Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

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Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

Post by 112288 on Wed Jan 23, 2013 4:11 pm

By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

The Boston Celtics stumbled into the midpoint of the 2012-13 season riding a four-game losing streak that dropped the team one game under .500 (20-21) and left it six games back in the Atlantic Division and clinging to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

This isn't what Boston had in mind when it reassembled much of its core and revamped its bench during the offseason. We break out our red pens and assign grades for the first half of the season and, in the process, it becomes painfully clear why this team has underperformed:

(Players sorted by total minutes played)

2013 Celtics Midseason Grades

Paul Pierce

The bad news: Pierce has really struggled with his shot, particularly during Boston's current four-game losing streak. The good news: He's still finding ways to produce at an All-Star-caliber level, leading the team in scoring (18.9 points per game) and being the sort of all-around player who still carries this squad on a night-to-night basis. Pierce's rebounds are up, his turnovers are down, and he's been solid at the league's toughest position to defend. At age 35, Pierce has to be more creative in generating open looks, but he'll be fine once those shots start falling. It's amazing that Pierce still tops the team in minutes, and he is clearly fighting to turn this thing around. Grade: B

Kevin Garnett

Even at age 36, Garnett is so incredibly consistent, his numbers just don't waver. The Celtics have trimmed a minute from Garnett's playing time, but his per-36 numbers are remarkably in line with recent seasons. The only red flag: Garnett's total rebound percentage is down to 14 percent (from 15.6 last year and 17.5 the year before). Some of that might simply be having to share boards with rookie Jared Sullinger (as well as an uptick in rebounding for Pierce and Rajon Rondo). Garnett started slow defensively, his numbers hurt by trying to help every time a teammate got beat. But his marks -- like those of the Celtics -- have rebounded a bit, and Garnett is allowing a mere 0.753 points per play, ranking in the 87th percentile overall, according to Synergy Sports data. Grade: B-minus

Rajon Rondo

Maybe our expectations for Rondo are simply too high. He leads the NBA at 11.1 assists per game, and he's flirting with a career high at 13.4 points per game on 48.4 percent shooting while showing improved consistency in his midrange game. And yet he still doesn't get to the free throw line enough (2.5 FTA per game), and his defense has regressed considerably (his individual numbers are solid, but as was hammered home in Tuesday's loss to the Cavaliers, Rondo is getting beat off the dribble too often, forcing the back line to help and creating cracks in the defense). As Pierce struggles, we'd like to see Rondo put this team on his back even more. But it really starts on defense, where he needs to gamble less and prevent so much dribble penetration. Grade: C-plus

Jason Terry

Let's face it, no one has underperformed more than Terry. The Celtics used their only real offseason chip to lure the 35-year-old bench spark on a three-year, $15.7 million deal. He's down nearly five shots per game (despite playing just three fewer minutes) and he's clearly struggling to generate quality looks (worse yet, he's shooting only 42.7 percent overall and 35.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc). His veteran leadership is great for a youthful second unit, but his offensive struggles have only been compounded by an abysmal defensive season. Terry is allowing 0.942 points per play, ranking in the 21st percentile among all league defenders, according to Synergy. Put another way: Of the 148 players with at least 300 defensive plays this season, Terry ranks 137th. It's not fair to harp on his defense -- that's not his calling card -- but the offense most certainly has to come along. He'd likely be the first to admit that. Grade: D

Jeff Green

There are those that will think this grade should be even harsher, but your expectations were likely grander than they should have been. Look at Green's career per-36-minute numbers. This is who he is. We see glimpses that suggest there's more than what he has displayed over his five-year career, and yet the numbers simply don't waver. Green has played a career-low 23.2 minutes per game, but hasn't exactly justified more. He's shooting a career-low 42.2 percent from the floor, and his rebound rate remains atrocious while his turnover percentage is up. Green has been a solid individual defender but needs to improve in help situations. The on/off numbers continue to be condemning, as Boston has played better when he's on the bench. Grade: C-minus

Avery Bradley

It's hard to grade Bradley on 10 games, particularly when he's been battling a rib injury the past couple. But it's impossible to ignore how much Boston's team defensive numbers improved upon his return. Individually, Bradley is allowing a mere 0.675 points per play, ranking in the 97th percentile among all players, according to Synergy. It's a small sample, but there's little reason to believe Bradley will relent. Opponents are shooting a mere 28.1 percent against him (16-for-57), and he turns them over 15.6 percent of the time. He quickly found his 3-point stroke and is emerging as a solid corner option. All he needs is his midrange shot to start falling again. Grade: B-plus

Brandon Bass

What happened here? Bass opted out of the final year of his contract, but he took a bit of a discount to return to Boston on a three-year, $19.4 million contract. Despite spending the majority of the first half in his familiar starting role, Bass' numbers have dived, and that's led to his playing time dropping down 5½ minutes per game (with the Celtics leaning on rookie Sullinger more off the bench). Bass' defensive rebounding rate is down, his turnovers are up and his defense has regressed considerably. One of Boston's best individual defenders last season, he's looked lost at times in help situations. The Celtics need Bass, who typically doesn't lack for confidence, to start playing with that familiar fearlessness again. Grade: D

Courtney Lee

Lee has struggled with his 3-point shot, had an alarming amount of turnovers and his individual defense has been up-and-down -- and yet, he's really been the least of Boston's problems. Lee is quietly shooting a career-best 47 percent, this despite the fact that he is shooting a mere 34.7 percent beyond the 3-point arc (after shooting 40+ percent in three of his first four NBA seasons). The long-distance shooting will come, but the Celtics simply need him to be the more consistent individual defender that he's been in the past. Particularly having to share the floor with Terry on the second unit, Lee needs to take the defense baton from Bradley and lock down the best opposing perimeter player. Grade: B-minus

Jared Sullinger

Sullinger is third in the NBA in personal fouls (143), only seven behind Indiana's Roy Hibbert for the top spot in the league. And even as he battles rookie whistles, he's been nothing short of spectacular. Sullinger's overall numbers won't floor you (6.2 points, 6.1 rebounds over 20.1 minutes per game), but hone in on January and those numbers jump to 8.3 points and 8.6 rebounds over 25.6 minutes per game. Sullinger is a beast on the glass, and his total rebound rate (18.2) is on par with Denver glass-chewer Kenneth Faried (18.4). What's more, Sullinger has been a terrific individual defender, allowing a mere 0.724 points per play and ranking in the 91st percentile, according to Synergy. Of players with at least 275 total defensive plays, Sullinger ranks sixth in the league in points per play (with the likes of Dwight Howard and Joakim Noah right behind him). Grade: A

Leandro Barbosa

Barbosa is the perfect 12th man. He provides emergency depth at a stocked guard spot, while offering instant offense when called upon (which actually may not be enough for a woeful Boston offense). Barbosa is averaging 0.962 points per play -- the same number as Garnett (albeit in far fewer chances). Sure, he feasts on trash-time opportunities, but as a minimum-contract player, he has immense value to this team, particularly when injuries arise. And he's a serviceable defender when called upon, thanks to his speed and ability to fight over screens. Grade: B

Chris Wilcox

It's really hard to grade Wilcox, particularly because he's been limited to 23 games due to injury. You have to like his 71.4 field goal percentage (he actually ranks in the 99th percentile among all NBA players while averaging 1.225 points per play in his limited touches, according to Synergy). He's one of the few bigs who can run with Rondo and finish near the hoop. When he's back on the floor, he simply needs to be more aggressive on the glass (his total rebound percentage plummeted to 10.3 percent, including a mere 12.7 percent on the defensive glass). He's a solid backup big-man option if he can stay healthy. Grade: C

Jason Collins

Just as advertised, Collins provides stout defense in sporadic minutes and should be avoided at all costs on the offensive end. Individually on defense, Collins allowed a mere 0.678 points per play and ranked in the 96th percentile, according to Synergy data. He had a nice little run as a starter, taking some of the wear-and-tear off Garnett at center. But his offensive limitations quickly forced Boston away from that lineup and made him a situational player. The Celtics clearly need to add another big man soon to help defray the frontcourt load. Grade: C

Fab Melo

The Celtics have stuck to their decision to keep rookie Melo with the Maine Red Claws of the D-League. The 7-footer is getting valuable experience while learning the Boston system away from the glare of the NBA spotlight. There have been encouraging moments, like his late-December outburst that featured a monster triple-double where he tied the D-League record for single-game blocks. And then there's been the Doc Rivers-dubbed "Fab Being Fab" moments, like concussing himself on a low-hanging doorway at the team hotel, an accident that set back his development momentarily. Rivers has noted that no one seems to think Melo is NBA ready at the moment, but he will help this team in the future. Grade: Incomplete

Doc Rivers

Inconsistent play and injuries have forced Rivers to scramble a bit with his rotations, particularly early in the season. Ultimately, the performance of a team -- particularly one as talented as Boston -- falls back on the coach, and Rivers hasn't been able to get the full potential out of his squad. It's not for a lack of trying. Rivers earlier this week dipped into the coaching toolbox and surprisingly threatened changes to his team if it doesn't start playing with more consistency. As the Celtics head to the back nine of the 2012-13 season, this is an incredibly important stretch to see if players respond to his outburst and avoid the lulls that have plagued the team over the first 41 games. Grade: C-minus

Danny Ainge

No GM can really be judged until season's end. We like that both Rivers and Ainge have remained patient in this process. Ainge and his staff (assistant GMs Mike Zarren and Ryan McDonough, and director of player personnel Austin Ainge) cobbled together a deep and talented roster this offseason with limited chips, but it simply hasn't translated on the floor. Ainge didn't overreact with an early panic move and is letting his team's play dictate how active he'll be as the trade deadline approaches. Darko Milicic's decision to leave the team hurt the frontcourt depth, and Ainge's biggest midseason task is finding a player who can help shore up that front line. With two open roster spots (this after waiving Jarvis Varnado and Kris Joseph before contracts went guaranteed), it also wouldn't hurt if Ainge could find another ball handler or consistent scoring threat to fill out the bench. Grade: Incomplete
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Midseason superlatives for C's

By Greg Payne | ESPNBoston.com

The All-Star break might still be a few weeks away, but the Celtics hit the halfway mark of their 82-game regular-season schedule on Tuesday night, losers of four straight and boasting a 20-21 record overall. With half of the 2012-2013 season behind us, it's time to reflect a bit and hand out some midseason superlatives.

BEST WIN: Jan. 7: Celtics 102, Knicks 96

Boston entered Madison Square Garden on a modest but encouraging two-game winning streak, only to receive word hours before tipoff that Rajon Rondo would be suspended for the night for making contact with a referee during the previous game. Still, the Celtics came out with an inspired defensive effort and got under New York's skin a bit (Carmelo Anthony's postgame tirade proved that) as they embraced an atmosphere that grew more intense with each quarter. Paul Pierce helped seal things with a huge jumper over Tyson Chandler with 45 seconds left, and Boston waltzed off Broadway with its third straight victory.

WORST LOSS: Jan. 20: Pistons 103, Celtics 88

Umm, take your pick, right? Unfortunately the Celtics' inconsistencies this season have given way to more head-scratching losses than quality victories. You could make a case for any of the final three losses during the west coast swing late in December, or even Tuesday's 95-90 loss to the lowly Cavaliers, good for Boston's fourth straight defeat. But we'll go with Sunday's 103-88 loss to the Pistons. Doc Rivers' postgame tirade and threats of potential roster changes are too great to ignore. While not necessarily rock-bottom for this club, Sunday was the clearest sign yet that Rivers is growing impatient with his club's inconsistent effort.

BEST DUNK: Nov. 14: Jeff Green posterizes Al Jefferson

Jeff Green hasn't shown much in the way of consistency this season, but he has had a habit of delivering highlight-worthy dunks on a pretty regular basis. Noting at one point that he enjoys being a highlight to his teammates, Green's had some of his finest moments of the season attacking the rim and slamming the ball home. Arguably his best one of the first half came against the Utah Jazz midway through November. Green started on the left wing, tore into the paint, rose up and brought the ball down hard on old friend Al Jefferson, who was helpless trying to defend the play.

BEST ASSIST: Jan. 14: Rajon Rondo to Courtney Lee vs. Bobcats

Everyone knows Rondo's a wizard with the basketball as he utilizes his enormous hands to control the rock and hit his teammates with pinpoint passes from difficult angles. Against the Bobcats last Monday, Rondo split the pick-and-roll, advanced down the left side of the lane, faked the ball back with his left hand, brought it back to his midsection, rose up, and fired off a laser underhand pass with his right hand to a slicing Courtney Lee along the left baseline. Lee finished the play with a tough up-and-under on the right side.

BEST LATE-GAME SHOT: Dec. 21: Paul Pierce's 3-pointer vs. Milwaukee

Though the Celtics eventually lost in overtime to the Bucks late in December, getting to the extra frame gave us one of the most exciting sequences of the first half of the season. With Boston down 88-85 with 11 seconds left, Rondo picked off a Brandon Jennings pass and immediately fed an open Jason Terry on the left side. Terry motored up the floor and rose up for a potential game-tying 3-pointer with seven seconds left, only to see the shot clang off the right side of the rim. But Green was there to smack the ball back out to the top of the key -- right to Pierce. Pierce collected the ball and calmly rose up and buried the game-tying 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds to play.

MOST OVERPERFORMING OFFSEASON ADDITION: Jared Sullinger

The Celtics' brass was awfully busy last summer, re-signing the likes of Brandon Bass and Green, luring Terry, a coveted free agent, and trading for the versatile Lee. But through 41 games, it's been Boston's top pick from last June's draft who's had arguably the greatest impact. While many of those other players have yet to fully meet expectations, Sullinger has exceeded virtually all of his. He's emerged as Boston's most consistent bench presence, as well as one of its two best rebounders, alongside Garnett. With a nose for the ball and a soft touch around the rim, Sullinger has already cemented his value to the Celtics this season. On top of that, he knows where he needs to make improvements, with cutting back on personal fouls at the very top of his list.

MOST UNDERPERFORMING OFFSEASON ACQUISITION: Jason Terry

Green and Bass were contenders for this one, but Terry's overall lack of production has stood out the most. To be fair, Terry was in an undesirable position at the beginning of the season, rotating in and out of the starting lineup and not having a set role. But not even Avery Bradley's return at the start of the calendar year has helped Terry re-establish himself as a go-to offensive player. In the month of January Terry's averaged just 5.9 points on 39.4 percent shooting from the floor and an even more unsightly 28.1 percent from 3-point nation. There's still half a season for Terry to turn things around, and we aren't saying he can't. But at this point, he hasn't justified the three-year, $15.7 million deal he signed last summer.

BEST SINGLE-GAME PERFORMANCE: Dec. 19: Paul Pierce vs. Cleveland

For one night, all the talk of Paul Pierce being an older player went out the window as he put on a retro scoring display against the Cavaliers last month. Pierce put in a season-high 40 points in just 34 minutes, connecting on 13 of his 16 shots, six of his seven 3-point field goal attempts, and all eight of his free throws. On top of adding eight rebounds, five assists, three steals, and just a single turnover to his totals, Pierce finished a whopping plus-29 in plus/minus as he led the Celtics to a comfortable 103-91 victory over Cleveland.

BEST OPPONENT PERFORMANCE: Jan. 22: Kyrie Irving

Not to pour salt into what is likely still an open wound, but Irving's 40-point outing on Tuesday was easily the best single-game performance Boston has seen from an opposing player this season. Rondo was ineffective in his attempts to stay in front of Irving and even the (slightly hobbled) Avery Bradley could do little to slow Cleveland's dynamic point guard. Rivers admitted after the game that he voted for Irving as an All-Star reserve, and why not? As he showed during his 16-of-24 shooting effort against Boston -- which included a 19-point first quarter and a 15-point fourth quarter -- Irving's one of the NBA's best young talents.

MOST QUOTABLE (AT LEAST WITH THE CURSES EDITED OUT): Darko Milicic

Garnett always deserves mention in this category, but we have to show some love for former Celtic Darko Milicic here. Milicic's stint with Boston ended late in November when he returned to Serbia to be with his ill mother, but not before he graced the microphones of reporters with a somewhat humorous string of expletive-laced remarks. Back in October, after proclaiming to reporters that he felt "strong as [expletive]," Milicic was asked if the team's preseason journey to Europe was fun for him, which netted this response: "No. We had to stop in [expletive] Iceland to refuel. That was terrible. I mean, especially that I came from there. I lived there, so I came from there five, six days before, and then came back again. Switched those time zones two times, I mean, I don't even know what is day or night, or what day, what year."

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Re: Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

Post by sam on Wed Jan 23, 2013 8:43 pm

112288

Not that his grade has room for improvement, Sully gets extra credit for (a) playing in every game and (b) being the only Celtic to improve consistently over the first half of the season.

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Re: Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

Post by 112288 on Wed Jan 23, 2013 8:58 pm

Sam,

I'll add one other....he's a rookie.....and he's playing now like a veteran!

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Re: Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

Post by steve3344 on Wed Jan 23, 2013 9:59 pm

Lots of C's and D's, which is appropriate for a sub-.500 team at the midway mark of the season.

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Re: Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

Post by sam on Wed Jan 23, 2013 10:09 pm

Hey Steve, what ever happened to the initiative you were working on with Janis' family?

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Re: Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

Post by hawksnestbeach on Wed Jan 23, 2013 11:29 pm

To my fellow sufferers: "Ultimately, the performance of a team -- particularly one as talented as Boston -- falls back on the coach, and Rivers hasn't been able to get the full potential out of his squad."
Is this a fair statement? Is Doc the primary reason the Celtics are losing now? I ask because we spend far more time getting on players like Rondo, Bass, Green and Jet than the guy who is giving them minutes. Sam, with cogent analysis of the nearly play-less offense, is hovering in the same territory: the coach is charged with drawing the x's and o's and making sure the players execute.
They aren't.
As for the player-by-player, my take:
"It's amazing that Pierce still tops the team in minutes..." Forseberg writes. I'd say it's not amazing; it's a mistake.
KG - still effective, but not superhuman.
Rondo - frustrated.
Terry - has-been
Green - jury's out
Bradley - a warrior
Bass - Lost in the shuffle
Lee - Hope here.
Sullinger - My new fav.
Barbosa - Underused microwave
Wilcox - Snake-bit
Collins - if you can't say something nice...
Melo _ Like everything about this guy, especially his name. Hawk


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Re: Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

Post by steve3344 on Thu Jan 24, 2013 3:13 am

sam wrote:Hey Steve, what ever happened to the initiative you were working on with Janis' family?

Sam

Dealing with the lawyer for her estate at the moment. If a deal can't be worked out I'll release it with a company in Europe since the performance (Fall of 1962) is beyond the 50-year copyright laws. I'll keep you posted.

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Re: Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

Post by sinus007 on Thu Jan 24, 2013 11:40 am

Hi,
Here is kind of related article.
I like it for most part.

As for the grades, I agree with Hawks' grades.

AK

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Re: Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

Post by 112288 on Thu Jan 24, 2013 11:51 am

Good post. It's like living in the twilight zone!

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Re: Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

Post by dboss on Thu Jan 24, 2013 12:25 pm

I disagree with several grades handed out by Forsberg

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Re: Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

Post by 112288 on Thu Jan 24, 2013 12:37 pm

Dboss,

Which ones?

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Re: Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

Post by 112288 on Thu Jan 24, 2013 6:50 pm

TONIGHT NOT ONLY DO WE HAVE TO BATTLE THE KNICKS...BUT WE ALSO HAVE TO BATTLE JOEY CRAWFORD!


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Re: Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

Post by sinus007 on Thu Jan 24, 2013 7:28 pm

112288,
You will be punished! You're supposed to bring good news - didn't you get the memo? Evil or Very Mad

AK

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Re: Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

Post by 112288 on Thu Jan 24, 2013 7:44 pm

OOOOOOOOH BOY........GUESS I'M NOT RECEIVING ANY TOMMY POINTS TONIGHT!


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Re: Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

Post by dboss on Fri Jan 25, 2013 6:14 am

112288

Would switch grades for PP and RR

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Re: Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

Post by sinus007 on Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:28 am

112288,
You're off the hook - Joey behaved last night. Unfortunately, it didn't help...

AK

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Re: Grading the Celtics at midway Point/ Midseason superlatives for C's

Post by sam on Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:04 am

Hawk,

Well thought-out, concise characterizations.

Did you see the play, out of a timeout, on which (I think I've got the players right), KG had the ball outside, Pierce looped around KG and made a move to the hoop, drawing defenders, and either Terry or Lee (I think it was Terry) looped around following Pierce; and KG made the short, safe pass to Terry, who had a wide-open jumper. I almost broke into tears as I yelled, "A play, a play!."

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