The Boston Celtics have graded out to about a B- as a team so far during the 2012 NBA season. The team’s record sits at 4-4, which isn’t great, but the Celtics have gone 3-1 since their captain, Paul Pierce, returned from a heel injury.
It’s true that the C’s were playing around D-grade status over their first three games, but this is a different team with Paul Pierce, even if he’s still a little shaky thus far.
One positive is that the Celtics are playing well with their new acquisitions. The team is actually surprisingly similar to last year’s squad.
Brandon Bass has easily taken over Glen Davis’ role. Keyon Dooling is playing well in the Delonte West role. And Greg Stiemsma even has a little Shaq in him.
It’s important to remember that it’s still early in the season, so while the individual player grades may not shift much between now and the end of the season, the team’s unity and chemistry should improve Boston to the B+ range.
While Paul Pierce’s return to the lineup was a shot in the arm to the then winless Celtics on December 28th, the captain hasn’t been performing at a high level, despite the C’s reeling off four straight wins immediately following his return.
Pierce is shooting below 40 percent from the floor, despite shooting 41 percent from downtown. Also, his free-throw attempts are down, as well as his scoring numbers, which tells us that he’s not fully ready to perform at 100 percent.
Pierce is claiming his heel if just now fully healed, so while the C’s started winning when he returned, he’ll have to stay healthy and play better by not repeating performances like the one against Indiana (3-for-16 shooting).
Expect Pierce to gain momentum as the season wears on, starting with the four-day rest the Celtics are currently receiving.
Kevin Garnett has been solid, yet unspectacular in the 2012 season. Of course, this was expected from the vet, so no one should be complaining about his production.
Head coach Doc Rivers has kept to his word, playing Garnett for stretches of five minutes at a time in order to preserve the power forward’s body for an entire season.
Garnett is shooting over 50 percent from the floor, close to 80 percent from the line, pulling down seven rebounds per game and dishing out nearly three assists per contest—all respectable totals.
Don’t be surprised to see Garnett’s production continue at its current clip throughout the entire season.
Wow! Ray Allen has absolutely been killing it this year.
Ray is shooting an amazing 58 percent from the floor this season, which includes an even more amazing 63 percent from downtown.
And this isn’t an inflated number based off of a low amount of shot attempts. Ray is third in the league in made threes and 22nd in attempts.
To put it plainly, Ray has been the Celtics' early-season MVP by a long shot.
Rajon Rondo hasn’t taken any steps forward this season, but he also hasn’t regressed in any noticeable way. What that means is that he is pretty much the same player from last year.
Rondo will always be a polarizing figure among NBA fans. He’s a love/hate-type player: great passer, great defense, poor jumper and poor free-throw shooting.
Even though the jumpers can be almost comical at times, Rondo is still shooting over 52 percent this year. The free throws are down, so fans will just have to hope those numbers can rise throughout the season.
Stats aside, Rondo looks more comfortable on the floor this year as a leader. He’s going through the motions, and no one is really questioning his approach to the game anymore. He’s even looked better with his shot, though he’s only hitting 41 percent on his J.
There’s no question that Rondo is a great player and makes the Celtics a much better team when he is playing, so to the naysayers out there, accept his faults and appreciate him for what he is.
Jermaine O’Neal is what he is at this point in his career—average. He might even be below average by some standards, but he’s capable enough of playing half the game and providing some skills.
O’Neal has blocked 11 shots so far this year, and that’s the number to hone in on when grading his 2012 season to date. He’s also hit 9-10 from the line, so if nothing else, it’s a plus in his favor.
Don’t expect much change in O’Neal’s numbers throughout the season. The only factor that will affect his grade is how many games he misses this year.
Brandon Bass has been a catalyst off of the Celtics bench this year. He’s having a career-year, without any of the bad habits that Glen Davis brought.
Not to knock on Baby, but Bass has just come in and done his job. He’s not taking shots that are out of his league, and he isn’t becoming a distraction. He’s been a model citizen and player in Boston.
The Celtics went out and acquired themselves a nice sixth man who could be back next year (player option) when a very different Celtics team could be in place.
Keyon Dooling has been a serviceable backup on the Celtics’ bench. He may not be distributing like a backup point guard, but he is scoring points in limited minutes, and production is production.
Dooling was the guy Doc went to when Ray had the flu, so it’s a sign that he has the trust of his coach, an intangible that doesn’t show up in the box score.
Dooling is shooting nearly 40 percent from downtown, so while he has been playing shooting guard at times, he’s responded with decent results.
It’s nice to see Marquis Daniels back on the court after his neck injury, even if he’s shooting a putrid 27 percent from the floor through eight games.
Marquis isn’t a stat machine; he’s better at being a teammate than showing up on fantasy news sites. But he’s played well enough in his reserve role, sans jump shot.
Expect Marquis to shoot a higher percentage as the season progresses. He’ll most likely continue to play the type of minutes he has played in Boston over the past two seasons, so keep his 5.5 PPG and 49 percent FG percentage in the back of your mind.
Get used to seeing this picture a lot!
Greg Stiemsma has surpassed everyone’s expectations in his young rookie season with the possible exception of his mother.
What the Celtics have gotten with the undrafted rookie is a shot-blocker who, unlike Jermaine O’Neal, has youth on his side.
Stiemsma has played solid defense and shown off his mid-range jumper to start the year, so while he’s come out like small-town gangbusters, his play will fluctuate, but the Celtics appear to have signed a decent player for a great value.
Avery Bradley has been a fairly one-dimensional player while on the Boston Celtics. His one asset is his defense. He can play out high and defend the opposing team’s PG, but after that, Bradley hasn’t showcased enough skill to warrant his status as a first-round pick.
I’ve always been a harsh critic of Bradley’s primarily because he’s never been a decent shooter. Unlike Rondo, Bradley doesn’t have the ability to pick up the slack in other areas to offset a lack of points, at least not yet.
Bradley is still developing, albeit slower than some would like, so he still has the potential to become a better player; it just hasn’t happened yet.
Remember when Sasha Pavlovic started three games for the Celtics? It seems like ages ago.
Pavlovic hasn’t done anything to warrant PT, so don’t expect anything more than a few sporadic runs here and there.
He’s been hurt. He’s been passed over for Greg Stiemsma. He’s not going to help out much.
E'Twaun Moore has the ability to last in the NBA, but he hasn't been on the floor enough to confirm this one way or another.
Even so, Celtics fans should feel better rather than worse about him.
JaJuan Johnson won’t be in the rotation at all this year, health providing.
But he should have a future as a backup power forward in the rotation next season.