After six years of watching some combination of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo suit up for the NBA Eastern Conference All-Stars, it is going to be quite an adjustment when the Boston Celtics faithful tune in to the 2014 festivities in New Orleans.
The 2013-14 Celtics have some nice pieces who have played well in the team’s fairly surprising 12-15 start, but the real All-Star for these C’s has been rookie head coach Brad Stevens who has this oddly constructed roster clicking above and beyond anyone’s expectations.
Still, All-Star Game selections rarely follow pure logic, and while it is quite unlikely a Boston player winds up as a starter there, it is not inconceivable that there could be a player off the pine representing the green.
Now that the first round of voting returns have been announced, let’s take a moment to examine the Boston players most likely to earn an All-Star appearance this season, as well as what their chance look like.
All-Star Chance: 8 percent
Since being moved primarily to shooting guard, Avery Bradley has actually come on strong, boosting his season averages to a career-best 13.5 points, four rebounds and 1.3 assists on 44.9 percent shooting.
He’s also hitting 39.2 percent of his three-pointers and playing his usual brand of stifling perimeter defense, but unfortunately, that won’t be enough to earn the fourth-year guard a trip to New Orleans.
Even his very solid December averages of 15.3 points, five boards and 54.8 percent three-point shooting won’t be enough to move the needle much for Bradley, who simply isn’t the kind of flashy, consistent offensive player who receives an All-Star nod.
He is shooting the ball with confidence, knocking down 47 percent of his spot-up jumpers and 43.8 percent of his spot-up threes, per Synergy Sports, but Boston’s offense-by-committee approach has limited his scoring upside.
If defense were the key to All-Star berths though, Bradley would have a puncher’s chance because the Texas product remains one of the NBA’s best defensive guards.
Bradley is holding opponents to 41.2 percent shooting overall, according to Synergy, and is a nightmare in providing full-court pressure.
He’s still guarding a lot of point guards, but is also perfectly capable of covering 2-guards despite being just 6’2”, thanks to his quick hands and ability to stay in front of his man off the dribble.
Unfortunately for Bradley, his name was not anywhere to be found on the first-ballot returns, and with Dwyane Wade, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams and Rondo all receiving votes, it is nearly impossible Bradley makes it that way.
While there is a slight chance the coaches reward Bradley’s defensive tenacity it is unlikely the talented 2-guard ever finds his way onto an All-Star roster.
All-Star Chance: 11 percent
With an Eastern Conference Player of the Week award to his name already, Jordan Crawford is having a better 2013-14 campaign than anyone could have possibly expected.
He’s averaging 14.6 points, 3.5 boards and six assists as a starter while shooting a decent 42.5 percent from the field and 34.7 percent from three-point range.
Unfortunately, Crawford is in the midst of a poorly timed shooting slump, hitting just 33.8 percent of his attempts and 20 percent of his threes over the past five games, but there is no denying that the reformed gunner is having the best season of his career.
Stevens’ decision to move Crawford to the point full-time seemed risky in the moment, but without the pressure of being the main scoring threat, Crawford has excelled as a playmaker and game manager.
He’s shown some great creativity in the pick-and-roll, is turning the ball over just two times per game and is leading the C’s in assist percentage at 30.1, per Basketball-Reference.
Crawford is still a streaky scorer who can fill it up in bunches when he gets going, and he is doing a better job of choosing when to score and when to pass.
He tossed in six threes against the New York Knicks in a blowout win at Madison Square Garden. He also has a triple-double to his name.
Every once in a while, he’ll shift back into Washington Wizards mode and throw up a ghastly floater or off-balance, mid-range jumper, but Crawford has, by and large, kept the offensive antics to a minimum.
Crawford’s defense has also been better than advertised. He’s holding opponents to just 36.7 percent shooting, per Synergy Sports, and has generally been more focused on the defensive end of the court.
He’s also making better decisions going through screens and has looked better defending the pick-and-roll this season, holding opposing ball-handlers to just 37.8 percent shooting, according to Synergy Sports.
Unfortunately, Crawford is facing the same obstacles as Bradley. He’s having a good year, but is not on the same level as the Eastern Conference’s elite backcourt players.
His solid 2013-14 campaign deserves to be celebrated, but not with an All-Star berth.
All-Star Chance: 15 percent
With Pierce gone and Rondo out, many expected Jeff Green to have a career season in 2013-14, but while the athletic combo forward has played well offensively, he has not exactly broken out.
Green is averaging 16.4 points, 4.6 boards and 1.6 assists on 45.3 percent shooting and a career-best 40.8 percent from three-point territory.
He is leading the team in scoring, but remains prone to disappearing on both ends of the floor despite his skill set and tremendous physical gifts.
Green has done a great job of stroking the corner-three, but he hasn’t been quite the same player attacking the basket that he was during his starting run in 2012-13.
Additionally, his usage percentage of 22.2 is below that of both Jared Sullinger and Bradley, per Basketball-Reference, which is disappointing given that Green is one of a very few Celtics who can actually create his own shot off the dribble.
With Crawford manning the point and Bradley and Sullinger providing more offense than expected, Green hasn’t been as aggressive as he should be.
He’s taking a lot of jumpers while connecting on just 38 percent of his spot-ups and 33.3 percent of his spot-up threes, according to Synergy Sports.
Defensively, Green has done a very nice job though, and he's often tasked with guarding the opposing team's best wing scorer.
He is holding opponents to 36.7 percent overall shooting and an impressive 25.9 percent on isolations, per Synergy.
He also has a few highlight reel-worthy shots to his name this season, including the buzzer-beating fadeaway three to knock off Miami in South Beach.
There is no way that Green cracks the Eastern Conference All-Star starting lineup with Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Paul George virtually guaranteed those three frontcourt spots, but there is a chance he makes the bench if he raises his scoring average.
Last season, Green averaged 20.1 points, 5.9 boards and 2.9 assists as a starter while shooting 52.3 percent from the field. If he can boost his numbers to look something like those for the rest of the way leading up to the All-Star Game, he does have a chance to earn his first nod.
All-Star Chance: 33 (or 0) percent
This is the toughest one to predict because the reality is that if Rajon Rondo comes back before the All-Star break, he has a great shot at earning a spot with Derrick Rose sidelined, but obviously, if he’s not playing by then, there is a zero percent chance he earns the honor for a fifth consecutive season.
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge told Boston radio station WBZ-FM 98.5 The Sports Hub that Rondo is not close to returning on Dec. 5, per Boston.com's Gary Dzen, so it stands to reason that Rondo will return in January at the earliest.
While Rondo is not as reliant on athleticism as a scoring guard like Rose, he will likely need time to work himself back into midseason shape and develop chemistry with Boston’s many new pieces.
If he can play at least 15-18 games before voting concludes and average his usual double figures in assists, Rondo does have a decent chance though, particularly if anything happens to the East’s more injury-prone guards like Irving or Williams.
Despite not having logged a minute on the court yet this season, Rondo was still sixth in the Eastern Conference backcourt voting with 80,889 selections in the first-ballot returns.
That doesn’t mean much though, as only two guards are selected as starters and he trailed Irving and Wade by nearly 300,000 votes apiece.
He was even behind Allen, a sixth man who is averaging 9.8 points per game.
With so much uncertainty surrounding his future in green and the Celtics in no rush to bring him back, don’t expect Rondo to play enough games to warrant serious All-Star consideration, although stranger things have happened.
All-Star Chance: 26 percent
Since returning from his back injury, Jared Sullinger has looked leaps and bounds better than he did as a rookie, but even with his added versatility and solid stats across the board, he won’t make any All-Star teams without taking his game up another level.
Sully is averaging 14.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from beyond the three-point arc while averaging just 27 minutes.
His starting numbers are even better at 15.7 points, 8.1 boards and 2.1 dimes on 47 percent shooting from the floor and 32.7 from three-point distance.
The Celtics are in the midst of a tough rebuild as they try to decide which players to keep and which to jettison for future assets, but Sullinger’s gritty play on both ends and improved skill set makes him indispensable for Boston.
Flashing an improved post-up game, Sully is shooting 48.4 percent on the block, per Synergy Sports, and looks far more comfortable down low than he did in his first season.
He has a very effective fadeaway and uses his body well to create space in order to get off his shot. His hook shot remains a nice weapon as Sullinger has been better at turning over both shoulders.
While the idea of Sully launching threes might seem cringe-worthy, the big man has connected on just enough of them to effectively space out defenses, and he knocked down a big triple against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Unfortunately, although Sullinger is likely Boston’s best rebounder, he’s not exactly setting the world on fire in that department.
He has four double-doubles on the year, which is a decent, but unspectacular number, and his rebounding average of 15.2 has him 57th in the league, sandwiched between the formidable tandem of Spencer Hawes and Robin Lopez, per ESPN’s Hollinger stats.
The Eastern Conference’s frontcourt spots are almost guaranteed to go to James, George and Anthony, meaning that Sully must make an impression on the coaches if he wants to earn an appearance.
While he’s going against some stiff competition in Hibbert and Bosh, it is not inconceivable that if Sully can boost his averages to something like 17 points and nine rebounds per game, he could actually get selected.
It’s far from a given, but Sullinger might have the best chance of any healthy Celtic to be selected for the 2014 All-Star Game.