as good as Brown has been, one statistical oddity has been the team’s on/off splits. Boston owns a net rating of plus-5.8 during Brown’s 1,102 minutes of court time but it actually spikes to a team-best plus-10.5 in his 679 minutes off the floor.

4. GORDON HAYWARD (Last: 5 ⬆️)

Hayward has been solid in the 10 games played since his return on Christmas. The numbers don’t leap off the page and he’s had some rough shooting nights, but he steadies the offense whenever he’s on the court and consistently makes the right plays.

Overshadowed slightly by Tatum’s big night Saturday against New Orleans was that Hayward was also uber-efficient with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting and finished plus-38 in 28 minutes. Hayward’s rebounding and playmaking are huge for Boston even when he’s not scoring.

5. MARCUS SMART (Last: 4 ⬇️)

Smart hasn’t shot the ball great since his return from the eye infection that sapped most of his December, but that shouldn’t take away from the defensive tone he established early in the year.

Smart turned in his best offensive performance of the season last week in Philadelphia, putting up a season-high 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Alas, when this team is at full health, they really just need Smart to focus on defense and playmaking.

The offense is a nice bonus when it comes, especially if he can get back to 35+ percent beyond the 3-point arc. But he need not force those shots when there’s so much scoring talent around him.

6. ENES KANTER (Last: 8 ⬆️)

There's a case to be made that Kanter could muscle into the top 5 here. He’s produced double-digit rebounds in 10 of Boston’s last 13 games and a pure rebounder has been so rare for this team in recent years that it’s still jarring to watch him dominate the glass.

Add in efficient scoring, with Kanter content to chase putbacks or finish when passes find him near the rim, and the Turkish big man has become a vital piece on a team thin on healthy bigs. There’s going to be matchups that Kanter struggles in but, more often than not, he’s been a positive, as evidenced by his team-best net rating of plus-14.2 — the second best mark in the NBA among qualifiers with at least 15 minutes played per game.

7. DANIEL THEIS (Last: 6 ⬇️)

About the only gripe with Theis is that his 3-point shooting hasn’t been as solid as years passed, dipping from 38.8 percent a year ago to 27.9 this year. Maybe some of that is the knee tendinitis he’s been battling lately but the German big man has otherwise been solid.

Like Kanter, he’s content to play his role and take open looks when they come. He’s been excellent defensively when he’s not physically overmatched. His ability to defend opponents out to the 3-point line has helped Boston’s first unit defense.

8. BRAD WANAMAKER (Last: 7 ⬇️)

Wanamaker was alarmingly efficient early in the year, but his offense has come back to Earth a bit. Since Dec. 1, he’s shooting 34.9 percent from the field and 28 percent beyond the 3-point arc. He still has an uncanny ability to finish in transition and gives you steady playmaking with reserve groups, even if that brief 50/40/90 flirtation ended in a hurry.

Stevens clearly trusts Wanamaker and, outside of a DNP in Philadelphia when the Celtics leaned harder on Smart at the 1, he’s going to be a rotation presence.

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9. SEMI OJELEYE (Last: 11 ⬆️)

Ojeleye is the type of player who can get a DNP one night and then Stevens will leave him out there for a 15-minute stretch the next. He’s a luxury when the Celtics need a little extra size and defense guarding bigger wings and yet his offensive limitations have made it tough to generate consistent time.

Over his last 14 appearances since early December, Ojeleye is shooting 40 percent beyond the 3-point arc but just 35.5 percent overall while averaging just 2.3 points per game in that span. He had three starts in December and Boston posted three wins.

10. GRANT WILLIAMS (Last: 9 ⬇️)

Outside of games against Philadelphia, Williams has been a pretty steady rotation presence. His offense has come along since getting his first 3-pointer to fall and, in the 15 appearances since, he’s shooting 54.3 percent overall and 38.1 percent beyond the arc.

You can see the potential in Williams, with a Smart-like instinct to make the right play. He fouls a bit too much at the moment but he tries hard on defense and helps move the ball on the offensive end. This is an important stretch, especially with Boston’s big-man depth depleted, for Williams to gain coach Brad Stevens’ trust.

11. JAVONTE GREEN (Last: 12 ⬆️)

When Boston’s wings are all healthy, it’s tougher for Green to find consistent time. He’s had a couple DNPs in the new calendar year and played double digits in minutes only twice in his last eight appearances.

He still showcases his explosiveness and absurd hops every time he’s on the floor. If he can develop a 3-point shot and harness that athleticism on the defensive side, he’s a very intriguing weapon for Stevens to deploy.

12. ROMEO LANGFORD (Last: 17 ⬆️)

Poor Langford. The injury bug wouldn’t stop nibbling on him at the start of his pro career but he had an eight-game stretch in December in which he finally got a chance to showcase his potential. But just as Boston’s wings were getting healthy, Langford got sick, and missed four games with the flu.

Like Green, it’s hard to see a path to consistent time and, yet, when he’s not with Maine, it will be interesting to see if he gets NBA minutes. His defense might help his cause as he showed nice instincts during that December cameo.

13. ROBERT WILLIAMS (Last: 10 ⬇️)

Inactive since hip issues flared in early December, it’s easy to forget about Williams. He’s played only 19 games this year but was part of the Celtics’ three-center rotation with Kanter and Theis before his injury woes returned. There’s so much potential and yet injuries have routinely conspired against him.

Brad Stevens said last week the team would give him three more weeks before figuring out the next step in his return to basketball action. That seemingly means we won’t see Timelord until after the All-Star break but — if healthy — he’d be quite an in-season boost, especially the way his skill set complements that of Boston’s other bigs and gives them options when others have a tough matchup.

14. TREMONT WATERS (Last: 14 ↔️)

Only five appearances for the parent club but it’s easy to see why the organization is so high on the point guard (who has been excellent in the G-League). He’s a steady and confident ball-handler with an ability to get past defenders and create for others.

If the Celtics’ ball-handling depth was thinned, Stevens would have the confidence in Waters to run the offense. There’s still plenty of call-up days available for Waters to lend a hand to the NBA squad.

15. CARSEN EDWARDS (Last: 13 ⬇️)

Edwards has played sparingly since early December. Right now, his offense is his meal ticket but he’s shooting just 30.5 percent (both overall and beyond the arc). The Celtics recently dispatched him to the G-League for reps and, until he can consistently knock down shots, it’s hard to see a path to playing time when this team is anywhere near full health.

16. TACKO FALL (Last: 16 ↔️)

The Celtics tossed Fall out there in the second quarter against the Spurs this month, in part while looking for a jolt on a night the team was otherwise lifeless, but also because they’ve been impressed with the progress he’s made early in his pro career.

Yes, he’s only logged 21 minutes but there’s an undeniable electricity when he’s on the court. Early returns have had Fall sixth in the East in frontcourt All-Star voting and, while that’s not a reflection on his contributions, it’s a reminder that TackoMania hasn’t lost any steam.

17. VINCENT POIRIER (Last: 15  ⬇️)

Sidelined since mid-December with a pinkie fracture, Poirier has missed out on a chance to showcase what he can do, especially while Robert Williams has been sidelined.

Poirier has played sparingly in nine appearances but could get a chance here to be part of the center rotation as he preps for a return. He can climb this list in a hurry if he proves to be a potential third option behind Theis and Kanter.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Bulls-Celtics, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Scal have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Kemba Walker out vs. Suns but Brad Stevens doesn't think injury is 'a long term thing'

Kemba Walker out vs. Suns but Brad Stevens doesn't think injury is 'a long term thing'

The Boston Celtics are going to be down a couple of starters for their Saturday night tilt with the Phoenix Suns. Jaylen Brown will miss his second straight game with a thumb sprain while Kemba Walker will miss the game with a sore left knee.

Walker's injury popped up on Friday and he was deemed questionable for this contest before ultimately being ruled out. And before the game, Stevens provided an update on Walker and confirmed that he had gotten an MRI.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

"Kemba got ahold of our doctors last night and said he had some knee soreness," Stevens said. "Went and got an MRI today, didn’t show anything structurally wrong, but very sore."

Though he will miss the game against the Suns, Brad Stevens isn't worried about Walker's injury sidelining him for too long.

"I don’t get the impression it’s a long-term thing," Stevens said.

This is good news for the Celtics as Walker has unsurprisingly been one of the team's most important players this season. He leads the team in scoring averaging 22.1 points per game and in Thursday's game against the Bucks, his 40-point effort was the only thing that kept the Celtics competitive. Stevens even admitted that after the contest.

And with a key matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers approaching on Monday night, the Celtics need to be as close to full strength as possible as they look to beat their long-time rival. So hopefully, Walker will be able to play.

We'll soon see how the Celtics are able to fare down both Walker and Brown. In his stead, the contributions of Marcus Smart and Gordon Hayward as playmakers will be more important than usual, as Walker was also averaging a team-leading 4.9 assists per game.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Suns-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics vs. Suns odds: Best NBA picks as C's look to end slide

Celtics vs. Suns odds: Best NBA picks as C's look to end slide

The Celtics will try to begin to reverse a slide that has seen them lose two in a row and five of their past seven when they welcome the Phoenix Suns to TD Garden on Saturday night.

The C's are just 4-5 in 2020 after back-to-back losses on consecutive nights at home to the Detroit Pistons and on the road in Milwaukee. Phoenix, meanwhile, figures to be a Western Conference also-ran at 17-24 but comes in having won three of their past four, including demolishing the Knicks 121-98 on Thursday night.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App. 

The Celtics are 20-5 against below .500 teams, but three of those losses have come in the new year (to the Wizards, Spurs and Pistons). So, despite a 16-4 home record and taking on one of the lesser lights in the West, the C's are no sure thing. 

Here are our betting predictions for Celtics-Suns, as well as two NBA locks against the spread.

(All odds provided by WestGate Superbook.)

Phoenix Suns at Boston Celtics, 7 p.m., ET

Moneyline: Is this the night the C's put it all together again? They'll be without Jaylen Brown (thumb), as they were in Milwaukee, and will be facing a guard in the Suns' Devin Booker, who two years ago went off for 70 points at the Garden against them. Still, with a three-game losing streak staring them in the face, look for the Celtics (-260) to come away victorious.

Celtics Mailbag: Readers have no shortage of ideas to get C's back on track

Point Spread: As for covering, a lot points to the Suns being able to make this a close one. Phoenix has four of its past five against Eastern Conference foes, is respectable 8-10 on the road, has a motivated Aron Baynes returning to Boston for the first time he was traded on draft night and there's the Booker factor. Also, DeAndre Ayton, coming off a 26-point, career-high 21 rebound performance in the win over the Knicks, missed this season's first matchup in Phoenix. Still, look for the Celtics (-6) to regroup for a double-digit win.

Point Total: It's the defense that has let the Celtics down recently. They've allowed 115 points per game in their past three (1-2) and a 51.6 opponents' field goal percentage. The Suns have the NBA's 18th-ranked defense and allow 114.3 points per game on the road. Go with the OVER.

Pat's record, pinch-hitting for Darren Hartwell, picking the Celtics' moneyline, point spread and point total: 7-8

NBA Locks of the Night

Philadelphia 76ers (-4) at New York Knicks: The Sixers are still without Joel Embiid, are on the second night of a back-to-back on the road, where they're only 7-14 and are playing their third game in four nights. Still, it's the Knicks. 

Milwaukee Bucks (-10) at Brooklyn Nets: Let's see what Kyrie has to say about his teammates after dealing with Giannis & Co. 

Pat's record, pinch-hitting for Darren Hartwell, picking NBA locks against the spread: 5-5

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Suns-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.