Who's going to step up?
The Boston Celtics have finally begun receiving a full-team effort as of late. A big part of that has got to be the success of some of their key reserves.
However, it’s the newest additions to the team that will be the ones to take the Celtics over the edge.
All season long, the poor play of Boston’s bench has been a hot topic. One might even suggest that it was a prime reason the team struggled to stay above .500 for much of the season.
But lately, the Celtics reserves have helped put those rumors to rest.
On the year, the Celtics rank No. 15 in the league in bench production, averaging 33.4 points per game. That’s a significant improvement over the 21.4 points per game they averaged last season (No. 29).
But while Jeff Green and Jason Terry get much of the credit for the bench revival, they are not the only ones putting in the work.
More specifically, big things are expected from some of the newest players to don the Boston jersey.
Will Melo live up to his reputation?
Expectations were high for Fab Melo when he was drafted by the Celtics during the first round of last year’s NBA Draft.
Since then, he has been rather disappointing.
After the summer league, the team deemed Melo a little too raw to be competing in the NBA. As a result, he was quickly demoted to the D-League.
In 23 games for Boston’s D-League affiliate the Maine Red Claws, Melo has averaged 10.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.9 blocks over 28.1 minutes per game. He’s also shooting 51.8 percent from the field.
While his stat line might appear rather pedestrian, Melo has shown that he possesses the potential to play in the NBA.
On Dec. 22, Melo posted an incredible triple-double by finishing with 15 points, 14 blocks and 16 rebounds in 37 minutes. He followed that up with an equally impressive performance—32 points, nine rebounds and nine blocks in 37 minutes—only four days later.
Melo has appeared in five games for the Celtics. However, he’s only averaged just one point and 0.2 rebounds in over 3.8 minutes per game.
There’s no doubt that Melo is certainly developing into the player that Boston hoped he would be on draft day.
The only question is, how long will it take?
With only three healthy guards on the roster at the time, the Celtics announced the signing of Terrence Williams to a 10-day contract leading up to the trade deadline.
It was a move that had its fair share of pros and cons.
After appearing in 130 career NBA games since being drafted in 2009, Williams found a home in China. In 29 games for the Guangdong Southern Tigers, he averaged 17.9 points, 4.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game.
So far, Williams has not done much with Boston.
Over seven games, he’s averaging 2.1 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists over nine minutes per game. Williams is also shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc.
But since his performance on Feb. 22 against the Phoenix Suns—nine points, four rebounds and four assists in 25 minutes—Williams has been rather quiet.
In fact, he has not scored a single point in his last four games.
However, much of that can be credited to Williams’ lack of playing time. He’s logged an average of just 5.3 minutes per game over his last four outings.
Still, the Celtics have seen enough to sign Williams for the remainder of the season (per Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett)
But if he’s going to make an impact with Boston, head coach Doc Rivers must utilize him more. It’s no coincidence that Williams’ best performance of the season came in his only plus-15-minute appearance.
When he’s on the floor, Williams has displayed a tendency to make smart decisions. He’s distributed the basketball nicely, and at 6’6”, he’s even made a mark on the defensive glass.
It’s still too early to make an accurate judgment on Williams, but the future certainly looks bright.
Crawford has shown ups and downs in his stint with Boston.
When the Celtics announced the acquisition of Jordan Crawford from the Washington Wizards, many were surprised. But when they announced that they were only giving up the injured Leandro Barbosa and Jason Collins in return, many were downright stupefied.
Boston essentially received a solid bench scorer for practically nothing.
It’s something that should be kept in mind when critiquing the 24-year-old.
Through eight games with the Celtics, Crawford is averaging 5.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 0.9 assists over 13.7 minutes per game. He’s also shooting 38.6 percent from the field and 31.5 percent from three-point range.
While it’s not the impressive stat line he boasted with the Wizards—13.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists over 26.2 minutes per game—Crawford has still been somewhat effective during his time on the floor.
Possessing another offensive-minded scorer on the bench is a positive for Boston. Crawford has already shown his potential for putting up points, netting 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting against the Philadelphia 76ers on March 6. Once he settles in, he could easily become a tremendous spark plug for the team off the bench.
However, his shot selection has continued to trouble him.
Oftentimes, Crawford only seems to see the basket in his vision. Open teammates will surround him, yet he chooses to fight through two or three defenders before chucking up an ill-timed, acrobatic attempt at the hoop.
While it’s impressive when they fall, more often than not for Crawford, they don’t.
He’s certainly shown glimpses of potential, but he still has a lot of work to do.
Getting ready for bed. Toasting a bagel. Ripping your hair out to the latest Justin Bieber song.
These are all things you can accomplish in four minutes or less.
Making a statement in an NBA game? Not so much.
However, D.J. White attempted to make the most out of his four minutes during his March 6 debut against the Indiana Pacers—two rebounds and two blocks.
The Celtics have seemed to notice.
In four seasons in the NBA—2008-2012—White averaged 6.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in over 16.2 minutes per game. He also shot 50.6 percent from the floor. White completed stints with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Charlotte Bobcats.
After being let go by the Bobcats, White has spent the majority of this season in China’s CBA. He has averaged 21.6 points and 9.7 rebounds on 56 percent shooting in 32 games for the Shanghai Sharks.
While White is surely a player coming in with a lot of confidence, his main purpose is most likely to give Boston added depth at frontcourt. However, could it really hurt to give the guy around five minutes a night?
Rotating fresh legs into the game certainly does not hurt the team. Besides, Kevin Garnett could definitely use a little more minutes on the bench.
Expect to see more of White in the near future.
Randolph has a chance to redefine his legacy in the NBA.
Poor, Shavlik Randolph.
In the closing minute of the Celtics’ 91-79 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Randolph made his way to the scorer’s table to check in. Unfortunately, Rivers was there to greet him and promptly wave him back to the bench.
Since being signed to a 10-day contract on March 1, Randolph has yet to see his first action.
In five years in the league—2005-2010—Randolph proved to be a bust. In 95 career games, he averaged 2.4 points and 2.4 rebounds in over 8.2 minutes per game. Furthermore, Randolph only shot 44.7 percent from the field.
However, China’s CBA proved to be the environment he needed.
In 32 games with the Foshan Long Lions, Randolph averaged 32 points, 14.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. He was instrumental in helping the Lions finish with their best season ever.
While it’s only China, Randolph hopes to continue that momentum in his return to the league.
Can he translate his overseas success into NBA success? We’ll soon find out.
Can Rivers get the most of these new guys?
A great bench can make or break a playoff run. Boston certainly knows this.
As it stands, the team currently possesses a solid group of reserves. The only issue is being able to give each player an ample amount of playing time so that they can provide positive contributions to the team.
The Celtics are currently getting strong play from their veteran players. Hopefully, that will rub off on some of the younger reserves.
If Boston wants to have postseason success, the entire team needs to play together as one.
If not, then a first-round exit could be lurking around the corner.
Also check out: Celtics Role Players Who Must Step It Up by NBA Playoffs Time