Boston Celtics Stock Watch: Who's Rising and Falling Halfway Through Preseason?
The preseason is only halfway over, but a few Boston Celtics are already making a strong impression for this year.
While some players came out strong from Day One, others are still struggling to find their rhythm.
The Celtics have one of the deepest teams in the league, but for every breakout star, there is another player who just isn't living up to potential.
Since his return from heart surgery, Jeff Green has shown he's ready to come back strong this season. The 26-year-old is an impressive forward with solid production off the bench.
Green was the Celtics' leading scorer in two exhibition games in Europe, and he continues to show assertiveness against NBA teams. He is currently averaging 13.4 points over 26 minutes per game in the preseason.
Green is the Celtics' X-factor for the 2012-13 season. Not only does he display versatility through dunks and three-pointers, but he's also consistent. He is hungry, talented and has the skills to help carry the offensive load.
In recent years, the team's bench was offensively one of the worst in the NBA. However, the young forward is already proving that the bench is ready to play this year. Expect Green to lead by example for the new-and-improved secondary.
Out of the new additions to the Celtics over the summer, Courtney Lee was supposed to have one of the biggest impacts on the team. However, that hasn't been the case so far.
Lee had a uninspiring debut performance during Boston's exhibition opener in Istanbul. The guard was 2-for-6 from the field, and seemed hesitant to be aggressive. His on-court chemistry with his teammates was clearly off. As a result, his minutes were reduced.
Since that first preseason game, Lee has been steadily working to improve. The more he practices with the team, the more comfortable he gets with his position on the team.
Before the preseason even began, it was known that Lee would most likely be starting shooting guard until Avery Bradley returns from injury. He returned to the starting lineup Tuesday night against the Knicks. He's currently averaging 9.2 points on 47 percent shooting, but he needs to step it up or he'll find himself back on the bench.
There were some doubts about whether Jared Sullinger's Summer League success would continue once the real season began. During the preseason, the rookie is proving that he will have a positive impact on the Celtics team.
Sullinger's play in the first three preseason games was very impressive. In his debut game against Istanbul, he scored 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Throughout his 26 minutes on the court, Sullinger exceeded expectations on both the offensive and defensive ends.
In fact, there have been talks about Sullinger making a few appearances in the Celtics starting line-up during the regular season.
However, in Boston's loss to the Philadelphia Sixers, it was made clear that Sullinger still has plenty of room to grow. He struggled against taller defenders and had trouble scoring against Spencer Hawes. Sullinger finished the game with nine points and five rebounds, not horrible, but also not impressive.
Ultimately, there are more pros than cons with Sullinger. Despite his early success, rookie growing pains will be inevitable. It's how he works through those struggles that matters.
When it was announced that Darko Milicic would be joining the Boston Celtics, plenty of heads turned in confusion. The center is best known for being the former No. 2 overall pick of the Detroit Pistons in the 2003 NBA Draft. He's never lived up to his potential, but that might change in Boston.
Milicic is the top reserve for center in Boston, coming in for Kevin Garnett. He's currently averaging 3.3 points and five rebounds over 14.5 minutes per game. Milicic said he was no longer trying to justify his draft status, and the release of pressure is working.
The problem with Milicic has always been consistency. Although the center doesn't have much of an offensive game, he can grab rebounds. If he can rack up at least six boards a night and stay out of foul trouble, he'll be a solid contribution to the team.
Milicic suffered a mild wrist injury during a Monday night preseason game against the Philadelphia 76ers, but he's expected to make a speedy recovery and be back on the court very soon.
To be fair, Chris Wilcox hasn't played a single practice or game this preseason. However, that is the reason why he is on this list.
Back spasms have kept Wilcox out of commission, and head coach Doc Rivers doesn't think the big man is close to return anytime soon. Wilcox is supposed to be used heavily this season, especially as the primary backup for Kevin Garnett. However, in Wilcox's absence, another big man has emerged from the Celtics bench.
Darko Milicic is playing much better than expected at the center position. If he continues to improve, there's a chance he could pass Wilcox on the depth chart.
In addition, it's been months since Wilcox has seen any real action. He was sidelined with a heart ailment midway through the 2011-12 season. Hopefully, he won't be too rusty when he finally returns, but for now, it's not looking good for Wilcox.