Coming into this season, the Boston Celtics season was very unpredictable. Some “fans” expected them to tank; others figured that, once Rajon Rondo returned, the team would fight for a playoff spot. After 20 games, the Celts have an 8-12 record, good for the lead in the very pathetic Atlantic Division. Say what you want about their team, the C’s have been very entertaining to watch this season. Minus a beat down in Houston, the Celts have competed in every game. First year Coach Brad Stevens has his team spreading the scoring around, all while working hard on the defensive end.
The biggest thing Stevens may have accomplished in his first 20 games as a coach could be the fact that he has his team believing in his coaching philosophy. If the C’s can continue to play hard for Stevens, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they could be in the playoffs come April. 35-40 wins could be a middle of the pack Eastern Conference team. At the beginning of the year, I predicted 24 wins. The fact that the Celts already had 4 wins away from the TD Garden makes me believe that this team could come very close to cracking the 30-win mark, especially since there are some very bad teams in the NBA. November was very tough for the Celts, including a trip to Texas. But December will be a little easier as they play 8 out of the next 11 games at home.
Here is my report card for the first 20-game stretch of the season.
Jeff Green- 16.8 PPG 4.5 RPG 45% FG
Entering the season, Green was supposed to be the Celts big scorer. He does lead the team in scoring, but watching Green play, you have to wonder if he can regularly score 20 plus a night. When he wants to, Green can be aggressive. Green’s season-high for field goals occurred last week when the Celts defeated the Cavs at home. Green was 10 for 19 from the floor and scored 31 points. It would be nice to see more games like that from Green, but it’s obvious this may not be Green’s style. It would be to the Celts’ advantage though, if Green was forced to put up around 17 shots a game.
Jared Sullinger- 13.2 PPG 7.4 RPG 48% FG
Without a doubt, Sully has been the team’s MVP so far. Playing out of position at center, Sullinger has used his big frame to his benefit. He also appears to be the team’s enforcer on and off the court. Last week, when he was asked about the tanking option, Sullinger quickly shot that theory down. He made it clear that this team believes in themselves, and a playoff berth is their goal.
Jordan Crawford- 13.1 PPG 3.2 RPG 5.2 APG 88% FT
Grade: B +
If Sullinger is the team’s MVP, then Crawford is a close second. Another enjoyable surprise, Crawford has changed his game to better the team, and without any attitude issues, to boot. Crawford is holding his own at the point guard position, and is a go-to guy in the fourth quarter. In the November 23rd win in Atlanta, Crawford was cold all night from the floor. But, when it mattered, he came up with two big buckets in the final minutes to secure a victory. Crawford certainly has the confidence to keep shooting, even when his shot is off on a particular night.
Avery Bradley- 12.9 PPG 3.6 RPG 1.3 APG 44% FG
Bradley has continued to play stellar defense for this team, all while sprinkling in his improved offense. In the last four games, Bradley has hit a total of 8 three-pointers. His shot has improved by leaps and bounds over last season and he remains a key piece in the future of this team. Bradley is the one guy I hope isn’t on GM Danny Ainge’s trade radar.
Brandon Bass- 11.1 PPG 5.8 RPG 46% FG
Coming into the season, Bass’ role on the team was up in the air. Would he start or come off the bench? Bass’ offensive game relies on spacing so he can unwind his very mechanical jump shot. The departure of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett figured to hurt Bass’ jump shot. With those superstars gone, you had to wonder how he would adapt. Bass, though, has shown improvements in his game going towards the basket. He also has shown the leadership ability that was unseen the last few seasons. Bass is good for this team. Too bad I think he will be the first one to go when the trade season starts.
Courtney Lee- 7.8 PPG 52% FG
Lee’s first year in Boston was a nightmare. He was a forgotten player when this season started. Now it seems that, in Lee, the Celts have a legitimate 7th man in their rotation. Stevens’ faith in Lee is evident as you see him playing a lot in the fourth quarter. Lee, like Bass, could be another player leaving town, if the right deal comes to the table.
Kelly Olynyk- 7.5 PPG 5.4 RPG 39% FG
Before suffering an ankle injury last week, Olynyk was proving to be a viable option in the Celts’ offense. Stevens certainly has shown confidence in Kelly, basically playing the rookie over veteran Kris Humphries. That being said, Olynyk’s game does need improvement. His defense has been questionable at times, and his size is killing him in the paint against bigger bodies.
His shooting percentage of 39% is something to keep an eye on. His jump shot should be his bread and butter, but he hasn’t shown the ability to consistently knock down his jumper.
Vitor Faverani- 5.7 PPG 4.7 RPG 1.1 BPG
Nobody expected much from Faverani when he was signed during the summer. Vitor has been another pleasant surprise for the Celts. For a team lacking size, Faverani certainly fills that void. It would be nice to see him take fewer jumpers, but you will take those head scratching shots if he can continue to rebound and block shots as he has shown. Expect Faverani to represent the Celts in the Rookie/Sophomore game at All-Star weekend.
Kris Humphries- 4.5 PPG 4.1 RPG 49% FG
When called upon, Humphries has shown that he can provide the Celts with hustle points. His willingness to get dirty in the paint is the staple on how he has made his living in the NBA. After a slow start to the season, especially with a lot of DNP-Coaches Decision, Hump has been the consummate professional. Losing time to two rookies would make most veterans lose their cool, but there hasn’t been a peep from Humphries all season.
Gerald Wallace- 4.8 PPG 3.5 RPG 2.7 APG
Ok, Gerald Wallace, we get it, you don’t like to shoot. Wallace has attempted only 74 shots this season, an extremely low number for a guy who has logged 494 total minutes on the court. It would be in the Celts’ best interest to get Wallace’s offensive game going. Yes, he does the nitty gritty stuff that you need, but the Celts can’t afford another offensive liability, especially when he is on the court with the likes of Humphries, Bradley and Phil Pressey. Both Hump and Bradley can score but you can't expect them to create their own shot, it's not their game.
On the bright side, Wallace hasn’t openly complained about this team for a few weeks. He seems to be getting the concept that this team has a huge learning curve. And hopefully he’ll get even more used to this idea as the season continues.
Of course, I am sure that Ainge calls every team in the NBA daily, about the availability of Wallace.
Phil Pressey- 2.1 PPG 2.0 APG 26% FG
Not much was expected from the undrafted rookie out of Missouri. He has been a decent option off the bench for the Celts in minimal minutes. Pressey recorded a season-high 8 assists in a win at Charlotte on November 25th.
Unfortunately, Pressey has shown little confidence in his jump shot. He seems to pass up open looks, even as the shot clock winds down. If Pressey is going to stick with the NBA, he will have to show the ability to hit open shots.
Incomplete: Keith Bogans and MarShon Brooks
I’ll tell you one thing, I didn’t know much about Brad Stevens when the season started. But I have grown to really like his coaching style. Stevens seems to know his personnel and gets the best out of them. He doesn’t have a number one scorer, so instead he spreads the wealth around.
Another nice little angle in Stevens’ coaching ability is the fact that he coaches off feel. He doesn’t necessarily have a set lineup for each quarter or each situation, but he counts on guys who are playing hot that particular night.