For whatever reason, the All-Star Break in the NBA is considered the halfway point in the season even though 58 out of 82 is most certainly not half, but we’ll play by the rules here. As it stands, the Celtics are 37-21 in what has been a roller coaster of a season through the All-Star Break. They sit at 4th place in the East and after a summer of hearing about how this team was “Next”, they have yet to put it all the way together. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some very high highs: 3-0 Vs. Philly, An 8 game winning streak, signature Kyrie performances, The birth of TimeLord (!), The gradual increase of cheese on Jayson Tatum’s tacos, we’ve had it all. As we like to do here at VFTW, it’s time to dive into letter grades for every guy on the roster.
P.J Dozier: B
PJ has gotten a little bit of run with the Celtics in a few isolated instances. He’s on a 2-Way contract and while he’s only logged 4 appearances with Boston, he’s appeared in 33 games for the Maine Red Claws posting these numbers.
He’s always been a slasher since his days at South Carolina and he’s shown the ability to be effective rebounding/passing the basketball. While he hasn’t done anything to really make his stock plummet, it’s telling that he’s still in the G-League grinding out minutes and not with the Celtics full time, thus the B mark.
Guerschon Yabusele: C-
I’ve been willing to give Yabu the benefit of the doubt for a really long time (too long). He wasn’t effective in his rookie season and other than the addition of a headband, he hasn’t changed much from year 1 to 2. There’s still an overall shroud of confusion that seems to be over him and he’s struggled to be effective in any capacity on offense. What has been a positive for him is his rebounding. He’s given the Celtics some good minutes in terms of eating fouls and just grabbing every board he can get his hands on averaging 7.2 boards per 36 minutes. It remains to be seen if he can be a plus on offense, but his ability to rebound gives him hope for the future.
Robert Williams: B+
Through 58 games, Bob is still as enamoring a prospect as ever and checks out as an enigma for all intents and purposes. The main draw is his sky high potential on defense and his ability to send shots careening into the stands routinely as he holds the 8th best block percentage in the league at 64%. Coupled with his gaudy block percentage is his 1.4 blocks per game and 5.8 blocks per 36 minutes. For translation, he sends EVERYTHING that gets put up around the hoop. Not only has he been a monster on defense but he’s shown a knack for rolling to the basket and catching lobs. He’s something that the Celtics don’t have a lot of and his minutes have come as a change of pace. Once he figures out his defensive rotations (they’re no bueno), and grasp the offense, we’ll be sure to see a lot more of Williams sooner or later.
Semi Ojeleye: C+
The bill with Ojeleye has always been that he’s a force on defense but struggles with shot making and being a factor on offense (AND he has to have the most muscle mass in the NBA). That has been the story this season as he’s one of the lesser offensive players on the roster, but a difference maker on defense. He’s shot 30.9% from three and hasn’t been able to get that part of his game up to snuff enough to see more game time. On the flip side, he has the best defensive rating on the team (Not counting Dozier due to his very limited minutes) at 95.6 and has proven his value on that end of the floor. The Celtics will have a nice little weapon off the bench if he can consistently start to knock down his shots down the stretch.
Brad Wanamaker: B+
I have a soft spot for Brad and countless people have told me to shut up when I get genuinely excited about him being in the game. While Terry has been a trip to deal with on a night to night basis, I’ve found comfort in watching Mr. Wanamaker. He plays hard, he knocks down shots, and you know exactly what to expect when he enters the game. As he’s taken the reigns this year as Fake-Shane Larkin, I think he’s done a great job in his role. His 47.2/51.6/93.3 shooting splits are exactly what the Celtics need out of him and he hasn’t had to adjust much to his role as it’s been a good fit.
Aron Baynes: B+
Speaking of having soft spots for players, next up on our list is Aron Baynes. A big Australian man who is willing to be thrown through the earth’s core by some of the most terrorizing dunkers in basketball. What’s not to like? The Celtics are 15-9 in the 24 games Baynes has missed this season and it’s apparent that it’s a better team when he’s in the lineup. He’s right behind Semi with the second best defensive rating on the team (97.9) and is also second in Net Rating (10.5). His numbers are never going to blow you away but he’s just the definition of solid at some many different aspects which makes him the perfect bench big man for this team. The only thing keeping Baynes from being in the A’s are his 24 missed games as he hasn’t been the healthiest this season.
Daniel Theis: B
There he walks, the man with the highest Net Rating on the Boston Celtics, the one and only, Daniel Theis. Yes, you read that correctly, Theis has the highest net rating on the team with an 11.9 (Offensive Rating: 110.9 Defensive Rating: 98.3). In Baynes’ prolonged absence the Celtics are thin up front and Theis has stepped up in a big way for them this season. He’s been perfect for the Celtics as a PnR/PnP option on offense as he and Hayward have developed a ton of chemistry in those scenarios. A nice surprise this season from Theis has been his 3-point shooting as he sits at a clean 46% on the year. This ability to stretch the floor has given opposing defense something to think about and Theis has a good feel for if he should roll or pop out off screens in a given situation.
Terry Rozier: C
Contract RozYear, Starter Terry, Scary Terry, whatever you want to call him, he’s been something and it hasn’t necessarily been a good something. This has been an up and down season for Rozier and it hasn’t been ideal for him with his impending restricted free agency this summer. While I do think Terry has been better as of late, there still is an uncertainty around which player you’re going to get on a given night. He’s mainly had breakout performances while Kyrie has been sidelined and there have only been a handful of games where he’s shown his true potential off the bench. The proof is in his splits as he’s been a different player as a starter than he has off of the bench.
Gordon Hayward: C-
By far the most documented of stories this season has been the recovery of Gordon Hayward. He had a rough stretch to start the year which coincided with a move to the bench and since then he’s had his peaks and valleys. Valleys, like his 0-5 showing against Golden State where he posted a mere 2/7/2, and peaks like his explosion for 26 points on 6-7 from deep against the Sixers last week. He’s been subject to a lot of criticism and impatience from fans all year but he’s pushing through. He was cleared to play 5 on 5 basketball in September after being sidelined for a little over a year, these things take time. We’re starting to see him round into form and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect him to eventually be back to 100%, wether it’s by the end of this season or next season.
Jaylen Brown: B
To start, I want to congratulate Jaylen on being elected as a Vice President of the NBAPA at only 22 years old. He’s such an intelligent young man and this election is the start of big things to come for him off the court. As for on the court, I like breaking up this Jaylen season into two parts, Pre-bench Jaylen (19 games), and Post-Bench Jaylen (34 games). He started out the season as a sort of liability and couldn’t figure out his role.
The numbers bring his struggles into the light as his shooting splits left a lot to be desired. Fast-Forward to once he was moved to the bench and things have gone a lot differently for the Cal product.
He’s turned it around considerably and has looked like the player he was last post-season. The key for Jaylen is to stay aggressive and attack the basket at a high rate in order to open up the rest of his game. It’s worked and Jaylen’s become one of the more consistent players on the roster since his move to the bench.
Marcus Smart: A
If you’ve read my game recaps, you’ll know about Marcus Smart’s vast improvement from three point range and his candidacy for an All-Defensive team bid. He’s hit a career high 35.9% of his threes which ranks 85th overall in the NBA. For comparison, just last season Smart shot 30.1% from deep which didn’t even rank in the top 150 among 3-Point percentage leaders. He brings a fire and sense of toughness to the court night in and night out which really gets the Celtics going on both ends. The Celtics are 27-10 in games Smart starts and are 10-11 when he does not. It doesn’t seem like he’s willing to give up the starting job any time soon and it should be fun to watch him as the Celtics make a late season push.
Marcus Morris Sr.: A-
Mook not only put Sr. on the back of his jersey to start the year, but he brought his A-game as well and he’s been steady mobbin’ ever since. He (like Smart) was entered into the starting 5 when the team struggled to start the year and Morris Sr. hasn’t looked back either. He was dancing around 50/40/90 shooting for quite some time and while he’s fell off a tad, they’re still excellent (47.6/40.9/86.8) as he’s posted 14.5 points per game which is third on the roster. He has a knack for hitting difficult shots and has been a force in the mid-range game/out on the perimeter. Behind Kyrie, he’s arguably been the most reliable player on this team and he’s given them both that toughness and shot-making ability on a nightly basis.
Al Horford: B+
Al had a slow start to the season as it looked like he was trying to be more of a facilitator with all of the additions from last season. He also was shooting around 30% from three and struggled to get his offense going. After missing most of December with a knee injury, he’s been the Al we’ve come to expect in his 2+ years in Boston. Here are his stats since returning from his injury:
The 40.3% mark from three is more like it and he’s done a bit of everything lately. He’s usually tasked with defending the oppositions best big man and has dealt with assignments like Giannis and Joel Embiid. He’s stepped up to the challenge and gives the Celtics their own version of Draymond Green at the Center position.
Jayson Tatum: B+
In his second full season Jayson Tatum has shown a ton of development and is starting to tap into his full potential on the court. He’s been the second option for the Celtics for most of the season and has flourished in that role. 16.5 points per game on 45.3/37.9/86 shooting splits is nothing to scoff at, especially at 20 years old. He’s had to deal with a lot of uncertainty off the court as well with the constant Anthony Davis rumors but he hasn’t let it effect his game. He’s continued to play hard and has started to really figure out his shot selection. At times he seems to dribble the air out of the ball only to end up taking a contested fadeaway. Lately, he’s been more deliberate with his offense and has been more conscious of what is a good shot and what is a bad one. This improvement in shot selection has also opened up his passing game a bit as he’s starting to show that aspect of his game.
Kyrie Irving: A
Last but not least, we have Kyrie Irving and the season he’s put together for this team. Other than the constant berating on where he’s playing next season, it’s been a signature season for Irving. After years of being an iso-scorer and someone who did most of his damage in the points department, his game has opened up under Brad Stevens. Irving is averaging career highs in shooting percentage, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. He’s proved that he can run an offense and the Celtics have had a bunch of games where they’ve topped out at 30+ steals. I attribute this ball movement to Irving as he is what makes this team go on offense. He ranks 4th in the NBA in Clutch Points Per game at 4.8 and he’s shown the ability to will this team to a handful of wins. The defense has been on point as well as we’ve seen a willingness from him to compete hard on that end.
Now that I’ve gotten these grades out of the way, NBA plz come back, I miss you… dearly.
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