If you can believe it, we're a quarter of the way through the season already. The Boston Celtics sit at 11-9, and they have experienced more highs and lows than perhaps any team in the NBA. They look invincible at times and then entirely human and beatable at others.
Just as you would imagine, the first quarter report cards for the players are full of inconsistency in terms of grades. Some players have been great, others have been so-so, and others need to make significant improves as the season progresses.
Fortunately, we have seen flashes of brilliance from pretty much everyone on the roster. That doesn't mean guys are exempt from criticism, though.
So, let's grade each Celtics player.
You really have to like what Leandro Barbosa has brought to the table for the Celtics. He has given Doc Rivers a more-than-adequate backup for Rajon Rondo, demonstrating the ability to carry his team offensively for stretches by utilizing his blinding quickness to get to the rim at will.
Barbosa has recorded 15+ point games four times this season and is shooting 40 percent from three. His energy is just great off the bench, and it would not be the least bit surprising to see him win Boston a playoff game when the postseason comes around.
The Brazilian Blur has certainly been a very nice pickup for the C's.
At first glance, you might look at Brandon Bass' stats and say, "Okay, he's having a solid year." The forward is averaging 9.3 points and 5.6 rebounds in 27.8 minutes per game and is shooting a respectable 46.1 percent from the floor.
However, we all know that statistics do not tell the whole story.
Bass has just not been very good thus far. He may be shooting 46 percent, but he went through a long stretch where he couldn't seem to buy a bucket. His mid-range shots weren't falling, and he was absolutely clueless as to what to do with the basketball when he received it and he wasn't open.
Not only that, but how many passes has he bobbled?
Bass has also been abysmal defensively, constantly finding himself out of position and missing rotations which has caused the Celtics to allow an uncharacteristic amount of easy buckets in the paint.
The 27-year-old was an incredibly valuable contributor to Boston last year, but this season has been an entirely different story. Maybe it's the fact that he's now competing for minutes with quite a few other forwards. But whatever it is, he needs to get his act together.
If he can start playing like he did last season, the C's become that much more dangerous.
It's hard to actually give Jason Collins a concrete grade here, as he has only played in four games.
However, when he has been on the floor, he has done some good things. He hustles, he is physical, and he hasn't really done anything to make you say, "Good God, get him off the court."
Because of all that, a B- seems fair for the veteran big man. There really isn't much else to add.
Kevin Garnett is off to an incredible start, averaging 16 points and 7.2 rebounds in 28.8 minutes and shooting a terrific 54.6 percent from the field (good for seventh in the NBA). When translated into per-36-minute stats, Garnett is averaging 20 points and 9.2 boards.
Not surprisingly, K.G. leads the Celtics in win-shares per 48 minutes, continuing to prove that he is indeed the most valuable member of the team.Also, when Garnett has been on the floor this season, Boston is outscoring opponents by 7.8 points. When he has been off the floor, the C's are getting outscored by 9.5 points.
Garnett's value to the Celtics cannot even really be put into words.
What he does for the team on both ends, both physically and emotionally, cannot even be fully measured in statistics (although those plus-minus stats mentioned above are a pretty solid indicator).
Based on his last five games alone, Jeff Green deserves an "A."
He has been exceptional in his past five outings, showing the kind of ability that Celtics fans expected when the season started. However, due to his slow start, giving him anything more than a "B" seems a little much.
Let me be the first to say that it looks like Green has absolutely turned the corner.
His aggressiveness is the best it's been since he has been a Celtic. His defense has been very good, and he is clearly a difference-maker out there. Because of that, if you ask this question again in another two months, Green will likely get an "A."
Still, it's hard to ignore the sluggish start Green got off to, as he didn't look comfortable early on. He sprinkled in a couple of big games, but he surrounded those with a whole bunch of mediocre ones.
That said, the kid is coming off heart surgery for crying out loud. The criticism he took early on was very unjustified. He needed to get himself re-acclimated with the basketball court again, and it looks like he is doing that now.
Green is going to be instrumental to a potential Boston playoff run.
A lot of Celtics fans would probably give Courtney Lee a "D" based on the expectations we all had for him coming into this season. But what some are failing to realize is that it is not all about offense with this kid. Sure, it would be nice to see him finally start hitting some threes as he has in the past, but there is more to the game than just making shots.
Let's realistically analyze Lee.
First of all, he is shooting 45.2 percent from the floor. That is absolutely fine, if not above average, for a guard. So this notion that he is not making shots at all is off-base. What people are remembering most are all of his missed treys, as he is only shooting 27.6 percent from three.
Being that Lee is a career 38.1 percent three-point shooter and considering that he has shot over 40 percent from there in his previous two seasons, the laws of probability assert that he will likely end up with a much better percentage by season's end.
What is very troubling, though, is that he has only attempted 10 free throws all season. That is unacceptable for someone who certainly has the ability to get to the basket.
Now, let's get to Lee's defense.
He has been outstanding in that area. He is constantly harassing opposing guards nearly the full length of the court, using his lightning quick hands to force turnovers and prove Boston with fast break opportunities.That is where his value has been thus far.So before you say Lee has been useless, go back and watch some tape of his defense. You'll probably change your tune then.
All things considered, Lee needs to step it up offensively. Given that he does have a track record of being a solid offensive player, he likely will. So relax.
It has been a rather inauspicious start for Paul Pierce.
The captain is shooting only 41.5 percent from the floor (his worst mark since 2003-04), is missing free throws in key moments and is being very sloppy with the basketball. Now, Pierce has never been the greatest ball-handler, but some of these passes he is making are downright ugly and are resulting in easy transition buckets for opponents.
Of course, it's very early in the season, and we all remember what a slow start Pierce got off to last year, but he is a big part of the reason as to why the Celtics really haven't taken off yet.
You can look at his stats and say, "Well, he is averaging 19.2 points per game," but that has absolutely no context. He is not scoring efficiently, as his percentages are pretty poor across the board (his three-point percentage of 34.8 is also his lowest since 2003-04; his free throw percentage of 81.8 is his lowest since 2006-07).
So, should we be worried? Nah. It's December. The Truth will be fine.
The numbers Rajon Rondo puts up shouldn't come as a surprise anymore.
Sure, his streak of games with 10 or more assists is over now thanks to his brawl with Kris Humphries, but Rondo is still putting up 13 points and 12.8 dimes a night, not to mention 5.1 rebounds and two steals to go along with that.
What is most impressive about Rondo thus far, though, is his shooting percentage. Rondo is hitting on 51.4 percent of his shots, the best mark of his career. He is getting to the basket at will and is finishing, this in comparison to last year when he shot a modest 44.8 percent from the floor.
The one thing that prevents Rondo from getting the full "A" here is his decision-making.
He still has a habit of passing out of open layups, and he still makes some ill-advised passes (such as lobbing alley-oop passes in traffic). Rondo will probably never shed those tendencies, as that is just the kind of player he is. He is a gambler, and fortunately, he has the ability to back it up most of the time. Because of that, you take the bad with the good.
One thing is for sure: the Celtics are very, very lucky to have Rajon.
If Sullinger isn't one of your favorite players by now, mark my words: he will be by the end of the year.
After somewhat of a rough start, Sullinger has become a vital piece of this Celtics team and has fully taken Glen Davis' spot as the lovable hustle player who will throw his body all over the place for the benefit of his ballclub. He is excellent at drawing charges, and he will fight for every loose ball and rebound like the basketball is his son.
The rookie is shooting a very solid 48.9 percent from the floor, and how about Sully at the free throw line? Sullinger is shooting 90 percent from the stripe.
The most noticeable thing about Sullinger is how strong his hands are. If he is just able to get one hand on a ball up for grabs, chances are, he is hauling it in. He is going to be an absolute demon on the glass, and we have seen him look absolutely possessed in terms of rebounding the ball at times this season (like the last game against the Philadelphia 76ers when he was cleaning the glass late in the game like an algae-eater cleans the algae off the glass of a fish tank).
Like Barbosa, Sullinger is going to win Boston a playoff game this year. Just wait.
Take away his horrendous 1-for-12 performance in Philadelphia the other night, and Jason Terry has actually been very solid for the Celtics this season.
The Jet is shooting 46 percent from the floor (his best mark since 2008-09) and has been hitting his trademark big shots for Boston. One of the most memorable moments of the first quarter of the season for the C's was Terry's dagger three against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was simply Terry at his finest.
Jet is Jet. You know exactly what you are going to get from him, and you know he is going to save his very best for the playoffs.
Yes. Chris Wilcox gets the full "A."
He has done everything the Celtics have asked him to. He is finishing lobs from Rondo, playing solid defense, and giving Rondo a weapon in transition.
Wilcox is shooting 70.8 percent from the floor, and while he doesn't have enough shot attempts to qualify for the league lead (he is 34-for-48), that is still pretty darn impressive.
One can seriously argue that Wilcox has actually been the most consistent Boston player in terms of simply doing his job. He has endeared himself to C's fans. Expect that to continue throughout the season and the playoffs.