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Know Mediocrity: The Mid-Season Grades

 

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.

  • Phil

    I hope there's more of a look back at the season so far coming, but this was a nice quick break down. Since I can't help myself, I have to give my own grades on some of the guys I disagree with:

    Bass (F): I don't know what anyone else was expecting, but not even giving Bass a D seems incredibly generous. How much did you have to expect him to stink if he's only been slightly below expectations so far? He's been beyond a disaster on defense (the team improves by 5.5 points on defense when he sits, and that gets even more ridiculous when you factor in how many minutes he shares with KG.) Offensively, his numbers (eFG, PPG, whatever you want to look at,) are career worsts if you ignore his first two years where he played ~200 minutes total. I was as down on Bass as anyone when he signed the contract, but even I expected 10 points per game and DLeague level defense. He's bordering on unplayable right now (if only there was any other option.)

    Sullinger (A): A- is probably right, it's easy to forget he had very little impact early in the year. I just want to reinforce how little I expected from him coming into the year. I don't think enough people appreciate what he's doing coming in as a late first round pick. He's a monster.

    Rondo (C-): Sorry to drop the hammer on everyone's favorite player, but did anyone predict Rondo having less of an impact without an injury this year? His numbers are eerily similar to every other year of the KG era: Points per 36 – up 1.4 from last year… down .5 from 09-10. TS% – up .04% from last year… down .02% from 08-10. PER – up .7 from last year… down .9 from 9-10. Assist rate – down 2.6% from last year. Usage rate – a career high… by .6% percent. Pick whatever number you want, here's the point: This team anointed Rondo the leader, someone who had to carry a heavier load, and he's the exact same player offensively he's been for four years.

    His defense has been embarrassing at times as well. That factors into his low grade (he's still playing at an Eastern Conference all star level,) but I'm willing to forgive it going forward if he plays better with Bradley beside him (though the results haven't been encouraging so far.) Factoring in expectations, he just hasn't been good enough. Maybe the expectations were unfair, but this is the same person we're expecting to build a team around going forward, isn't it?

    My grade on Barbosa is lower as well (C) though he's close to an incomplete. I think there's some major confirmation bias going on in his favor. I recall plenty of grade blurbs on him after bad games like 'what comes first, the minutes or the production?' I'm still looking for evidence that he's more than a quick hook sparkplug.

    Not trying to come across as negative, but isn't this team worse than anyone predicted? Shouldn't that be reflected?

  • Danny

    Anyone know if the celtics would be able to use their amnesty clause on greens contract. Is that possible or are they stuck with it?

    • Rav

      Yes, GMan is right. The amnesty clause can only be used on contracts that were signed prior to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

      • Danny

        well that sucks

  • GMan

    I think it only applies to contracts signed before the lockout season.

  • http://celticshub Mike Double U

    Bass deserves an F! He’s been terrible! It seems there are two camps the Bass or Green camps. I disagree with the athletic comment Jeff’s #1 problem is he’s not starting. A lineup of KG, Green, pierce, AB, and Rondo would be ideal. Trade Bass and a pick get a legit shot blocker and throw in Lee if you can score another athlete. Barbosa should be the first guard other than Jet, Sully first forward….we could probably use another 3 to rest Pierce NOT named Jeff Green.

  • CG12

    Count me among those who believe that Green does have the athleticism and the skills (post game, shooting from range) to be effective for this team. He needs to play with more defensive energy every night and needs to play with better pacing on offense. He's either in "shoot no matter what" mode or "pass the ball immediately, with no notion of doing anything else" mode. A quick, strong, smart guy like Green can do more. He needs to take it upon himself, but the team also needs to find better ways to utilize him. You don't get a guy like Jeff Green to be a role player. If you aren't going to position him to be a difference maker, then don't bother.

    Bass has been just awful. I'd rather see Chris Wilcox play every single one of his minutes at present. Here's hoping that Doc's faith in him is rewarded with improved play some time in the near future.

    • Rav

      He has some athleticism (evidenced by some pretty sick poster dunks this year), and some offensive skills (a couple of post moves especially when playing against SFs, range to the 3pt-line), but these skills aren't 1) at a level high enough to justify $9 million per and 2) consistent enough to be relied upon. He has a pretty low basketball IQ, and also isn't particularly assertive/confident in his abilities.

      • KillerGymRat

        Have to agree with you Rav. Green is extremely athletic, but that is his only positive.

        He has no feel for the pro game. He plays at a college or even playground level. He doesn't see the floor or understand how to get easy shots for himself or others. He only knows how to hit open jumpers and to use one of his 3 one-on-one moves (quick drive right, post up spin off, and step-back J). If he ever scored consistently enough for anyone to actually take notice of him…anyone reading a scouting report would shut him down completely because he's far too passive.

        It's easy to say he could be better in this or that situation and I agree…he could be much better. But does anyone truthfully think he's being held back by Doc, the system or the players? This team is begging for another scoring option so if he wanted to be it…he could. Everybody including Pierce would love for Green to step up and be a 20ppg guy consistently who earns heavy minutes. He could be our J-Crossover. Or what James Harden was when he was with OKC. It would be just what this team needs and it's exactly what they are paying him to do. But it will never happen because he just doesn't have that kind of drive. He's soft on both sides of the ball and I don't see him ever producing more then he is.

        Starting Sully isn't a bad idea, but it leaves us with a second unit that can't rebound at all, so it's really best at this point he comes off the bench. Though come playoff time, assuming we stop the current slide and make it, I expect his minutes to go up to as many as he can handle without fouling out.

  • janos

    Rondos A-

  • High Rollers

    I’m with Bob Ryan… I’d rather judge with my eyes than with stats that can lie just as bad or worse.

    This is a good group of guys who have each others’ backs, with a ridiculous amount of skill and a high enough IQ to figure out how to show it. The fact that they haven’t yet just begs for this season to be played out and see where they are come playoff time. Nothing’s ever guaranteed to any team, not even an eigth seed ticket to the dance. But if we manage, we the guys we’ve got and as usual, we got as good a chance as anybody.

  • cos

    too high on Green. He's been a dud and only thing that we haven't seen is if he's still a dud if he starts games and gets 30-35 min a night.

    I, personally, do not want to see if he's a dud or not in that type of setting. Much prefer he moves on.

    As for his huge contract that makes it difficult to trade him… AMNESTY!!!!

  • Rav

    "This season, Bass’ effectiveness has inexplicably plummeted. It’s hard to pinpoint the reasoning for this."

    Not necessarily. Last year was a contract year for Bass. If he's one of "those" guys (and a lot in the league are), then his drop-off makes perfect sense.

    I feel Rondo deserves a lower grade. With Ray gone, now he's unquestionably 1) the leader of the team (not saying Ray was, but friction in the locker room would have meant Rondo wasn't being given the respect he deserved) and 2) At lowest, the 3rd option on offense (but second behind Pierce, really). He hasn't stepped up to the plate: last season (which was only 66 games), he had 3 games of 30+ points; this year, he only has one such game after 42.

    • http://CelticsHub.com Brendan Jackson

      I considered the contract year idea, but there's no definitive way to prove it. I don't really see any drop off in effort but it's possible that Bass is not mentally focusing the way he did last year.

  • Morpheus

    Rondo needs to be graded lower. Like many have posted, he was expected to carry a heavier load offensively with Ray gone. Defensively he has been a sieve. And he didn’t do the team any favors chasing individual records.

    Bass deserves a F. Terry is spot on.

  • tbunny

    I believe this team will get better. How much, I don't know. But I believe they will be better by the end of the year.

  • elroz

    Bass, Terry, and Green have been utter duds …. who could see it coming with Bass and Terry? I didn't.

    But most people were scratching their heads at the Green deal. Danny has to make good the disservice he has done to this franchise this off season. He has to find a way to redeem himself.

    • hydrofluoric

      Aside from the abominable Jeff Green deal, all of this is hindsight. I know it's not the way the world works, but in November we were all pissing ourselves in excitement over getting JET -and- Lee. Danny's not responsible for how badly they're underperforming, or for Bass's underperformance (though I was always a skeptic on his contract, too).

  • Trent

    A number of adjustments need to be made. However, lets start with dumping, trading , benching or shooting Bass! If you pay attention his lack of help defense or much of a pulse is killing them!

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