Halfway into the 2013-14 season, the Boston Celtics are exactly where they want to be: on the outside looking in of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
The C’s strung together some decent wins and played well in a handful of games, but overall they look like a lottery team, even with the phenomenal job Brad Stevens has done in his first year at the helm.
Obviously a lot of that is due to the absence of Rajon Rondo, as Boston’s complimentary pieces have been forced into much more prominent roles than they would be with their star guard healthy.
Some players like Jordan Crawford and Jared Sullinger, have stepped up in Rondo’s absence, while others have either fallen flat or simply been stagnant.
There is still plenty of time for players to change, but with a solid sample size to reflect on it’s time to look at who has played well and who has underachieved.
N/A: Rajon Rondo
The Celtics’ star point guard is “pretty close” to returning, per CSNNE’s A. Sherrod Blakely, and may do a short stint in the D-League prior to rejoining the C’s, but there is not much Rondo news besides that.
The All-Star playmaker has still not played a second of basketball in 2013-14, and Boston looks like a team desperately in need of a star talent.
For now, we simply have to leave Rondo out of the power rankings.
No. 13: Keith Bogans
Keith Bogans might get a little tread with Courtney Lee gone and Jerryd Bayless not yet a Celtic, but that won’t make up for the fact that he has been a complete non-factor thus far this season.
In Bogans’ defense, he hasn’t had any kind of opportunity to make an impact, but the 11-year veteran is averaging just 0.6 points and 0.4 assists on 33.3 percent shooting, and he has seen action in just five games thus far.
Bogans has always been a crafty defender and a decent three-point shooter, but the Celtics’ roster is filled with decent 2-guards who are much younger.
Since they are rebuilding anyways, it doesn’t make sense to give a 33-year-old who will likely be waived in the offseason much run.
No. 12: MarShon Brooks
It has been a very trying season for MarShon Brooks, who was expected to compete for minuets and maybe even a starting job with the C’s, but who wound up buried on the bench behind Avery Bradley and the resurgent Jordan Crawford.
Brooks appeared in just nine games, averaging 3.2 points and 1.6 rebounds on 40 percent shooting before Boston decided to send him to the D-League to work on his conditioning, according to The Boston Globe’s Baxter Holmes.
To his credit, Brooks has excelled in the D-League, notching 27 points in his first game and 24 points and 11 boards in his second, but that’s not surprising given that Brooks has established himself as a solid double-figure scorer in the NBA.
Unfortunately, it seems like barring an injury we may never get to see what Brooks could have been with the Celtics, since Stevens does not seem to trust his shot selection or generally shaky defense.
No. 11: Vitor Faverani
Vitor Faverani was one of the C’s early bright spots this season, but with Jared Sullinger healthy, Kris Humphries getting more minutes and the team determined to develop Kelly Olynyk, the Brazilian big man has found himself without many minutes.
The 25-year-old center is averaging 4.6 points, 3.7 boards and 0.9 blocks on 43.3 percent shooting in 31 appearances.
Faverani clearly has the talent to play in the league, he recorded 12 points, 18 rebounds and six blocks in an early game against the Milwaukee Bucks, but he is still learning the nuances of NBA defense.
His help defense is poor at times and he is often foul prone due to his tendency to go for questionable blocks.
Offensively Faverani has a surprisingly quick trigger for a rookie. He is willing to jack up mid-range jumpers and threes often and while that has led to some pick-and-pop success he still needs to learn when to make the extra pass.
Faverani has a future in Boston, or at least in the NBA, the question is how much of his potential are we going to see in the second half of 2013-14.
An undrafted rookie free agent, Phil Pressey managed to parlay a strong Orlando Summer League into a partially guaranteed contract, and the diminutive guard has actually played well in limited minutes for Boston.
Pressey’s averages of 1.7 points, one rebound and 2.1 assists are far from stellar, particularly when you factor in his 25.7 percent shooting overall and 14.8 percent from three, but he has done a nice job of running the Celts’ offense when he is on the floor.
His assist percentage of 25.1 is second highest on the team besides Crawford, per Basketball-Reference.
Pressey can run the pick-and-roll efficiently, is capable of getting into the paint and collapsing defenses, and has done a decent job of not turning the ball over.
He’ll likely be buried on the bench or sent to the D-League when Rondo returns, but Pressey has been a bright spot in the C’s rotation and could become a consistent rotation player if he develops a reliable jumper in the future.
If there were an award for strangest stat line, Gerald Wallace would win it hands-down.
The former All-Star is playing 22.4 minutes per game and shooting 50 percent from the floor, but averaging just 4.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
He is also shooting just 31.4 percent from three and a ghastly 36.5 percent from the foul line.
Wallace has been forced into the role of secondary ball-handler during much of his time on the court, and while he’s a decent passer it says a lot about Boston’s offensive struggles that they are relying on “Crash” to create shots for his teammates.
His defense is still decent, but it has slipped somewhat. He’s allowing opposing 2-guards a PER of 14.4 and opposing small forwards a PER of 15 (league average), per 82games.
The C’s have no real need for Wallace, particularly if he refuses to use his athleticism and attack the basket, but his refusal to shoot the ball means it may be impossible for them to find a potential taker.
It’s been a rocky rookie year for Olynyk, who missed some time with an ankle injury and has yet to really find any rhythm on his vaunted jumper.
The Canadian big man is averaging just 6.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists on 40.9 percent shooting from the field and 31.4 percent from beyond the arc.
He broke out against the Atlanta Hawks, notching a season-high 21 points and also dishing out five assists in 24 minutes.
Olynyk has tremendous skill for a big man. He is a gifted passer with a solid handle who can make reads and find open teammates better than most 7-footers in the league.
Surprisingly, a major problem for Olynyk this season has been simply staying on the floor. He often reaches on defense and is extremely foul prone.
Per 36 minutes, Olynyk is averaging six fouls per game, but also 12.6 points, 8.7 boards and 2.9 assists, so it’s worth wondering if Stevens should try and give him more time in the hopes that he works harder to avoid picking up cheap fouls.
Olynyk has not been great by any stretch in 2013-14, but he has shown enough flashes that fans should expect solid production from him going forward if he can add some weight to his frame and develop a more consistent three-pointer.
Before being dealt Lee was actually playing quite well, averaging 7.4 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists but shooting a stellar 49.2 percent from the field and 44.2 percent from beyond the arc.
After spending much of 2012-13 playing the point, Stevens kept Lee primarily at the 2, but did allow him to push the ball up the floor at times on the fast break.
That led to a drop in Lee’s minutes, he is averaging just 16.8, but helped improve his efficiency. Lee’s PER while playing shooting guard is 16.5, per 82games.
Le also led the Celtics in effective field goal-percentage at 55.5, according to Basketball-Reference, a statistic that reflects his high-percentage decisions.
His production did not live up to his lengthy contract, but Lee still played well enough to earn a spot in the top-half of the Celtics player power rankings.
No longer an NBA punch line, Humphries has actually put together a strong and incredibly efficient season off the Boston bench.
Humphries is averaging seven points, five rebounds and one assist per game on 53.8 percent shooting in just 17 minutes.
He has been even better in January, notching 10 points, 8.7 boards, 2.7 assists and 2.7 blocks in three games.
The Celtics’ best rebounder, Humphries has been a huge presence on the glass for Boston and is leading the team in total rebounding percentage at 16.7, per Basketball-Reference. He is also first in the team in PER at 19.2.
His production might not match his $12 million salary, but Humphries is excelling in his role and has seen an uptick in minutes as a result.
Humphries has also improved as a man-to-man defender and a mid-range shooter, two nice additions to his game.
The price of his deal might make it tough to trade him, but given how well Humphries has been playing he could be the perfect addition to a contender in need of one more big.
Brandon Bass has the unfortunate distinction of playing a position where the C’s are desperate to get their young guys meaningful minutes, but the eight-year veteran is still having a solid campaign in his own right.
Bass is averaging 10.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game on 46.2 percent shooting while starting 32 of Boston’s first 34 games.
He is even averaging a career-high in assists at 1.3, doing his best to erase the “No Pass Bass” nickname.
He has often been asked to play in smaller lineups with Sullinger or Jeff Green and has even logged some minutes at the 5, where he has played well.
He is holding opposing centers to an 11.5 PER (compared to 15.3 for power forwards), per 82games, and is capable of using his quickness to exploit mismatches.
Bass has also developed his post-up game, as he is shooting a respectable 44.6 percent on post-up plays, per Synergy Sports (subscription required).
Due to Boston’s offensive limitations Bass has been asked to do a little too much, since he is best used as a catch-and-shoot stretch-4. Still, he has developed a decent one or two dribble game and is more capable of reacting to closeouts and getting to the rim.
Bass also has four double-doubles already in 2013-14, compared to just three in the entirety of 2012-13.
He may not be a part of the Celtics’ long-term future, but Bass has played well enough to remain a key contributor.
Green was expected to carry the momentum from his blazing stint as a starter at the end of the 2012-13 into the first year of Boston’s rebuild, but the early returns on Green as the leading scorer have been mixed.
He is averaging a respectable 15.9 points per game, but just 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists to go with it.
Green has been great from beyond the arc this season, shooting 38.8 percent, but his overall field goal percentage of 44.1 is below his career average.
As the case has been throughout his entire career, Green has not been aggressive enough at times and has been content to jack up outside jumpers instead of taking the ball to the basket.
His 4.2 free throw attempts per game are decent, but a player with his ability to explode to the hoop could be getting to the line six or seven times per game.
Additionally, he has not done much as a playmaker despite seeming capable of playing the point-forward role.
Green brings the ball up the floor occasionally, but usually looks immediately to dump it to the point guard instead of trying to create a shot off of a secondary fast break.
Boston is desperate for competent facilitators of any kind, but Green has really floundered in that role thus far.
He is also shooting just 32.3 percent out of the pick-and-roll, according to Synergy Sports, proving that he has been ineffective attacking out of those sets as well.
His man-to-man defense has been solid as usual though, as he is holding opposing small forwards to a PER of 7.8, per 82games. However, his own PER is a below-average 13.8.
Green is still capable of big scoring outbursts, he dropped 31 on the Cleveland Cavaliers on 10-of-19 shooting and hung 29 on the Los Angeles Clippers, but in both of those games he was attacking the paint and getting into the teeth of the defense.
Rondo’s return should help Green get easier shots, but at 27 years old it is worth wondering whether Green will ever be more than a second or third banana on a good team.
Avery Bradley had a pretty rough start to the 2013-14 season, but since then has managed to find his shot and become a key part of the C’s offense.
Bradley is averaging 14.1 points, 4.3 boards and 1.4 assists while shooting 45 percent from the field and 41.1 percent from beyond the arc.
In December he averaged 15.6 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 48.7 percent from the floor and 50 percent from deep.
He struggled with his three (31.7 percent) in 2012-13, so it’s reassuring to see Bradley shooting from outside with confidence, especially from the corners. His catch-and-shoot ability opens up the floor the Celtics and creates some much need driving lanes.
Bradley began the season primarily playing the point, but Stevens recognized his struggles initiating the offense, and quickly moved him full-time over to shooting guard.
He works largely off the ball now and it has paid huge dividends, as his PER while playing the 2 is an absurd 34.2, per Basketball-Reference.
That number is obviously a little skewed based on the small sample size but it still speaks volumes about his improved efficiency.
He is shooting a blistering 51.7 percent on spot-up jumpers and 49.2 percent from beyond the arc, per Synergy Sports.
Bradley’s defense is still strong, and he continues to be a pest full-court who can cover both point guards and shooting guards as needed.
It’s worth wondering whether he’ll go through some shooting slumps as the year progresses, but with the way Bradley has been playing this season he seems like an indispensable part of the Celtics’ future.
Before the 2013-14 season tipped off Crawford was headed for irrelevancy, but Stevens’ decision to turn him into a full-time point guard has been the single best thing to happen in his career.
He has had some up and down moments, but Crawford has been excellent overall and joins the ranks of LeBron James, Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Dwyane Wade among the Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
He is averaging 14.2 points, 3.4 boards and 6.1 assists as a starting guard. Unfortunately, his shooting percentages have dipped to 41.7 percent overall and 32.1 percent from three, the product of a recent shooting slump.
Crawford is still a volume scorer, but he has done a nice job of running the pick-and-roll and using his unorthodox dribble moves to create shots for his teammates.
He has particularly good chemistry in the pick-and-pop with Sullinger, Bass and Olynyk.
He leads the team in assist percentage by a pretty wide margin and has brought some stability to a rudderless offense, despite still jacking up a few too many threes.
Crawford still has moments where brings the ball up, tries to fake his defender off-balance and then launches a 20-footer, but he has played largely under control this season thanks to Stevens’ decision.
His defense has improved slightly, but he’s still basically a league average. He’s holding opposing point guards to a PER of 15.1, according to 82games.
The key for Crawford will be how he accepts a bench role once Rondo returns. If he can continue to play with poise and not revert to shooting every time he touches the ball Crawford could find himself with a long-term contract in the offseason.
Sully was good as a rookie, but he has broken out in his sophomore year and become a focal point of Boston’s offense.
He missed the first two games of the year recovering from back surgery, but has stepped right into the starting lineup.
Sullinger is averaging 13.3 points, 7.3 boards and 1.8 assists while shooting 44.1 percent from the floor and 26.8 percent from three-point range.
He is in the midst of a pretty brutal shooting slump, hitting just 26.7 percent of his shots over the last five games and missing his last 10 threes, but he is still playing well inside and dominating the glass.
Sully has already recorded seven double-doubles after having just four as a rookie.
He leads the team in usage percentage at 25.1, per Basketball-Reference, and is second in rebounding percentage behind Humphries.
Unfortunately, too many of Boston’s possessions start with Sullinger catching the ball around the three-point arc and being forced to dribble into position, instead of catching the ball down low where he is most effective.
The C’s need to do a better job of getting Sully the ball and allowing him to use his body to create space and a high quality look.
He has improved his shook shot and fadeaway and has become a very tough cover on the block.
Sullinger is still not a great defender, as he is allowing opposing power forwards a PER of 18 and centers a PER of 17.5, but he is posting a phenomenal 23.6 at the 4 and 17.3 at the 5, per 82games.
At just 21 years old and with less than 100 NBA games under his belt it’s safe to say that the sky is the limit for Sully, who could be an All-Star caliber player if he continues to hone his jump shot.