The Boston Celtics need Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger to score A's to succeed.
When grading the Boston Celtics individually this season, there must be some sort of curve. They simply are not put together to compete in the NBA right now, and that will obviously weigh on individual performances and grades.
However, we can still learn much from this process. Evaluation in this situation has more to do with individual development, as well as a few small groupings of players.
The team is also still largely in a state of flux, with minutes being jostled around due to trades and injuries. Boston has had 11 different players start a game this season, while 18 players overall have suited up for the franchise since opening night.
That makes it tough to arrive at grades for a bunch of current Celtics. Whatever the sample size may be, Boston can extrapolate and learn from midseason grades.
Let's hit the Bleacher Report classroom.
Boston needs both Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger to score A's to succeed.
Six games into Rajon Rondo's comeback isn't really enough time to make an honest assessment of his on-court performance.
His grade here has more to do with an encompassing evaluation of the player on and off the court. Boston's star point guard has done and said everything right since he went down with a tore ACL one year ago. He has been on the same page as new head coach Brad Stevens and accepting of various new teammates.
He was diligent in his rehabilitation but did not rush back from the injury. Nor did he linger on the sidelines, whether it was through fear of returning or to help the mythical tanking ideology. For all that, as well as things like his winning the Community Assist Award for December, this grade is inflated beyond on-court production.
From that standpoint, Rondo has been iffy. There are the expected flashes of pre-injury No. 9, and he seems to still have timing down with old teammates. Of course, Avery Bradley almost immediately going down hurt Rondo's return numbers, but he still has 34 assists in six games.
Probably the last things that will come along are his scoring and shooting in general. He is 17-of-61 since returning for a harsh 27.9 percent clip. Once he gets his legs back underneath him, Rondo should be fine.
It is becoming clear that Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley's bodies do not enjoy playing with each other. As soon as one of them gets healthy, the other seems to go down within a couple of weeks.
This time the duo managed to play two-and-a-half games together before Bradley sprained an ankle. The injury was troublesome during this rebuilding season, since one of the major questions to be answered by the summer will be whether these two can form a successful starting backcourt.
In his own vacuum, Bradley has had a fantastic year. He has been fighting to prove himself to be a capable offensive player, which his 14.5 points per game on 43.9 percent shooting qualify him as. He has complemented his typically aggressive and smothering defense with a wider skill set.
Bradley is rebounding a career-high 4.1 boards per game and shooting 36.2 percent from beyond the arc.
After a promising December month for the Boston Celtics, Jeff Green is having a wildly inefficient and inconsistent January.
Granted, he has heeded some fans' wishes and is being more aggressive, taking 4.3 more shots per game in 2014. Unfortunately, the quality of those shots has now come into question. He is shooting 38.6 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from outside in January. Those percentages force numbers like 16.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game to be taken lightly.
His recent 39-point outburst in a win over the Washington Wizards was followed up soon after by back-to-back games where he shot 6-of-26. There are glaring marks like a four-point night against the defensively weak Houston Rockets or managing only eight points with the Brooklyn Nets guarding him.
There has also been little-to-no correlation between an improved Green and Rajon Rondo's return. That Wizards game happened with Rondo sitting out. Unless Green can prove he can play well with Boston's star point guard, he remains a possible trade piece before the deadline.
Probably the most promising thing to come out of this Boston Celtics season has been Jared Sullinger's development.
It took him some time to get going, as he had to work his way back into shape after back surgery prematurely ended his rookie year. However, once he got his conditioning back, he has been a force at power forward for Boston.
At just 21 years old, he has a stranglehold on the starting job at his position, and the Celtics are intrigued by his potential to improve even more.
The next step will be consistency. While 20-20 games are nice to see once in a while, they aren't sustainable for anyone. Great players realize that but put forth consistent production at the same time.
Some of his inconsistency has to do with the ever-changing landscape that is Boston's roster and rotations, but Sullinger can do more. Things like staying out of foul trouble, getting a few easy baskets before stepping outside and getting to the free-throw line are in his hands.
If he is able to do those things, his minutes will rise above 30 per night instead of the 25-29 he plays now. With consistent play, his 12.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game will slowly inch closer to 14 and nine or even 15 and 10.
Despite his minutes and roles being flip-flopped on a nightly basis, Brandon Bass has had a nice bounce-back year.
He has quietly accepted all the different situations that Brad Stevens has put him in. He is in a somewhat awkward position, with Jared Sullinger proving himself as a young power forward and Kris Humphries' bigger body getting more and more run at the center position. Minutes are getting eaten up by those two and rookie lottery pick Kelly Olynyk.
A trade might be in Bass' future, but even that is in large part thanks to his solid play. A strong December has given way to a slightly less impressive January; however, that should be expected with a 6.3-minute per game decrease in playing time.
His 10.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, with a 47 percent shooting clip, have been valuable commodities for the Celtics. They may be even more valuable to another team in the NBA.
After some early-season rumblings, Gerald Wallace has quieted down a fair amount and let his basketball do the talking.
This has led to some promising performances and more trust from Brad Stevens. Wallace even found himself back in the starting lineup with Avery Bradley's recent injury.
Since the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve, he has averaged 5.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.2 steals. Those represent a sort of light version of the old, all-around Wallace of the past.
He still won't be turning any heads except out of frustration, and his contract is still poison, but the effort he puts forth on a nightly basis is starting to win over the harshest critics.
College admissions folks take into account things like where a prospective student started and how much that young person has worked to improve.
It would be difficult to deny Kris Humphries admission into this metaphorical college. He began the year buried on the bench, racking up five did not plays before half of November was up. Since then, he has steadily increased his role with the team.
Now, he is regularly the first big and occasionally the first man overall off the bench for Brad Stevens. His January numbers have been impressive. He is posting 9.7 points and 8.2 rebounds to go along with 1.5 blocks per game. That production is also coming in just 25.1 minutes per night.
With three double-doubles in his last 11 games, he has changed his fortunes through hard work and opportunity. What could have been an awful free agency for him this summer is quickly becoming another solid, albeit not as immense as his last one, payday.
Grading a late lottery pick in what looks like a shaky draft class is difficult as it is. When that player has experienced such wild extremes as Kelly Olynyk has during his rookie season, it is even tougher.
Take, for example, a couple of weeks ago when he played only four minutes on Jan. 15 against the Toronto Raptors, when he failed to score a point or register an assist. Two nights later, he posted 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds in 33 minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers.
In the six games since that night, he hasn't seen more than 19 minutes or scored in double digits.
There have been subtle improvements in Olynyk's play throughout the season. After starting ice cold from the field, he has gotten his shot back and is now shooting 41.9 percent overall, which is a long climb back from his 38.8 percent in November.
He has also showed better awareness on the court, catching passes in the paint on offense for easy layups. That spacing knowledge of where people are has begun to creep into his defense as well.
Overall, 6.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game are decent numbers for a late lottery pick.
A lot like Kris Humphries, Phil Pressey's path to relevance on this team has been a long one.
An undrafted rookie free agent, he had a steep hill to climb just to get a roster spot this past fall. However, with his play in short bursts throughout the early season, he showed enough to get the attention of his coaches. The Jordan Crawford trade was made more palatable by Pressey's performance.
In a recent talk with The Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett, Danny Ainge expressed hopes for Pressey's opportunity:
In the deal that we did with Jordan (Crawford) and MarShon (Brooks), as an example, we like those guys, but we really want to see Phil (Pressey) play. And it was tough for him to get minutes and opportunities. With Rondo coming back, Phil wasn’t going to (get) a chance to play much.
That is a ringing endorsement for a young player whose prospects weren't looking great eight months ago. Now he has scored 20 points in an NBA game and dished out 10 assists in another.
With Rajon Rondo back but playing limited minutes, Pressey has more opportunity to build something sustainable in the league.
A few weeks ago, Boston made the cost-cutting move of swapping Courtney Lee for Jerryd Bayless.
The objective of this deal was not to pay off on the court but in the finance books. Danny Ainge would like to stress that now more than ever. Lee was having a very solid season, while Bayless sprained his toe after seven-and-a-half games.
He's back now after missing four games and has been roughly as advertised in his nine appearances as a Celtic.
Bayless has put up a couple of solid games, even two in a row before the injury, but he followed them up with a 0-of-5, one-point outing in 20 minutes. He is shooting just 38.9 percent, while Lee is averaging 15 points per game on 55.6 percent shooting in 10 games with the Memphis Grizzlies.
The improvements of Kris Humphries, Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass, along with the willingness to give Kelly Olynyk experience, has limited the opportunities for rookie big Vitor Faverani.
He still gets some credit for exploding on the scene a couple of months ago with some solid interior play for Boston, but that was a long time ago.
With eight did not plays in January, Faverani is more likely to sit than he is to get a basket. There is still value in having him for certain games and situations, but he's got a long way to go before he becomes a viable minute-earner in the NBA.
Overall averages of 4.4 points and 3.5 rebounds help his case when you look from the outside in, but watching Boston every day tells a different story.
Ten-day contracts are something of a joke in the NBA—that is until someone uses one to inject life into a fading career.
That could be what Chris Johnson has done recently with the Boston Celtics. Signed to a 10-day contract with the injuries of Avery Bradley and Jerryd Bayless, Johnson was thrown into the fire against the Miami Heat and was still standing when the dust settled.
He scored 11 points in that game and has averaged 10.4 points over five games with Boston, which earned him a second 10-day contract. He is active and energetic at both ends and plays for his basketball life every time he steps on the floor.
Vander Blue was another benefactor of Boston's recent injuries, signing a 10-day contract with the franchise last week.
Unfortunately, he hasn't gotten the same opportunity to shine as Chris Johnson. With Jerryd Bayless back, the Celtics likely won't keep Blue around beyond his current deal.
He averaged 1.7 points and one rebound in three games so far. With Avery Bradley still out, there is a chance Blue will remain on the roster for another 10 days, but don't expect to see him more than garbage time.
The other return in trading Jordan Crawford came in the form of Joel Anthony, a veteran big from the Miami Heat.
He entered a no-win situation with the Boston Celtics, which is stocked to the rafters with power forwards. In eight games since the trade, he has four did not plays. He has scored two points and grabbed five rebounds total.
Two points and three boards came in seven minutes against his former squad.
Anthony has a player option for $3.8 million next season, a healthy chunk of change to pass up. Hopefully for his sake, the Celtics will carry a fewer power forwards next year.
We likely will never get the full story on Keith Bogans, but from the fans' perspective, he doesn't come off looking great in this whole ordeal.
Per Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston, Bogans has left the Boston Celtics for largely unexplained reasons, but looking at the game log of a proud veteran player, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out.
He wants to play basketball, but that isn't in the Celtics plan right now. As a consolation for being forced to watch a young team develop, he is getting a nice $5.01 million from the team.
One would hope that would be enough for him to stay with the squad and be something of an assistant coach and mentor. Because he has likely chosen to leave, his grade suffers despite him not getting the opportunity to perform on the court.