|"I got an A- on Dyer's grades, what did you get?" "B+!" Yea man, high five!"|
When you consider that a certain #9 is returning tonight, and that the C's have pulled off two trades in the past two weeks (likely with more to come), now seems as good a time as any to look back at the Celtics first half and dish out some grades. Grades will include the recently traded Celts, as they spent the majority of the first half in Boston.
(Grades in order of playing time)
Jeff Green: C
Oh, Jeff Green, how you disappoint me. With Rondo out, and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Brooklyn, the door was open for Green to become the alpha dog for the Celtics. And yet it didn't happen.
Sure, he's had his moments, such as the ridiculous buzzer beater vs Miami, and an eight game run in December where he averaged 22 PPG, but in general he's been the same ol' Green. Great one night, average the next, invisible the one after that. Which would be fine if he was the 5th best player on the team, but he's not. Green is averaging 15.7 PPG (which does lead the team), but he's shooting only 43% from the floor, and has scored in single digits seven times on the season (and he's been held below 15 points 16 times). If Green were an elite passer or rebounder, those off scoring nights would be fine once in awhile. But scoring is really all he does on the offensive end, making him a non-factor on nights where the shots are not falling.
One positive for Green has been his continued steps forward on the defensive end, where slowly but surely he has become a really good one-on-one defender. According to Synergy he's allowing 0.80 ppp this year, and opponents are shooting only 37.6% against him. But overall it's hard not to be disappointed by Green's first half. Now we'll get to see how he jives with Rondo, who he did not play much with last season (Green was not playing all that much before Rondo's injury).
Whether you're team tank, or team shoot for the playoffs, everyone is in agreement that the most important part of the 2013-14 season is developing young talent that may be around the next time the Celtics are good. And with that in mind, one of the most positive developments for the Cs this season has been Bradley's growth as an offensive player. AB is averaging a career high 14.8 points per game (his old career his was 9.2), and has become an elite mid-range jump shooter, with the ability to shoot the three at an above average rate (38.3%). He's also rebounding at a far better rate than his previous career averages, and most importantly, has been healthy. Bradley has started all 40 games, averaging 31.5 minutes per night.
Defensively, his absurd one-on-one numbers from last year have regressed, as he is giving up 0.86 points per play (via Synergy Sports) this season compared to a ridiculous 0.73 last year (league average is 0.86). But Brad Stevens made it clear that he wanted Bradley to back off the "pit bull" one-on-one lockdown defending in exchange for improved team defense. And considering the Celtics are giving up 108 points per 100 possession with Bradley on the bench, and only 103.5 per 100 when he's on the floor, I'd say he's still making a big impact on defense.
Bradley's achilles heel remains passing the basketball, as his hold on the starting point guard spot thankfully lasted just four games earlier this year. His 1.6 assists per-36 minutes average is astonishingly low for a guard, and while he hopefully will never have to play PG again, it would be nice for him to develop a bit more as a distributor. After all, it's not only point guards that have to pass.
Jordan Crawford: B
I mean, how much more could we have expected out of Crawford? Thrust into the starting point guard role four games in, Steez averaged 13.7 PPG and 5.7 APG for the Celtics, helping them bounce back from an 0-4 start. His assist/turnover ratio was well above average at 2.57:1, and the Celtics offense was much more productive with him on the floor than off. Of course, his shot selection was still "questionable" (that's the nicest way I can describe it), and he slumped badly during his final month in Boston. Over the first 24 games of the season, Crawford shot 46% from the field and 40% from three, winning him a player of the week honor, and making "Jordan Crawford - All-Star" a not-so-ridiculous saying. But then the career 40% shooter regressed to the mean in horrifying fashion, shooting just 35% from the floor and 21% from deep over his last 15 games with the Celtics.
Just two days ago, Crawford was shipped to Golden State with MarShon Brooks in a three-way deal than landed Boston the corpse of Joel Anthony, and more importantly, a protected first round pick and a second rounder (which worst case becomes three second rounders). Considering Danny Ainge traded an injured Leandro Barbosa and a just about out of the league Jason Collins for Crawford, turning him into a 40% shot at a mid-first round pick is a pretty nice turnaround (obviously the Celtics agreeing to take on $3.8 million in salary for next year plays into their haul as well, but bottom-line is Crawford's play opened the door for a contender to agree to facilitate this deal by taking him).
Brandon Bass: B
In all honesty, it's a crime that Bass is playing for a bad basketball team at this point. He's a great role player, one who should be playing 20 minutes a night for a contender, not for a team chasing ping-pong balls down the stretch. Bass has been one of the most consistent Celtics this season, bringing energy nearly every night while putting up a workmanlike 10.9 points and 6.1 boards per game. He's efficient on offense (46% FG, 83% FT), and fantastic defensively (opponents shoot only 36.4% against Bass, this despite the fact that he guards both wing players and low post guys), and gives the Celtics a solid 28 minutes each night.
But the writing seems to be on the wall that Bass is not long for Boston. His contractual doppelgänger, Courtney Lee (overpaid, but solid role player), was just moved to Memphis, and seems likely that Bass is not far behind. While Bass' salary is a bit inflated ($6.5M), his deal expires after next season, making him fairly movable for Ainge. So while he's been a solid contributor for the Celtics this season, don't expect him to be around for the season ending grades.
Jared Sullinger: A-
Much like with Bradley, Celtics fans should be thrilled with the improvement they've seen from Sullinger this season. Sully is averaging 13.2 PPG and 7.8 RPG in just over 26 minutes per game, showing flashes of a guy who should be able to average 15+ points and 10+ boards per game very soon.
The Celtics' coaching staff has preached three-point shooting as a vital part of their offense, and Sully is attempting to develop that part of his game, launching 2.5 threes-per-night. So far, the results have not been all that great (28%), but this is what a team should be doing during a rebuild. Develop players' skill-sets, seeing what works and what does not.
Sully is coming off the first 20-20 game for the Celtics since KG's first game in Boston, and once again appears to be rolling after a brief slump where he was dealing with a hand injury. We've also seen the rough side of Sullinger this season, with an NBA leading five flagrant fouls. While the flagrants need to stop (or at least slow down), it's nice to see a guy playing tough around the rim. KG and Perk are long gone, and the new Celtics need to create their own identity.
Sullinger has also been solid defensively, this despite playing most of his minutes out of position. He's knocked heads with some of the best big men in basketball, yet ranks slightly above average according to Synergy (0.85 ppp allowed). He's not all that athletic, but has good defensive instincts, and as we just mentioned, is not a pushover in the middle. Hell of a first half from Sullinger.
Gerald Wallace: D-
Why a D-? Well..He whines, he turns the ball over at an historic rate, he shoots free throws at a 35% clip, he whines some more, he barely ever shoots the basketball, he makes $10 million and is basically unmovable in a trade, and he whines some more.
Wallace has earned every bit of this grade through poor play on the court, and a one-play deep "leadership manual" which reads: blast your team through the media at every turn, for as many things as possible.
The salary-balancer in the KG/Pierce deal, Wallace clearly does not want to be part of the rebuild. Which would be fine if he still had a pulse as a player and his contract was movable. But he doesn't, and it's not. Stevens has continued to play Wallace around 20 minutes per night, likely for two reasons. 1. He's the only back-up wing on the roster, and 2. He's signed through 2016, and any shot of dealing him relies on him playing, and hopefully, somehow, playing decent.
'Crash' has been an enigma this season, shooting a high percentage from the field (51%) but literally NEVER shooting the basketball. His 5.1 shot attempts per-36 minutes is by far the lowest in the NBA for anyone with at least 800 minutes played (no one else is below 6.2), and his chronic unselfishness brings down the Celtics offense when he's on the court (Boston with Wallace playing: 98.8 points/100 possession, without: 103.5). He's also turning the ball over in 30.5% of his possessions, the worst number in the NBA this season.
Can you tell I'm ready for the Gerald Wallace era to end?
Kris Humphries: A
On the surface it seems a bit weird that the best grade on the team is going to a guy putting up 7.4 points and 5.4 boards a night, but with Humphries, you need to dig deeper.
Like Wallace, Humphries was thrown into a rebuild when he didn't expect to be part of one. But unlike Wallace, he has been the consummate professional, never complaining, coming to camp in great shape, biding his time when he was buried on the bench, and producing at a phenomenal clip when his number was finally called.
While his per game stats look just decent, much of that is because of his lack of playing time. When you look at his per-36 numbers, it's clear that Hump is playing at a high level. He's putting up 14.1 points, 10.8 boards and 2 blocks per 36 minutes this season, making him one of only three players hitting each of those numbers this year (the other two: Andre Drummond and Tim Duncan). He's also shooting 53% from the field and 88% from the free throw line, making him one of the more efficient players in the league.
When you throw in above average defense, Humphries earns that A. Now the question becomes: what do the Celtics do with the soon to be 29-year-old? Humphries has an expiring $12 million contract, leaving the Celtics with three options. 1. Let that contract expire, and let him walk, freeing up the entire $12 million. 2. Try and work out a contract this summer at a reduced rate. Something like 3 years, $15-18 million. 3. Trade him, which would be difficult with his high salary. But if the C's could get expiring contracts and a pick, this becomes a solid option.
If I had to guess, Boston simply let's Hump walk. Ideally they could find a trade partner for him, but that's going to be tough with the $12 million cap hit.
Kelly Olynyk: C+
For a guy picked twelfth in a weak draft, putting up 6 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 1.5 APG in a reserve role as a rookie really isn't all that bad. But unfortunately for Olynyk, the Celtics took him over Giannis Antetokounmpo, the 'Greek Freak' who has already grown two inches since the draft, and has scouts and fans alike drooling with his combination of length, defensive abilities, and pure athleticism (not to mention youth. Antetokounmpo turned 19 in December, yet is already starting in the NBA..albeit for the crappy Bucks).
Now obviously that is not Olynyk's fault, not at all. But if Antetokounmpo becomes a superstar (I know it hasn't happened yet), the comparison will always be there. Fair or not.
As for Olynyk's skill-set, it's basically as advertised. He has struggled shooting from deep, but has a nice jump shot and has been heating up after a terrible start (8 for his last 17 from three after a 4-22 start to his NBA career). He's also a really good passer, with great court vision which should be fun to watch with Rondo back. His rebounding numbers are also decent, as he's grabbed 8.6 boards per-36 minutes.
His downfall is his lack of athleticism. He's fairly slow, can't jump, and is a major liability on the defensive end. According to Synergy, he's allowing 0.92 ppp on the defensive end, ranking 282nd in the NBA. Not good. While it's fair to expect him to improve off his rookie numbers, unless his arms suddenly lengthen, don't expect him to ever become a rim protector.
I like Olynyk, and so should you. But his ceiling is not all that high. I'd love for him to prove me wrong there, but I'm not expecting it.
Courtney Lee: A-
What the hell happened to Courtney Lee this season? I always claimed the Lee wasn't very good, that he was an above average shooter, and not much else, and the numbers backed me up. He can't play point guard, doesn't rebound (below average for a guard), and was always called a good defender, despite the fact that his teams always gave up less points with him on the bench, and his Synergy numbers were always average to below average.
But then, this year happened. With Boston, Lee shot 49% from the field, and 44% from three, blowing past his career highs (46% and 41% respectively) and annihilating his career averages (44% and 38%). He went from "good shooter" to "elite shooter".
He also went from "meh" defender, to above average defender, giving up 0.83 ppp according to Synergy.
Lee has kept the ball rolling in Memphis, grabbing a starting job and putting up 13.6 PPG over his first five appearances. The 28-year-old is either enjoying a career season, or has simply become a much better player (and for those saying: "it's Doc's fault, Courtney didn't get a chance!", he's also a much better player than he ever was with the Magic, Nets or Rockets. Guy is a different dude right now). Not sure what's gotten into him, but he's earning that $5+ million salary right now, and he earned this A-.
Vitor Faverani: C-
If I gave bonus points for looking like an evil henchman, Vitor would get an A+. But unfortunately for him, I do not.
Faverani was the surprise of training camp this season, playing well enough to earn a starting job for the first six games of the season. His stat line vs Milwaukee in the second game of the season: 12 points, 18 boards, 6 blocks, had fans legitimately excited that Ainge had found a diamond in the rough. But then, Vitor started to look confused on the defensive end, and the numbers dropped across the board. For the last few weeks he's struggled to find a spot in the Celtics rotation, which is partly due towards his struggles, and party to the success of Humphries.
I think it's way too early to give up on Faverani as a possible rotation guy, as he can block shots (though he sometimes is out of position while trying), shoot the basketball, and he rebounds well. Once either Bass or Humphries is dealt, the Celtics can hopefully get both him and Olynyk more minutes as they simultaneously build towards the future and try and position themselves for the lottery.
Phil Pressey: C
What a unique player this guy is. He's a pure point guard, who runs an offense extremely well for a rookie, and rarely turns the ball over. His 3.6:1 assist to turnover ratio is one of the best numbers in the league, and in his first ever start he dished out 10 assists without turning it over. He's a smart player, and should be a solid back-up point guard to Rondo.
But then, there's the ugly side. Pressey cannot shoot. And when I say he cannot shoot, I mean he literally is shooting the basketball at levels we have not seen since Vietnam.
This season, Pressey has put up 83 shots, and 19 have gone in. That's a 22.9% success rate. Since the start of the NBA, only 32 players have shot the ball that many times, and hit on less than 23% of them. And now you might be saying, "Yo Mike, he's only having one of the 32 worst shooting seasons ever, that ain't that bad", and to that I'd say: yes it is. There have been tens of thousands of seasons in which a player has shot 83+ times, being in the bottom 32 is pretty bad. And also, look at the seasons most of these players played in. 17 of them took place in 1946-47, the first year of the NBA, when I think the league used a fairly round rock as a ball. Seven more took place in either 1947-48 or 1948-49, and seven of the other eight were in the 50's. The most recent? That would be Charlie Paulk, who shot 22.6% in 1968-69.
So yea, Pressey needs to work on his form. While he was a bad shooter in college (38% last year), he wasn't this bad. And I'd expect that percentage to creep up a bit. But still, by rule (I make the rules in this article), you can't get better than a C if you're shooting below 23%. Can't happen. Even if you're a solid passer and a nice defender, you've got to break the 25% mark to get an above average grade.
Jerryd Bayless: Incomplete
Bayless was traded for Lee, but reminds me more of Crawford. Good passer, not so good shooter, but really likes to shoot. Can put up 20 points in 20 minutes or go 2-13, and you never know which one you're going to get.
MarShon Brooks: Incomplete
We'll always have the D-League performances to remember you by.
Keith Bogans: Incomplete -
Another rule: If you only play 55 minutes all year and then quit the team, you get an incomplete -.
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For more of my articles, click here Michael Dyer 1/17/2014 04:10:00 PM Tweet