7 Biggest Takeaways from Boston Celtics' 1st Half of the Season
While it might not seem like much, there are a few things that Boston needed to learn these past few months. Sometimes to learn those things, wins and competitive balance must be sacrificed.
Celtics games have been difficult to watch on certain nights, as the team on the floor hasn't been put in a position to be competitive. It is a tough situation to deal with, though one some will argue is necessary to build another contender.
However, if you are a true fan of the sport, these games can serve a different purpose than hoping the guys in green win. One can observe individual games, matchups and trends. Those are the biggest takeaways of this first half.
Rajon Rondo Isn't Superhuman
It hasn't exactly been half a season for Rajon Rondo, but in the two weeks that he has been back on the floor, we've learned a lot.
First, we know that at least right now he isn't the same Rondo. This version is playing at about three-quarter speed in comparison to the pre-injury player.
He is adjusting to more than just a new knee, though. When Rondo last played an NBA game prior to his return, six players, not including the injured Avery Bradley, were on the floor with him that are no longer Celtics. The man on the sidelines barking orders was totally different as well.
All this has told us is that Rondo is not superhuman. He is going to struggle to regain his legs just like nearly every other player returning from that kind of injury. Adapting to new surroundings will only add to the process.
Rajon Rondo Is Likely Here to Stay
While he will be taking time to return to full strength and re-learn his entire entire arsenal, there have been major factors that tell us he is likely to stay with the Boston Celtics
We've learned in the past to take everything Danny Ainge does and says as the Celtics GM with a grain of salt, but at this point we have little to go on. Ainge has repeatedly stated that Rondo is the team's future now.
He told The Toucher and Rich Show on 98.5 The Sports Hub recently that he had offered Rondo a contract extension. That came on top of the news that Rondo would be named the 15th captain in Celtics history—not something the organization takes lightly.
The 14th captain, Paul Pierce, held that chair, at least in part, from 2000 to 2013. Other longtime captains include Larry Bird, Bob Cousy and John Havlicek. Would Ainge, or more importantly, owner Wyc Grousbeck, allow Rondo to take the C only to be dealt a short time later?
During that same radio interview, Ainge said (via The Boston Globe), "I actually did have a team call me and say, 'Hey, would you have any interest in trading Rondo?' Before he even offered me a package, and I said no. And that’s it. That’s as long as the conversation happened."
Avery Bradley Can Be a Starting NBA Shooting Guard
Though he was once again injured shortly after a Rajon Rondo return, we saw a great deal from Avery Bradley through the season's first half.
He started 43 games before spraining an ankle. In those games he averaged 14.5 points and 4.1 rebounds. His shooting clips of 43.9/36.2/74.4 are definitely respectable for a starting shooting guard, which was still a question heading into the season.
In recent years, Bradley had been used in the wrong way occasionally. It appears that Brad Stevens has been able to get the best out of him, which is a good sign for the future. Now it would just be nice to see Rondo and him start together for 30-40 games.
Because of his defensive prowess, Bradley's offense doesn't have to be top-notch. However, if he is a guy who can average 15.0 points per game while playing stifling defense, we are looking at a totally different level of player.
Jared Sullinger Was an Absolute Steal
The idea of redrafting one of the previous NBA drafts is always a fun idea, and when we look at the 2012 version, it gets very fun for Boston Celtics fans.
Jared Sullinger's sophomore campaign has been fantastic. While inconsistencies are still pronounced, he has developed into a solid starter with the potential for more. Sullinger was also taken with the No. 21 pick in that draft.
While it was by no means a weak draft, there are only five or six players that would definitely go ahead of Sullinger at this point. Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard are obvious choices, along with Andre Drummond and Bradley Beal. It is likely that Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Terrence Jones would also be in the mix. However, Sullinger is easily a top-10 pick and likely No. 7 or 8.
He is averaging 12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while still playing just 26.6 minutes a night. The overloaded power forward position has held him back somewhat but has also allowed him the time to get fully healthy and back in shape from his summer of rehab.
Danny Ainge got a steal with Sullinger at No. 21, and he should reap the benefits for years to come.
Jeff Green Is Not an Elite Scorer
If you put a great scorer on a subpar team, he should absolutely stand out and put up gaudy numbers, even if the team continues losing.
Look at what Arron Afflalo is doing with the Orlando Magic. Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young are putting up numbers with the Philadelphia 76ers. Even Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz is outscoring Jeff Green's 16 points per game.
Now, averaging 16 a night in the NBA is an impressive feat that not a lot of guys can do, but those guys aren't your top scorer on a contender.
One of the unfortunate things the Boston Celtics will take away from this first half of the season is that Green is not an elite scorer. He cannot carry a team offensively the way some of these other scorers can. Danny Ainge will have to take that into account with the trade deadline nearing.
The sample size isn't huge, but it is enough. The inconsistencies in his performances are still glaring at 27 years old and after 48 games as an offensive focal point.
Brad Stevens Has Fans
While the talk around Brad Stevens isn't quite as pronounced as it was early in the season, when he guided the undermanned Boston Celtics to a 12-14 start, it is clear he is earning respect from his peers and others.
When Boston inked Stevens to a six-year contract to leave his college job and become a rookie head coach, there were questions. The hiring came out of nowhere and college coaches hadn't had wild success in the league.
Stevens has so far only added to that disappointing overall record, but he has shown a steady hand in leading the team. That type of self-control gets noticed by people in high places. To keep a team that is 15-33 from deteriorating is an impressive feat.
He's got a long way to go before the team starts winning at a respectable level, but with Stevens at the helm, you get the sense that that is a definite possibility, not that he is coaching for his job each night.
Moving Some of These Big Pieces Won't Be Easy
The first date came somewhere in September, when Danny Ainge was officially allowed to move the pieces he acquired in his summer blockbuster with the Brooklyn Nets.
However, that date came and went with no moves. The second date will be the NBA's trade deadline on Feb. 20, one that is rapidly approaching.
Still, the only moves Ainge has made this season have been small side pieces featuring the likes of Jordan Crawford, Courtney Lee, Jerryd Bayless and Joel Anthony. The only piece moved from that blockbuster is MarShon Brooks, unless you count whatever the situation with Keith Bogans is.
What Boston Celtics fans are waiting for is a move featuring one of those bigger names and bigger salaries. A trade involving Kris Humphries or Gerald Wallace, the bigger names in that deal, would be intriguing. Joining the trading block could also be sizable names like Jeff Green and Brandon Bass.
What we can take away from this first half of the season is that these moves are not easy. The Omer Asik deal's fallout tells us that much. The Celtics and Houston Rockets had a deal in place, but it fell through at the last minute.
Ainge might be able to still get one out there over the next three weeks, but we know it won't be easy, and he may have to make some concessions.