Power Ranking Every Key Boston Celtics Player Before Season's End
You know things are bleak for the Boston Celtics if their best player has appeared in just 21 games and is shooting just 37.5 percent from the field.
Sitting at 12th in the Eastern Conference and an absurd 28 games back of the Indiana Pacers, the Celtics are clearly in the midst of a season to forget. With the lottery drawing closer and the race for the number one pick heating up, expect Boston to start pulling out some of the classic tactics of a tanking team (resting veterans, giving young guys the lion’s share of minutes, etc.)
Still, Boston has played nearly a full campaign, and in that time a clear hierarchy of players have emerged. Despite some midseason trades it has become pretty clear who has surprised for the C’s, who has been a fringe contributor and who looks like a long-term asset.
With less than 20 games remaining in this dark rebuilding season, let’s break down the top 10 Celtics and analyze their recent play.
Note: Stats for players acquired midseason are just since they became Celtics.
10. Phil Pressey
2013-14 Stats: 2.4 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 28.6 FG%, 27.2 3P%
An offseason afterthought acquired to shore up the point guard position with Rajon Rondo out, Phil Pressey exceeded expectations and found his way into the C’s rotation.
He’s still learning the ropes of the league, but Pressey is an NBA-level passer who has made the most of his limited opportunities.
Pressey is a good defender, holding opposing point guards to a PER of 10.7, according to 82games.
In seven starts, Pressey has averaged a solid 7.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists while hitting 50 percent of his these.
He has cleaned up the turnover issues that plagued him at Missouri, and while he struggles getting to the rim against NBA defenders, his offense has come together somewhat after a dreadful start to the years.
Pressey will probably never be a starter, but he has proven himself as a highly credible backup this season.
9. Chris Johnson
2013-14 Stats: 6.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.9 APG, 43.2 FG%, 40.5 3P%
Another low-risk, high-reward signee, Chris Johnson actually was called up from the D-League, and has emerged as a vital rotation player for the rebuilding C’s.
He’s a corner three specialist; who has made 50 percent of his shots from the corners since joining Boston.
Johnson’s more than just a shooter though; he’s athletic enough to put the ball on the floor and is capable of finishing at the rim too.
He was particularly good in January, averaging 9.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 46.5 percent overall and 40.7 from deep.
Defensively, Johnson has locked down opposing small forwards, holding them to a 5.7 PER, per 82Games. He even held opposing 2s to a decent 14.4 PER.
Johnson’s minutes have fluctuated throughout the year, but he has been a consistent presence on the wing since joining the Celts.
At just 23 years old, Johnson still has upside and could be a viable member of Boston’s core for years to come.
8. Jerryd Bayless
2013-14 Stats (with Boston): 9.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 3.4 APG, 40.7 FG%, 35.8 3P%
Jerryd Bayless was acquired in a salary dump trade for Courtney Lee, but he emerged as a key cog for Boston’s injury-riddled backcourt.
Boston averages just 95.4 points per game (27th in the league), so Bayless’ fearlessness and off-the-dribble creativity have been huge.
He takes plenty of bad pull-up jumpers and tough shots in the paint, but he is one of the few C’s capable of creating consistent offense with the ball.
He’s been better at the 2 (14.3 PER), than the 1 (11.0 PER), according to 82games, but Bayless has been forced to do a good deal of ball-handling duty due to Rondo’s recovery and Avery Bradley’s balky ankle.
He has averaged just 1.4 turnovers per game and his outside shooting makes him a real threat out of the pick-and-roll.
Given that the C’s have to make a decision about Bradley, it’s unlikely they retain the 25-year-old combo guard, but there’s no denying that Bayless has been good in his instant offense role.
He hasn’t been efficient in doing so, but Bayless provides the Boston offense with some much needed punch and he’s a threat to score 20 on any given night.
7. Brandon Bass
2013-14 Stats: 10.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.1 APG, 46.6 FG%, 66.7 3P%
Ignore the three-point percentage, which comes on 2-of-3 shooting, but Brandon Bass has actually had a nice bounce back year after a disappointing 2012-13.
The Celts have needed more variety and offense from Bass and he has largely responded well to an increased role.
His mid-range jumper is still his bread and butter shot, but Bass has grown increasingly comfortable with his one-dribble moves and using the threat of his outside shot to attack the paint.
Due to the emergence of Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk Bass has seen his role fluctuate, but he has been a solid presence either off the bench or in the starting unit.
Despite his lack of size and limited athleticism Bass is a solid defender, particularly against 5s. He’s holding centers to a PER of just 10.5, per 82games.
The remaining year and $6.9 million on Bass’ contract means he is likely a trade chip, but he has actually been a pillar of consistency on both ends for these Celtics.
He may be best suited as a third big man in the rotation, but the veteran has been solid all season for Boston despite his pedestrian numbers.
6. Kelly Olynyk
2013-14 Stats: 7.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.6 APG, 44.0 FG%, 31.4 3P%
If there was an award for the Celtic who has come on the strongest recently, it would likely go to Olynyk.
Though the C’s have been piling up losses, Olynyk has emerged as the kind of versatile threat fans hoped he could become watching him at Gonzaga.
Since the All-Star break, Olynyk is averaging 10.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists while shooting 47.1 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from deep.
He struggled with his jumper both from three and mid-range early in the year, but has found his rhythm and become a lethal pick-and-pop threat playing alongside Rondo.
Olynyk also has the ability to make passes few big men can make and can be a Pau Gasol-like threat passing off the block.
His defense still leaves something to be desired, given that Olynyk struggles to stop brawnier big men and is averaging just 0.4 blocks per game, but he has been a better rebounder than many fans would’ve expected.
Olynyk came up big against the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat, scoring 26 points and grabbing 14 boards over the two games, and he should continue to see increased minutes as he develops more comfort in Brad Stevens’ methodical offense.
He may never be an All-Star, but Olynyk should be a quality starter in this league within a few years.
5. Avery Bradley
2013-14 Stats: 14.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 43.2 FG%, 35.0 3P%
An ankle injury cost Bradley most of February and the first half of March, but the fourth-year guard has returned strong since then.
He chipped in 24 points and six three-pointers against Miami, and looks more comfortable playing off the ball full-time in Stevens’ offense.
Bradley never looked particularly comfortable playing the point under Doc Rivers, and Stevens recognized that, making Bradley primarily an off-guard and allowing him to cut without the basketball.
This has opened up Bradley’s offense, and he looks like a more complete player now than he did earlier in his NBA career.
He still shoots too many 20-footers off the dribble, but he is hitting a blistering 43.3 percent of his spot-up threes, per Synergy Sports (subscription required).
Defensively Bradley has been his usual stalwart self, holding opponents to a 34.8 field goal percentage, and just 33 percent on spot-ups, also per Synergy.
He is one of the few guards today who can pressure full-court and still play well in the half-court, and his defense is part of the reason Boston gives up just 99.4 points per game (11th in the league).
Bradley is due a new contract in the offseason, and while his injury problems hurt his overall strong play should guarantee a lucrative offer from some team.
4. Kris Humphries
2013-14 Stats: 8.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 50.4 FG%, 1.0 BPG
His per game numbers may not be staggering, but Kris Humphries has excelled at pretty much every facet of basketball with the C’s.
Humphries has eight double-doubles this season, and he has helped make the C’s a legitimate rebounding team after years spent punting on the glass.
He has been even better in 22 starts, averaging 11.1 points, 8.5 boards, 1.4 assists and 1.3 blocks on 50 percent shooting from the floor.
With an improved mid-range jumper (45.9 percent from 16 feet-plus, per Basketball-Reference) Humphries has even helped to space out the floor and emerged as a reliable pick-and-pop threat akin to Bass or Sully.
Defensively Humphries uses his strength well against 4s, holding them to a 12.4 PER, but allows opposing centers a 20.3 PER due to his lack of height and length, per 82games.
Boston’s frontcourt logjam has meant Humphries never knows how much he will play going into each game, but he almost always makes a positive impact.
At 29 years old Humphries likely won’t be an offseason priority for Boston, but don’t be surprised to see the C’s offer him a multiyear deal to come off the bench, particularly if Bass is shipped elsewhere.
3. Jeff Green
2013-14 Stats: 17.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 41.2 FG%, 34.7 3P%
Jeff Green’s counting stats are good, he’s leading the team in scoring and chipping in a decent number of rebounds, but he has still been somewhat of a disappointment in 2013-14.
Green was expected to take the reigns of Boston’s offense with Paul Pierce gone, but he has been far too passive and jump shot reliant as a primary option.
He has the quickness and explosiveness to get to the basket consistently, but too often Green settles for an above the break three or 18 foot jumper, when he should be driving the lane and trying to create contact.
Green is shooting a career-worst 23.5 percent on 10-16 foot shots, per Basketball-Reference, and he’s only averaging 4.6 free throw attempts per contest, proving his lack of aggressiveness.
Despite spending more time as a secondary playmaker Green hasn’t done much to make his teammates better, struggling to make reads and run the pick-and-roll.
Green has played his best ball at the 4, posting a 17.2 PER while at power forward. But he’s also allowing opposing 4s to post a 21.8 PER, per 82games.
The 27-year-old swingman was not expected to average 20-plus points per game, but his inconsistency and reliance on his outside shot have made the 2013-14 season quite the disappointment.
2. Jared Sullinger
2013-14 Stats: 12.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.6 APG, 42.4 FG%, 24.1 3P%
A bruiser who is still learning the finesse aspects of the game, Sullinger has been Boston’s second best player by virtue of his rebounding and occasional flashes of offensive polish.
Sully still needs to get his three-pointer more consistent before it is a legitimate weapon, but the threat of Sullinger popping out beyond the arc off of a screen creates some driving lanes for the C’s.
Unfortunately, his jumper still needs work, and Sully is shooting just 34.9 percent overall during his last five contests and 26.7 percent from deep.
A frontcourt player shooting 42.4 percent is unacceptable, but Sullinger makes up for it with his work on the offensive glass.
His rebounding rate of 17.1 is above the likes of Anthony Davis and LaMarcus Aldridge, making Sully a true beast on the boards.
Sullinger’s defense still needs work, as he’s allowing a 16.8 PER to 4s and a 17.6 PER to 5s, per 82games, but that will come as he learns the nuances of NBA post defense.
The next step for Sully, besides continuing to hone his jump shot, will be to learn how to use his body and physicality to draw fouls.
A player of Sullinger’s size who spends a good deal of time around the basket should be attempting far more than 2.6 free throws per contest.
Still, despite some nitpicky issues Sullinger has improved tremendously since his freshman year and looks like a potential All-Star down the road if paired with the right shot-blocking center.
1. Rajon Rondo
2013-14 Stats: 11.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 8.8 APG, 37.5 FG%, 30.0 3P%
Yes he is bricking outside shots and turning the ball over too regularly (three times per game), but post-ACL tear Rondo is still the best player the Celtics have.
Rondo did not come back as a lights-out shooter, but he is more aggressive from the perimeter, and has had several games where he has hit multiple threes to keep the C’s competitive.
He is still regaining confidence attacking the paint and finishing at the rim, which is obvious since his average field goal distance of 12 feet is a career-long, per Basketball-Reference.
Still, he is such an elite playmaker that he can make Boston’s average group of complementary pieces into legitimate scoring threats.
Rondo has particularly strong chemistry with Humphries and Sullinger, who make ideal pick-and-roll complements and will also run the floor with the superstar point guard.
His court vision is absolutely incredible, and Rondo can still make reads and see plays develop far faster than opposing defenses.
Once considered one of the league’s best defensive point guards, Rondo is still gaining confidence on that end of the floor, but he’s holding opposing 1s to a respectable 14.8 PER, according to 82games.
As evidenced by his nine-point, 10-rebound, 15-assist performance against Miami Rondo is still capable of putting up eye-opening stat lines, and expect him to keep improving as he gains confidence in his legs.
Rondo may not make an All-NBA roster due to his prolonged absence, but plenty of teams will be inquiring about the soon-to-be free agent, who is still the clear cut best player in Boston.
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