There is no joy like sitting in judgement of others and today we do it at a macro level, rolling up our nightly post-game grades to assess each player now that we’re halfway (plus one game) through the season. Our grades were the joint decision of CelticsHub staff with capsules by me (beardless) and Brendan (bearded).
In alphabetical order:
Leandro Barbosa (B-): Doc Rivers still hasn’t figured out how to utilize Barbosa in a way that would best maximize his value. Instead, Barbosa has been languishing on the bench and playing well in spurts. Well enough, in fact, for us to clamor for Rivers to play him more. He’s one of the few players on the Celtics roster that has had success attacking the rim and scoring in bunches. He’s still somewhat of a liability on the defensive end, but there may come a time where the need for scoring outweighs any potential problems on defense. Brendan Jackson
Brandon Bass (C-): Anyone who watched how effective Bass was playing with the starters last season has to be shocked by the sharp drop off in production. Bass seemed to be the perfect compliment to Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett by providing another pick and pop option and creating space for others to drive and slash. This season, Bass’ effectiveness has inexplicably plummeted. It’s hard to pinpoint the reasoning for this. Bass’ production could be just one casualty of an offense that is struggling as a whole, but I’d feel better about a potential turnaround if Bass was knocking down more jumpers. BJ
Avery Bradley (B+): Bradley’s no star but he immediately changed the Celtics’ defense on his return earlier this month. His ability to kill 5-6 seconds of opponent clock with ball pressure amplified everything else the Celtics do on defense. It often removed the need for multiple defensive rotations (protecting the oft-befuddled Brandon Bass) because opposing teams went into scramble mode to get up any kind of shot at all, much less the play they’d called. The rib injury has slowed him and his shooting is a mess right now (41/31/33), but those are temporary problems. As long as he can stay healthy (no sure thing) the Celtics have their starting SG for the next few years. Still unanswerable: what’s his offensive ceiling? Ryan DeGama
Jason Collins (C-): Prior to the season, signing Collins was seen as a smart move by Danny Ainge. He picked up a player who has always been billed as a solid defensive stalwart. A big body capable of using his bulk to bother even the biggest of bigs (think Dwight Howard). Plus, Collins had always found a way to be play well against the Celtics. Unfortunately, the Celtics have yet to find a situation in which Collins plays well against anyone else. He joined the team noticeably thinner but not any quicker and thus not anymore equipped to defend the pick and roll. The highlight of his season so far has been a brief stint in the starting lineup that ended up being an abysmal failure. BJ
Kevin Garnett (B+): At 36 years old, Kevin Garnett is still anchoring the Celtics defense and a viable offensive option on the pick and pop. Okay, now for the bad news: he posting numbers eerily similar to the 2009-2010 season: the same season where his knee moved in a way that now requires a roll of kinesiology tape to function properly. It’s hard to fathom Garnett keeping up this pace for the entire season, despite playing reduced minutes. While it may not seem like he’s making the same impact he did in his previous seasons in green, a somewhat telling statistic is the team’s defensive rating when Garnett is on the floor versus when he’s on the bench. According to 82games.com, the Celtics are giving up 100.8 points per 100 possessions with KG on the court. When he goes to the bench, that number balloons to 110.9. BJ
Jeff Green (C-): What the Celtics have here, at a terrifying long term cost, is a toxic asset. Any contract can be moved but it will take a serious grift by Ainge to move Green without taking back something equally noxious. Green simply doesn’t have the athleticism (e.g. first step), the will (making an impact off-ball, rebounding) or the skills (handle, post-game) to qualify as anything but a role player. For those who insist upon silver linings, cast your hungry eyes to the Synergy stats, where Green rates as a strong isolation defender, allowing only 0.62 points per possession (mostly against wings). But banish any thoughts of him turning the corner. To paraphrase KG, he is what he is. RD
Courtney Lee (C+): To say Lee has been underwhelming would be an understatement. Lee was supposed to be a distinct upgrade from Mickael Pietrus. A player who could defend guards and small forwards and be a reliable three point shooter. So far, Lee has failed to master the Celtics defensive rotations and is shooting 34.7% from three (down from 40.1% the year before). Lee has also struggled to find a defined role. He spot-started for Bradley at times in the beginning of the season, and now he initiates the offense for the few precious minutes when Rondo is off the court. Neither role has been particularly beneficial for the C’s. BJ
Paul Pierce (B+): Pierce has had a strong year overall, particularly because the Celtics are leaning on him like he’s still in his prime: he’s got a 27.98 usage rate, which is 16th highest in the entire league. That’s a recipe for burnout and in recent weeks we’ve seen his shooting and scoring fall off. Pierce takes no quarter of course, and his accountability remains one of his great qualities but Doc Rivers has to find a way to ease off the gas on him or Pierce will have nothing left by the playoffs. On some nights Pierce still reminds of the scoring prodigy the Celtics wasted for most of a decade before Garnett and Ray Allen arrived. But the red lights are flashing. He needs real help and smarter use by his coach. If not now, when? RD
Rajon Rondo (B+): Rondo has always been the engine of the Celtics offense, but this year he’s become the whole car. There have been games where Rondo has had to step in and score thirty points because of the ineffectiveness of his supporting cast. To his credit, Rondo has diversified his offensive game by becoming a reliable midrange shooter. What used to be a problem area is now an integral part of the Celtics offense and will continue to be as long as defenses continue to go under picks and encourage Rondo to beat them from the outside. However, he’s been as bad on the defensive side of the ball as he has been good on offense. He routinely gets beat off the dribble, gets stuck on picks, does not close out on outside shooters, and doesn’t consistently rotate on defense. It’s hard to tell how many of Rondo’s defensive shortcomings were masked when the Celtics had an elite team defense. With the Celtics overall defensive efficiency rating slipping this season, Rondo’s inability or unwillingness to play defense has really been exposed. BJ
Jared Sullinger (A-): Sullinger is the most pleasant surprise of the season. He’s got a high BBIQ and regularly makes the right pass or the right cut. He’s already hanging around the top-20 rebounders in the league and he’s only 20 years old. He also got the makings of a reliable jumper, with prospective range out to the three-point line. In these non-trivial ways, he’s a younger, poorer man’s Kevin Love. His foul problems are rookie-based and he’ll get past them, but the challenges against athleticism and length could be career-long problems. If Sully can craft his body in a way to maximize his talent, we could be looking at a starter and a bigger steal than we already have. RD
Jason Terry (D+): Of all the 2012-13 Celtics, none has been done more of a disservice by his coach than Terry. He was supposed to give the Celtics another shot creator and pick and roll ball handler but more often than not he’s been a spot-up shooter who looks like he doesn’t belong in the offense. Still, he’s been horrible. So far this season his profile is: 35-year-old SG who is regularly victimized on the defensive end (despite some high profile steals he’s procured by jumping passing lanes) and can’t make a shot. It’s not much of a stretch to suggest he’d be a candidate to be released if he wasn’t Jason Terry and he wasn’t on a multi-year deal. Happier thoughts: he’s the most serious Celtics candidate for a second-half turnaround and playoff distinction. RD
Chris Wilcox (C-): Injured again, Wilcox can’t seem to stay healthy long enough for us to get a good read on him. In that way, he’s a worthy successor to Marquis Daniels, who played that role over the last few seasons. In his 23 games this season, Wilcox’ play was mercurial. There were impressive short minute stretches where he seemed to find the ball on every play. On many others, he looked utterly clueless on defense, failing to rotate and watching as opposing guards blew by him on their way in for a layup. His rebounding has completely collapsed (10.3 TRR) but that, like his other deficiencies, may be functions of his recovery from heart surgery. Prediction: he’ll show more flashes in the second half and then get injured again. As a result, he could end up being cap filler in the trade that Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers continue to insist they don’t want at all and probably won’t happen except it could absolutely be necessary if things don’t turn around. Possibly. RD
Incomplete: Fab Melo, Darko Milicic, Kris Joseph, Jarvis Varnado.