Which Boston Celtics player is No. 1 in the team's December power rankings?
It's no secret that the Celtics are struggling this season, especially with consistency. However, there are some players who have considerably stepped up their game from November. Bench players, like Jason Terry and Jeff Green, are gaining a better understanding of their roles on the team.
On the other hand, the Big Three—Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo—continue to carry the team on their shoulders. Rondo is taking more of a leadership role while Garnett is the defensive anchor of the team.
The Celtics went 5-9 for the month of December. Which players were most important to the Celtics' success (or failure) this past month?
All stats are accurate as of Dec. 31, 2012.
12. Jarvis Varnado
On Dec. 24 the Celtics signed the NBA Developmental League's top shot-blocker, Jarvis Varnado. He hasn't had much playing time yet, so he gets the bottom spot on this list.
11. Kris Joseph
Kris Joseph started the month of December in the D-League, but the Celtics called him back up to the NBA. He hasn't seen much of the court and hasn't made an impact on the team.
10. Leandro Barbosa
Leandro Barbosa hasn't done much for the Celtics this season. The most action he's seen in December was the Dec. 18 loss against the Chicago Bulls. He scored six points in twelve minutes.
9. Jason Collins
As the lone true center on the Celtics, Jason Collins hasn't made much noise so far this season. He's only averaging 2.6 rebounds in about 15 minutes per game. However, there isn't much he can do behind Kevin Garnett and Chris Wilcox.
8. Courtney Lee
Courtney Lee has yet to live up to his full potential. In December he alternated with Jason Terry as starting shooting guard, and he averaged 25 minutes per game. Lee has significantly improved from November, averaging eight points and shooting 47 percent from the field.
7. Jared Sullinger
Jared Sullinger had his coming-out party in front of a televised audience on Christmas Day. The rookie was 6-of-7 for 16 points and contributed seven rebounds in the Celtics' win against the Brooklyn Nets. The Celtics need boards and Sullinger can provide them.
Brandon Bass hasn't had any games that stood out in December, but consistency is the reason why he landed this spot on the list.
Bass has contributed six points and 5.6 rebounds per game this past month, while shooting a solid 42 percent from the field. Bass is playing good, but he needs to take his game to the next level.
The Celtics need more rebounds and more defense in the paint. Bass may not be the biggest power forward, but he can't settle for getting outplayed by opponents. If he doesn't make significant strides to improve, he could end up losing his spot to Jared Sullinger.
Jeff Green has made significant improvement in the past month. He's been having a tough time adjusting to the NBA after sitting out an entire year, but in December we saw more of the old Jeff Green.
His numbers jumped to averages of 11.4 points and 3.9 rebounds for the month. Whereas Green used to show glimpses of potential, now he's one of the key members of the second unit. On Dec. 8 Green scored 16 points off the bench in a win against the Philadelphia 76ers. The athleticism is there; he just needs to work on consistency.
The road to victory won't be easy or pretty, considering he's already suffered a left cheek bruise and some chipped teeth after being elbowed in the head by Milwaukee's Ersan Ilyasova in a loss to the Bucks. However, if Green continues to make progress, he should be back to his old self in 2013.
Jason Terry took on a new role in December, and has completely owned it. The veteran guard alternates with Courtney Lee as starting shooting guard, and his early season struggles are long gone.
Terry averaged 34.4 minutes in December, a significant jump from his November average of 27.7 minutes per game. Although his point average is roughly the same (11.4 points) and his field goal percentage dropped (37 percent), Terry is important to the team because of intangibles.
Basically, Terry has proved to be an effective replacement for Ray Allen. He's healthy, flexible and rises to the occasion. Until the Celtics find more offensive rhythm, they will look to Terry to help the Big Three carry the team.
As the emotional and defensive leader of the team, it's important that Kevin Garnett practices what he preaches. Garnett is one of the only consistencies that the Celtics have, and they lean on him at all times.
Garnett is having a solid season, but the Celtics rely too heavily on his defense. He can't do it all by himself, and the Celtics crumble when he's not on the floor. According to 82games.com, Garnett's average plus/minus over a full 48 minutes is plus-7.3. Although KG is playing great, the rest of the team needs to match his level, especially on defense.
Garnett's presence alone should make his teammates want to play at their best. He averaged 14 points and 6.6 rebounds for the month of December.
Once again Paul Pierce led the team in scoring with 20.8 points per game. He continues to prove that he's not too old to compete with the younger and sometimes faster small forwards.
On Dec. 12 the Dallas Mavericks learned that Pierce still holds the clutch gene. Pierce scored 34 points in the double overtime win against the Mavs, including a three-pointer in second overtime to give the Celtics the lead. After that clutch shot, Boston held on for the rest of the game.
In addition, Pierce scored his 23,000th career point, which moved him up to 25th on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
Although Pierce started off the month strong, he's been subpar in recent games. He shot 3-of-10 with eight points on Christmas Day, which was followed up with 12 and 13 point games. Pierce continues to be a key member of the Celtics, and their play directly correlates with his game.
Rajon Rondo was the Celtics' most valuable asset for the month of December. Not only did he continue to dish out double-digit assists, but he improved his scoring.
After Rondo finished serving his two-game suspension from an altercation with the Brooklyn Nets' Kris Humphries, he began the month of December without the assist streak. With that monkey off his back, Rondo can solely focus on winning. He averaged 13.3. points per game and shot 49 percent from the field. He also contributed 10 assists and two steals per game.
Rondo is assuming more of a leadership role, which is imperative if they want to turn the season around. He also dominated Deron Williams on Christmas Day, outscoring him 19-10 and forcing four turnovers.
However, in the loss to the Sacramento Kings on Dec. 30 Rondo was 1-of-6 from the field to score only two points. With his struggling team leaning on him, Rondo doesn't have much room for games like that anymore.