The NBA regular season has just passed the half-way point, with the Boston Celtics (14-27) mired near the bottom of the Eastern Conference basement. After a surprisingly solid start to the season going 4-4, the team has won only 10 of their next 34 games to slide to the fourth worst record in the NBA. Most fans were conditioned for such a rapid decline this season, with the heart and soul of the team (Pierce, Garnett), along with their championship coach (Rivers) shipped out of town.
While the team battles on a nightly basis, they do so not knowing whether they will be around when the team becomes compeitive again.
At this point, here is an assessment of each player to date, including those that have already found employment elsewhere.
Avery Bradley: B+
Consistency is the name of Bradley’s game in 2013-14. Whether it is at home or on the road, the defensive wizard had produced on the offensive end. In fact, not only has Bradley been consistent, he has increased his scoring each month this season (13.0, 15.6, 17.5). Key to his production is limiting his time handling the ball, where Bradley can move for open perimeter shots. Not lost in the equation this year is his solid defense hasn’t diminished much despite having to produce on the opposite end. Clearly if the team can retain the defensive-minded guard through the rebuilding process, they will be a much better team for it.
Jared Sullinger: B+
For a player of his height, Sullinger sure has a great nose for the ball. The bulky power forward has returned brom back surgery to have a great season to date; capped off by the team’s first 20 point – 20 rebound game since 2007. Since the start of the season, Sullinger has increased his rebounding, but has had his scoring and shooting percentage slide somewhat. Hard to ignore his battling with taller opponents on a nightly basis as a psuedo-center for most of the season will also have an impact in that regard. Sullinger is another of those grit players that you want on your team, although his value will be greatly coveted among many other teams.
Jeff Green: C+
With Pierce and Garnett gone, there was much to expect from Jeff Green this season. As a primary scorer, having his shooting and scoring fluctuate as much as it has is a factor in the team’s inconsistency. For the money he is making ($9 million per season) one would expect more consist aggression, but he has improved some over last year. To put it into better perspective, Green’s production this season is on par with his best years in Oklahoma City, where he was a third option to Kevin Durrant and Russell Westbrook. Clearly much more is needed from your “go-to” player.
Brandon Bass: B-
Is he a starter or a reserve? I don’t think one has a greater impact over the other when it comes to Bass’ production. The power forward seems to be one that is less effected coming off the bench compared to starting, so long as the minutes are consistent. Bass is another player that you can appreciate for what he gives on most nights, but if the right deal can be struck, could be a better asset in a trade than what he can provide long-term.
Rajon Rondo: Incomplete
With a full season, you could expect a typical Rondo season to garner him an A or A- grade. Simply put, Rondo is coming off a major knee injury and only played a couple of games. From what has been viewed thus far, the lateral quickness and explosion is not there yet, but will likely appear with more playing time and conditioning.
Gerald Wallace: C-
Vocal leadership in locker room and in media and strong effort on the court. Unfortunately, the player known as “Crash” has not provided much on the offensive end of the floor. Perhaps his efforts on defense in limited minutes are hindering him in this regard.
Kris Humphries: C
Early in the season, Humphries was relegated to small stints off the bench. Since assuming a starting role the former “Mr. Kardashian” has put up solid numbers (9.7 points, 9.1 rebounds) in less than 30 minutes per game. Clearly showcasing this skill set will garner interst from several teams, especially since he is working on a one-year contract at $10 million. In the interim, look for more double-double nights from Humphries until the right suitor makes an inviting offer for his services.
Jordan Crawford: B
Crawford is not a true point guard and has a reputation of being a selfish player. But this season the guard put up respectible assist stats while showing some offensive potency. The Golden State Warriors saw enough of him to initiate a trade for his services. He was a serviceable interim fit for the Celtics point guard spot until Rondo returned.
Courtney Lee: B-
Another recently relocated player who struggled to find his niche in the Celtics offense. This season was probably his most consistent season in green, and was enough to entice another franchise to trade for his services. Since being traded to Memphis, Lee has played well, averaging more than 14 points per night.
Jerryd Bayless: C
Not much should be expected from Bayless. He was simply a short-term contract that was used to facilitate the Courtney Lee trade. Every season expect sub-40 percent shooting and around 8-10 points per night in 20 miuntes or less of action. Whether it is in Memphis or Boston, Bayless will be a stop-gap player who will work hard in his limited minutes.
Kelly Olynyk: C-
Up and down season is an understatement for the rookie 7-footer. Some nights he is an offensive force (Friday’s loss to the Lakers) and other nights looks lost on the floor. Look for a great game every 10 games or so as Olynyk learns the NBA game. Had it not been for his stellar performance in the Summer League and his early season production, he would not be viewed as a disappointment on many nights. Overall the former Gonzaga center has the makings of a good NBA player. Whether Danny Ainge will be patient enough to keep him through the rebuilding is anyone’s guess.
Phil Pressey: C
Of late, Pressey has seen an increase in minutes and the diminutive point guard has shown a deft passing touch and a quality perimeter game. After consecutive games where he recorded 19 assists to zero turnovers, Pressey came back to earth on Sunday against the Orlando Magic. For what was expected of him at the start of the season, his contributiuons have been pleasantly solid.
Vitor Faverani: D+
There was a stretch early in the season where Faverani looked to be a lock for a rotation spot. After his first two games, the Brazilian center averaged 12.5 points and 10.5 rebounds. Since then, the numbers are less impressive, scoring double digits only twice and grabbing 10 or more rebounds only once (43% FG%, 4.1 points, 3.1 rebounds over that span). On some nights, his international skills and big body are a plus, but with Humphries and Sullinger getting the “banger” minutes, the rookie will have to produce in the rare occasions he is called upon.
Head Coach Brad Stevens: B+
Steven’s positive attitude and demand for all players to buy into the system has full organization support. During such a difficult time, having an unflappable coach whose coaching approach defies his age is a definite plus. That certainly helps with a hodge podge collection of talent. With security in place, Stevens will continue to preach team-oriented, fundamental basketball. Shiftng and tinkering of lineups will keep the team competitive on a nightly basis, but you cannot judge his work based on the team record. Having veterans like Wallace and Bass willing to accept lesser roles takes a coach with some talent. So far, the hiring of Stevens was a good move by the Celtics that may pay big dividends down the road.
There is not much to expect from this team in 2014, other than watching the evolving chemistry experiments of Ainge and Stevens. For hard core Celtics fans, this time is tough to stomach, but is a necessary evil if this franchise has any aspirations of future greatness.
Founder, Senior Contributor – Banner Day Boston
Host – Banner Day Boston Radio