Playing professor: Post game grades for 1st place Celtics after win vs Magic

Well, well, well - would you look at this. Exactly one week after becoming the only 0-4 team in basketball, the Boston Celtics are now 4-4 and in first place in the Atlantic division.

At the beginning of the season I expected this team to go I have no idea what to expect. But I'm enjoying the hell out of the relentless hustle and a brand of high energy basketball we haven't seen around these parts since 2007-08 (in no way saying this team is as good as any team since then, just that as Pierce/KG/Allen got older, the team stopped running and slowed things down). Many of us have argued what's best for this team long term, but that really doesn't matter. The Celtics are going to win or lose games on their own, without giving a single f**k about our goals for them. The last four games have been a blast in pure "basketball is more fun to win" sense.

That also means the grades for this one are high to quite high. And much deserved. 


Jordan Crawford: A+

Stat line: 16 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, 0 turnovers, 7-12 FG, +15 +/-

I mean, what can you say at this point? The Celtics were 0-4 when Crawford took over at PG, and they're 4-0 since. Tonight he was dominant, dishing out double digit assists without turning the ball over a single time. The one thing a PG needs to do is be in control, and Crawford was in total control against the Magic. It's amazing to think that just a month ago some were wondering if this guy would be in the NBA beyond this he looks like a legit asset.

Avery Bradley: A

Stat line: 24 points, 3 steals, 10-15 FG, +12 +/-

If you've read my first few post game grades articles, you probably noticed I don't throw A's around. At all. But both members of the Cs back court earned them tonight. AB led the team in scoring with 24, and pestered Jameer Nelson to the point where I thought Nelson may quit the game at halftime (he finished 3-10 shooting). The biggest question with Bradley has always been his offense, but since being moved back to shooting guard, the confidence has skyrocketed. 

Jeff Green: B

Stat line: 16 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 5-9 FG, +1 +/-

Don't look now, but for a guy constantly criticized for his inconsistency, Green has been pretty damn consistent this season. Eight games in he has topped double figures seven times, and the only time he didn't he only played 20 minutes (and scored 7 on 3-5 shooting). Tonight was a rather quiet 16 point outing, but with the rest of the offense clicking Green just played his role, chipping in 16 points on only 9 shots. 

Brandon Bass: C+

Stat line: 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 5-12 FG, +3 +/-

Want to know the single biggest reason the Celtics entered the day ranked 8th in defense (points per play)? Brandon Bass. Bass is currently ranked 9th out of all players allowing a minuscule 0.56 ppp this season, and was strong inside again tonight. Bass has taken over the KG "vocal leader of the defense" role, and while he's no Garnett - he has been awesome this season. He didn't shoot the ball all that well tonight, but came into the game shooting 83% on mid-range shots, best in the NBA. No that was not a typo. 

Kelly Olynyk: A-

Stat line: 16 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 7-9 FG, 2-3 3 PT FG, -7 +/-

Imagine if Sullinger and Olynyk were athletic? My God the Celtics would be stacked for the future. But even with both at their current level of athleticism, the Cs have two really good young bigs. KO showed all of his skills off tonight, but I was most impressed by the combination of the court vision and range on his shot. It's a nightmare for opposing teams to guard a center out past the three-point line while also having to watch for him sniping a teammate cutting through the paint. Olynyk's 16 points and 5 assists were both career highs. 


Jared Sullinger: B+

Stat line: 14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal, 7-9 FG, +17 +/-

Another strong performance from Sullinger off the bench as he shoots 78% from the floor. Sully is now averaging 11 PPG and 5 RPG in only 20 minutes per night. This guy continues to earn more playing time as he plays himself into shape, and it's a wondrous site to see him destroy opponents down low with his combo of size and niftiness. He definitely has some Big Baby in him, only with a more calm and collected demeanor and a little better defense. 

Gerald Wallace: B-

Stat line: 1 point, 5 assists, 2 rebounds, 3 steals, 0-1 FG, +20 +/-

This is one of those grades where you need to go beyond the stats. No, Wallace didn't score tonight. in fact, he appears to now hate scoring points..which is weird. But this guy plays hard. The moment he enters the game you see the intensity level go up and it happened again tonight, with Crash diving into the stands at one point to try and save a ball. He's also a great defender and continues to display fantastic court vision. But still, Gerald, it is ok to shoot once in awhile bro. 

Courtney Lee: B+

Stat line: 12 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 5-8 FG, +3 +/-

Lee is playing his best basketball as a Celtic, appearing to really embrace his role as first guard off the bench. He doesn't do anything great, but if he continues to knock down the jumper (he was 4-6 on jumpers tonight) and play solid defense he'll be a nice contributor.  You do have to wonder if the Celtics try and drum up some trade interest in Lee as Rondo nears a return. He's shooting the lights out this season (57%) and it's hard to imagine the team getting Rondo, Bradley, Lee and Crawford enough minutes. Plus Lee is signed for three more seasons at solid money ($5.5 M per year). Selling high would be smart if it's possible. 

Phil Pressey: B+

Stat line: 7 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 3-6 FG, +2 +/-

You know things are going well when Phil Pressey starts hitting jumpers - and tonight he hit three. Pressey was a really bad shooter at Missouri, knocking down only 38% of his shots last season. But tonight the shooting was contagious and Pressey made the Magic pay for sagging off him. With Pressey's ability to run an offense and quickness on defense he looks like a great back-up PG going forward. Whether or not he learns to shoot. 

Vitor Faverani: A-

Stat line: 4 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal, 2-4 FG, +9 +/-

In 14 minutes he gave you 4 points, 5 boards, 2 blocks and earned a mega Tommy Point for running the floor and slamming home a Wallace miss on a fast break. Vitor lost his starting job but I like the cut of his jib. Hustle, rebounding and a soft touch around the rim make for a great back-up big man. Just stop shooting threes!


Brad Stevens: A

Guys, the Celtics have an awesome, awesome coach. Stevens has his team playing their asses off, playing selflessly and has them off the mat after the 0-4 start. He's already made changes at PG, SF and C early on - showing that he clearly isn't afraid to shake things up. And right now that's leading to wins. 

Ok, those are my grades. Give me yours. 

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Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Charles Krupa