The Boston Celtics organization may not want to admit the franchise is tanking, but they certainly have not put the team in positions to succeed through the first five games of the 2013-14.
Still, even through the franchise’s worst start since 1969-70, there is plenty fans and pundits can take away from the games thus far. 2013-14 was always going to be an evaluative year for Boston, and with a slew of close games having been played so far we have had the opportunity to watch the C’s many building blocks attempt to execute in tight, late game scenarios.
The results have not always been pretty, and many C’s fans have found themselves longing for the surety of a KG mid-range jumper or a Pierce step back three, but the organization has an excellent opportunity to assess their current pieces and in a year where a title run is out of the question that is all one can hope for.
The C’s are averaging 19.8 turnovers per game, third worst in the NBA and are also dead last in assists with just 15.8 per contest. That ineptitude falls largely on the Boston point guards, or lack thereof.
While a five game sample size is undeniably too small to extrapolate out for the entire campaign, let’s take a moment to look at the performances of each Celtic in the early goings and how each of the five positions overall stacks up.
Note: Players are listed by primary positions this season, obviously there is some overlap.
Avery Bradley: C-
By now it has become abundantly clear that Avery Bradley plays best as a 2-guard, but he has been forced to run the point while Rondo recuperates and has continued to struggle mightily in the role.
He is averaging 10.2 points, 4.2 assists and 2.6 assists while shooting a ghastly 37.7 percent from the field and 8.3 percent from three-point range. Bradley has had success hitting mid-range jumpers off the dribble and out of pick-and-roll sets, but the rest of his offensive game has been disappointing.
Never a strong finisher, Bradley still has problems converting at the hoop and remains a non-threat from anywhere behind the arc. His outside shooting will inevitably improve, but he is far from reliable with the deep ball.
As a playmaker Bradley has had little success, averaging 3.4 turnovers per game and being moved back to off-guard in favor of Jordan Crawford against Utah. His defense, particularly on the ball, remains strong, but Bradley struggles with any kind of defensive pressure and looks like he will be stuck as an undersized shooting guard for the rest of his career.
Jordan Crawford: C+
Crawford is one of the most difficult Celtics to assess, because while he’s still making all the terrible decisions he made in 2012-13 they just happen to be succeeding at a higher rate.
He is averaging 9.2 points, two boards and three assists while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 41.7 percent from three.
His ball-handling has improved and he looks more comfortable at point guard in Stevens’ system, but he continues to take dreadful shots and dribble like he is auditioning for The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The fact that Crawford has been able to hit so many tough off the dribble threes and off-balance leaners in the lane is impressive, but there is no indication he can keep it up for an entire campaign.
He is still making questionable decisions and likely projects to be a bench piece, even if he did start at the point against the Jazz. The 25-year-old guard is still a liability on defense, but his unexpected hot streak to start the season makes him difficult to assess.
Phil Pressey: Incomplete
Phil Pressey was expected to compete for spot minutes right away in Boston’s jumbled backcourt rotation, but has only seen meaningful action against Utah, so he receives an incomplete grade for now.
Pressey notched two points and three assists in 17 minutes against the Jazz, showing an ability to attack and break down a defense, but a small sample from a lopsided game is not enough to judge off of.
He’s a talented facilitator who sees the floor well and can make his teammates better, but there is no way to extrapolate his averages of one point and 1.5 assists on 16.7 percent shooting into anything meaningful for now.
Jeff Green: B+
Jeff Green has spent much of the early part of the season at the 2 given Boston’s lack of a secondary ball-handler, and while he has had some ups and downs he has by and large played well on the offensive end of the floor.
After a preseason filled with ill-advised jumpers, Green has shown more commitment to attacking the basket and forcing the issue. He is averaging 17 points, 4.8 boards and two assists on 45.8 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent from distance.
Often criticized for being too tentative offensively, Green has ben pushing the ball in transition in an effort to use his athleticism and quickness against slower opponents. He attempted nine free throws against the Toronto Raptors and a dozen against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Green has also shot the ball extremely well from the perimeter, thriving as a catch-and-shoot option out of pick-and-roll sets and looking good from lots of different spots around the arc. He’ll cool off somewhat, but it’s reassuring to see Green emerge as a reliable floor spacer.
Unfortunately, Green has had his share of problems on the defensive end of the floor, which led to Stevens benching him after 20 minutes in a road loss to the Detroit Pistons. Green has the length and speed to cover most forwards and even some guards, but he struggles as a help defender and to stay disciplined within the team scheme.
He does not run as hard as he could in transition and at times is not nearly aggressive and physical enough with his man. More time at the 3 should help Green regain his mojo on the glass and, he remains the C’s best player in isolation offense.
He is still adjusting to the role of being a first option though and despite some defensive lapses has looked impressive at times for Boston.
Courtney Lee: B
Forced into the eighth man role due to Boston’s jumbled wing rotation, Courtney Lee has actually played well despite his limited opportunities.
The veteran is averaging seven points, 2.2 rebounds and one assist on 53.6 percent shooting overall and 30 percent from three in just 18.2 minutes per game.
Playing more 2 after an ill-fated season spent as a combo guard, Lee needs to find the rhythm on his jumper, but has been able to come in and provide tough perimeter defense off the bench for the C’s.
He is still a prime trade candidate given the length of his contact and his developmental plateau, but Lee has actually given Boston some decent minutes in 2013-14.
MarShon Brooks: F
Boston declined MarShon Brook’s $2.2 million 2014-15 option, according to the MetroWest Daily News’ Scott Souza, and it looks like the once promising scorer will not get a true opportunity to succeed in green.
Brooks could provide this team with some much-needed creativity off the dribble, but he has been a healthy scratch in all but one of the Celts’ first five games.
He has yet to score a point this season and looks destined for a year of languishing on the bench unless a trade opportunity opens up. Barring an unforeseen injury, don’t expect to see much of Brooks in Boston, even though he was the only piece in the Garnett-Pierce deal with a shot at sticking around long term.
Gerald Wallace: C-
Gerald Wallace is playing 32.6 minutes per game and averaging 4.2 shots. He had zero field goal attempts against Memphis in 28 minutes and just one against Toronto in 40 minutes. Unselfish play is one thing, but "Crash" has been steadfastly refusing to shoot the ball to the point that it is just downright strange.
He's been efficient when he has looked to score, averaging 6.2 points, 4.4 boards and 2.8 assists on 52.4 percent shooting overall and 50 percent from three, but having a wing player who refuses to shoot is a huge detriment to Boston's offensive game plan.
Wallace is far from a reliable scorer, but he can at least attack the basket and look to create contact as he did throughout the preseason.
While still a sound, multi-position defender who can force turnovers and wreak havoc in passing lanes, the erosion of Wallace's athleticism has limited his impact on both the offensive and defensive glass.
He has also been asked to do far too much ball-handling offensively. Wallace can bring the ball up the court in transition, but he should not be initiating pick-and-rolls in halfcourt sets.
He's averaging 3. turnovers per game in 2013-14, the most of his career.
Wallace is still struggling to find a defined role, and while hopefully he'll become more comfortable offensively as the season goes on it's hard to call his play in the early part of the season impressive.
Keith Bogans: F
Keith Bogans was nothing more than salary cap filler in the KG-Pierce deal, and has been dealing with a thumb injury that has forced him to play just three minutes of action.
Even if he were 100 percent healthy Bogans likely would not be more than a garbage time piece for Boston given how his shooting skills and perimeter defense have waned considerably.
Brandon Bass: A-
With heavy minutes and a bigger role on the offensive end, Brandon Bass has quietly undergone a resurgence after his lackluster 2012-13 campaign.
He is averaging 13.2 points, 5.4 boards, two assists and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 50 percent from the floor. Bass is coming off of a season-high 20 point outing against Utah.
KG's departure has forced Bass to be more than just a pick-and-pop jump shooter and while he is still lethal from mid-range he has shown the ability to mix his game up a little bit. He has some nice one or two dribble moves and can use his pump fake to create a quality shot.
Once hailed as "No Pass Bass", the rangy power forward has been better about moving the ball and creating quality shots for teammates.
He is still not great on the boards despite his size and strength, but Bass remains an underrated defender thanks to his ability to stay with guards on the perimeter and contain pick-and-roll penetration, and he has actually been a solid shot-blocking threat in 2013-14.
The continued growth of Jared Sullinger may make Bass expendable in the future, but he has had a very solid start to the season and is one of the few bright spots for the Celtics.
Jared Sullinger: B
The C's have gradually cranked up Sully's workload, and the Ohio State product has responded by playing two quality games against the Jazz and Grizzlies.
Sullinger notched 12 points and five rebounds against Utah and 16 points and five boards against Memphis. He is averaging 10.5 points and 4.3 rebounds on 47.1 percent shooting overall and 28.6 percent from deep.
He's jacking up a few too many threes, but Sully has steadily improved his jump shot range to the point where he is a legitimate stretch 4.
His post game is also coming along nicely. Sullinger has shown off a more polished arsenal, using hook shots and turnarounds to much success down on the block.
The C's shooting struggles mean he does not have as much room to work, but Sully has done a nice job using his thick frame to carve out space.
Of course, Sullinger is also one of Boston's best rebounders and makes up for his lack of athleticism with his instincts and strength.
As he continues to find his rhythm following back surgery expect better numbers from Sullinger as Bass' name makes its way onto the trade block.
Kris Humphries: Incomplete
In the one game Kris Humphries had legitimate minutes he played well, tallying eight points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 21 minutes against Toronto, but he has logged just six minutes since then.
Despite his nose for the ball and gritty interior play Humphries appears to be the odd man out in Boston's power forward rotation, meaning unless Stevens opts to go small with him at the 5 Celtic fans should not expect to see much of the former Mr. Kardashian in 2013-14.
Vitor Faverani: B+
Vitor Faverani broke out against the Brooklyn Nets in the preseason and surprisingly seized the mantle as Boston's starting center when the 2013-14 campaign tipped off.
His offensive game is already quite polished, as he has shown a nice touch from the outside, the ability to post up and turn over both shoulders. He has the potential to be a nice pick-and-roll threat diving to the rim too.
Faverani is averaging 7.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game on 48.3 percent shooting and 14.3 percent from deep.
He jacks up too many perimeter jumpers and is the rare shot-happy rookie, but the C's have lacked a true center capable of scoring and Faverani has shown he can do that in spades.
The defensive end is a work in progress for him though, as Faverani is still learning the nuances of the NBA game.
He's a gifted shot-blocker and is capable of banging inside for tough rebounds, but he does not always do a great job boxing out or guarding the post without giving up position.
Foul trouble has also been a problem for Faverani, but all in all his play has been exceptional for an undrafted rookie free agent, and at just 25 years old he should have a long, successful future in green.
Kelly Olynyk: B-
The 13th overall selection in the 2013 draft, Kelly Olynyk has been able to provide Boston with some instant offense off the pine but not much else.
He is averaging 8.2 points, 4.4 boards and 0.8 assists on 39.5 percent shooting from the field.
Olynyk possesses guard-like skills with the basketball and is a truly versatile post scorer, but he has yet to develop much feel for his jumper and is 0-of-8 on threes in his short career.
Boston needs Olynyk to find his range, because he can be lethal as a stretch 5 and using his shot fake and quickness to attack off the dribble.
Though he has been slightly better than advertised on the glass Olynyk has had major difficulty defensively against the league's bigger forwards and centers. He has also had some foul problems, averaging 3.4 in just 22 minutes of work per night.
Still, Olynyk looked great against the Pistons, scoring 15 points and grabbing eight boards and against Utah, scoring 14 to go with another eight rebounds.
While he is not quite the player many hoped he would be as a rookie after Orlando Summer League Olynyk has looked solid enough offensively that he should continue to see his responsibilities increase and make a run at the starting job if Faverani struggles.