Winners and Losers from Week 1 of Boston Celtics' Preseason
At the end of the day there is one indisputable loser from the Boston Celtics' 2013 preseason: Celtics fans. The new pieces of the team have not fit together well. New coach Brad Stevens has them playing quality defense and sharing the ball, but the team began its preseason 0-3.
That is not to say that everything has been dark. Several Celtics, ranging from wily veterans to unproven youngsters, have managed to play well, adding another level of intrigue to what Boston's lineup will look like without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett when the season begins.
On the other hand, several of the team's expensive, mid-tier veterans also started their years slowly and rookie Kelly Olynyk has been anything but impressive in his first three legitimate NBA games.
Since this is far from an optimistic time for the Celtics' fans, let's take a moment to look back at Week 1 and assess who the winners and losers on Boston's roster have been thus far.
Winner: Gerald Wallace
The preseason has been disappointing so far, but the play of Gerald Wallace has been one of the few bright spots. The former All-Star has appeared in all three games for Boston and is currently second on the team in scoring.
Wallace is averaging 11.7 points, three rebounds and three assists while shooting 44 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc.
He has looked much better than he did in Brooklyn, running the floor well and shooting with confidence from three and mid-range. If he can regain his outside stroke, Crash could be a real change-of-pace player off the bench.
Wallace was particularly impressive against Toronto, scoring 16 points and knocking down a pair of threes in 26 minutes off the pine.
He had some trouble against the Philadelphia 76ers—notching nine points on two-for-seven shooting—but managed to contribute by attacking the defensive boards.
It is still unlikely Crash finishes his contract with the Celtics, but he has been impressive enough that he should earn heavy minutes from the start of the regular season. If he continued to contribute at this level, he could join the starting five either at the 3 or as a small-ball 4, particularly with Green struggling.
Though he is not the freak athlete or dominant rebounder he once was, Wallace has shown enough skill to offset his waning athleticism thus far in the preseason.
He is still grossly overpaid, but Wallace was far from the disaster most fans expected him to be once he donned a green jersey.
Loser: Jeff Green
Green has not thrived as Boston’s first non-Paul Pierce starting 3 in 15 seasons. Green has shown flashes, as he always does, but in three preseason games, he has battled the same consistency issues that have plagued him throughout his career.
Green has logged 64 minutes—against the Knicks, Sixers and Raptors—total and averaged just 6.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists on dismal shooting splits of 28.6 percent overall and 14.3 percent from three-point range.
Besides a vicious dunk against New York, Green has failed to get much going in either contest. He missed all four of his threes against Toronto and has not had much luck creating mismatches with his shooting.
He was also dreadful against Philadelphia, going 2-of-11 and missing another four triples.
Some regression was expected from his stellar shooting down the stretch of 2012-13 and in the playoffs, but Green has simply been incapable of finding a rhythm.
Defenses have been more focused on Green than he is accustomed to, and he has not adjusted well to the pressure. He had turnovers issues and does not look great passing the ball. With the C’s expected to lean on him as a playmaker, that is a troubling development.
Fits of inconsistency are hardly anything new for Green, but with a chance to become the C’s first option offensively, many fans expected the 27-year-old wing to mature this offseason.
That has not been the case, and with Wallace playing well, there could be less minutes available for Green at the 3. This will be doubly true if the C’s want to run and use him at the 4, which he played on Oklahoma City Thunder.
Knowing Green, he’s due for a 25-point, 10-rebound explosion in the next game or two, but even that would do little to smooth over his poor play.
Green has posted a plus/minus of minus-44 through the three games and has perhaps been the biggest disappointment of the C’s preseason thus far.
Winner: Jared Sullinger
No one was quite sure what to expect of Jared Sullinger in his first appearance since season-ending back surgery in January, but the former Ohio State star has been able to make a major impact in limited minutes.
Sullinger is averaging 13 points, seven rebounds and 1.7 assists on 45.5 percent shooting and had monster games against Toronto and Philly.
He came off the bench and posted 14 points, six rebounds and four assists in just 20 minutes versus the Raptors. While he shot two questionable three-pointers, he also made his presence felt on the glass and kept several possessions alive with his hustle and determination.
He impressed with a 19-point, nine-rebound effort against the 76ers, shooting 7-of-15 in 23 minutes.
Sullinger is far from a transcendent athlete, but he is possibly Boston’s best rebounder and uses his body extremely well. The C’s need a banger inside to play with Kelly Olynyk, and a healthy Sully can certainly be that player.
His conditioning is clearly a work in progress. He posted just six points on 3-of-7 shooting against the Knicks, but that is far from a surprise given his health situation.
If he can continue to expand his offensive game and learn to protect the post despite his lack of size, expect Sully to have a major role in 2013-14, likely as Boston’s starting 4.
Loser: Kelly Olynyk
Expectations for Olynyk were stratospheric following his performance in summer league, but the man dubbed the “Olynyk Klynyk” has had a rocky start to his true NBA career.
He played decently in his first preseason start against Philly, scoring 13 points, but grabbed just two rebounds and shot 6-of-16 and 1-of-4 from deep.
In two appearances off the bench Olynyk has averaged just four points, 1.5 rebounds and three assists on 30 percent shooting.
Though he has thrown some impressive passes and led Boston in assists against the Raptors, the Celtics brought Olynyk in to score. He has failed to do so in any meaningful way.
The jump shot that went down so smoothly at Gonzaga has not yet translated to the league, and Olynyk is having trouble converting on the few inside opportunities he has had.
He has also not been able to generate many second chance points. Olynyk has just one offensive rebound in two games after doing such a great job getting easy put-back scores in Orlando.
To make matters worse, Olynyk has failed to hold his own on the boards, being manhandled by the stronger bigs of the Knicks and Raptors. This is far from a surprising development, but it is going to be hard for Olynyk to consistently log 20-plus minutes per game if he is such a colossal liability on the glass.
He has had his moments while running the floor, but Olynyk simply looks too physically weak to be an impact player right now. He’ll need to continue to bulk up going forward if he wants to be the C’s center of the future.
Many rookies struggle in preseason and eventually have successful inaugural campaigns, but the signs have not been promising for Olynyk thus far.
Winner: Phil Pressey
After registering the dreaded “DNP - Coach’s Decision” against Toronto, undrafted point guard Phil Pressey had his coming-out party in Providence against New York.
Pressey scored 13 points, snared three rebounds and dished out seven assists while shooting 4-of-5 from the floor in 28 minutes of work.
Factoring in the Philly game, Pressey is averaging 9.5 points, 3.5 boards and six assists while shooting an impressive 71.4 percent from the field in two appearances.
The most impressive aspect of Pressey’s performance against the Knicks was his ability to take care of the ball. While he has always been a tremendously gifted passer, Pressey struggled in Orlando and at Missouri with ball security and at times simply forced the issue too often.
He has committed just a single turnover in 46 total minutes on the floor.
Obviously, he’s going to throw an ill-advised pass once in a while, but if he can keep the turnovers to a minimum, then he has a shot at earning some minutes off the bench behind Rondo.
While it would be nice to see Pressey develop a more reliable three-pointer, there are not many aspects of his game that can be knocked based on his preseason performance.
He knifed his way into the lane, set up his teammates, played frisky defense on the ball and even hit a go-ahead basket in traffic to put Boston up on New York during their second to last possession.
The diminutive Pressey still has a long way to go as a player, but the early returns have been quite successful, and he looks like a lock to stick around the organization for a season or two.
Loser: Courtney Lee
One of three Celtics to start the first two games, Courtney Lee has done little to prove that his disappointing 2012-13 season was a fluke and was brought off the bench against Philadelphia.
Lee is averaging just 4.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists and shooting a borderline offensive 25 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from three-point range.
Typically a reliable corner-three threat, Lee has not been able to provide Boston with any kind of floor spacing, going just 1-of-7 on his shots from beyond the arc.
Though he also scores some points running the fast break, the bulk of Lee’s scoring is done as a spot-up shooter, and it is difficult to imagine him playing major minutes if he cannot find his shot.
The lowlight of Lee’s preseason was a seven-point performance against Philly in which he posted a team-worst minus-16 and connected on just two of nine shots from the field.
Lee has the size to play the 2 but may be needed at point guard at times thanks to his decent handling ability. While not a particularly skilled passer, Lee is at least capable of bringing the ball up the court, something Avery Bradley struggled with in the playoffs.
If Pressey continues to outperform expectations, he could begin to cut into Lee's minutes, although that will likely not be an issue right when the season begins.
The Celtics need to decide whether to ship Lee out to the highest bidder or to try and build around him as part of their core, but the early returns have shown the former may be the best bet.