Blakely's Celtics awards for November

Blakely's Celtics awards for November
December 2, 2013, 12:00 pm
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The Celtics' death march, better known to you and me as the month of November, has mercifully come to an end.

As eager as they are to move on to the more schedule-friendly month of December, November wasn't all bad for the Green team. Boston (7-12) certainly isn't giddy about its record, even if it keeps them in the thick of the Atlantic Division race (can we call it a race? Really?) where it seems one strong week is all it takes to go from worst to first.

But the Celtics have to be pleased with the way they were able to compete most nights to the point where victory was well within their grasp. It wasn't until the ninth game of the season did the fourth quarter not include a Boston lead.

That kind of effort at the start of the season sent a message both to the Celtics and their opponents.

"They're not backing down from nobody," Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph told CSNNE.com. "They don't care what people say, about them not being this or that. They come to compete, man. You have to respect that, for real."

That competitiveness has involved just about every player on the roster getting a chance to play and establish themselves this season. Some have made the most of those opportunities, while others have not.

As we bid adieu to the month of November, here's some end-of-the-month love for some of the Celtics who stood out among their Green-and-white clad peers.

BEST ROOKIE - Kelly Olynyk
The more he played, the better Olynyk seemed to get. The 7-foot rookie is playing the way a lottery pick (top-14) should, which is to make your share of rookie mistakes but show enough flashes of talent to validate being among the first players chosen.

Because of his size and the Celtics' lack of big men, Olynyk has to play more in the post than he's used to. To his credit, he has quickly figured out how to be effective scoring and finding teammates, as well as defending the position.

Although he has missed the last five games while recovering from a right ankle sprain, it doesn't take away from what has been a solid start to what looks like a promising NBA career.

"Kelly does so many things for us that go unnoticed," said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

Runner-up: Vitor Faverani

MOST IMPROVED — Jordan Crawford
Crawford is a great example of what happens when opportunity, maturity and talent all come together at the same time. While many see Crawford's playmaking this season as a refreshing side of him that was seldom seen in the past, it should serve as a reminder of how a player's success is often dictated not by their talent, but by the role they are asked to play.

After being a combo guard since college, Crawford has been given a chance to play the point - the position he played growing up. His court vision and ability to beat players off the dribble are two of the pillars that every point guard has to have and we've seen this part of Crawford's game get better before our very eyes.

When you combine that with his ability to score, it really shouldn't be a huge shock that he's having a significant impact on the Celtics in a positive manner.

He's averaging 12.4 points per game while shooting career-highs from the field (43.3 percent) and three-point range (35.6 percent). But the biggest compliment to his growth has nothing to do with him tallying career highs in just about every statistical category. It is how he has been able to be both a calming and confidence-boosting influence on this team.

"Everybody has their own swagger in their own way," said Boston's Brandon Bass. "I just think that he displays his a lot more than everybody else. But you know what? I don't think nothing's wrong with it. You need swagger. It shows you are very confident in yourself, and I guess it would rub off on everyone else."

Runner-up: Jared Sullinger

BEST DEFENDER - Brandon Bass
Of all the surprises we have seen with this Celtics team, I don't know if there's a bigger one than what we've seen defensively from Brandon Bass. In addition to making us all forget about the "No Pass Bass" nickname he had when he arrived in Boston, he has also gone about stepping his game up as a reliable anchor defensively.

Yes, Brandon Bass is a good defender which is a slew of words I never thought I would ever string together. But it's true.

With Bass, it was never about ability. It was about his willingness to put his words of wanting to be a better defender into action. He has been a tireless worker all season at being the best all-around player he can be, and a big part of that includes being a stout defender.

"That's what this team needs from me," he told CSNNE.com.

Bass will never be confused with former Celtic Kevin Garnett when it comes to defense, but you can see Garnett's influence.

"I want that responsibility, to be the anchor of our defense," Bass said. "It's not easy. But this is the NBA. It shouldn't be easy. But I like the challenge and I think I'm up for it."

When Boston wins, Bass' defense has usually been one of the reasons why. Of the Celtics who average at least 30 minutes played per game, Bass' defensive rating of 92.9 in victories is tops on the team.

Bass: Good defender. Has a nice ring to it, huh?

Runner-up: Avery Bradley

MVP — Avery Bradley
You could just as easily have pegged him for the team's most improved player or, of course, its top defender. And that's why he's the MVP so far.

Bradley has made the kind of progress in his all-around game while staying true to what he does best, which is defend at a high level. But no longer can be he seen as an afterthought offensively on an opposing team's scouting report.

Bradley is trending towards becoming one of the game's best mid-range shooters, while still being a bit of a pest for opposing ball-carriers.

But what elevated him to the top of the Celtics food chain for November had more to do with the example he sets. He had his share of breakout-type games in November, but there was a certain consistency he brought to the floor every night that stood out.

Defend the opposing team's best guard? Check.

Rebound the ball? Check.

Knock down jumpers and occasionally slide over to play the point? Double-check.

And while he doesn't do any of those things flawlessly, he does them well enough for the Celtics to function, and, for most of this season, actually have a chance to win.

All players fluctuate in their play and performance, but no Celtic has been as steady in their game and demeanor, as Bradley. That's why there isn't a single starter with more job security than him.

Boston head coach Brad Stevens wants his team to play at a high level, consistently. And Bradley is the one guy he already knows he can count on to do that, every game.

But what really separates Bradley is how -- despite the progress he has made individually -- he remains hungry and humble about the process of improvement.

"My teammates now ... they know I'm just going to continue to work," Bradley said. "I just have to continue to put in the work."

Runner-up: Jeff Green