Blakely: Celtics midseason report card

Blakely: Celtics midseason report card
January 18, 2014, 4:30 pm
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It has been a season of teaching for the Boston Celtics, now halfway through the "school year."

There have been big wins, bad losses, blown assignments and a slew of other ups and downs.

And while the Celtics' record (14-27) isn't as good as they would like it to be, there has been considerable promise shown by several players.

So in grading them, their impact on this team - not the NBA - has to be a central focus.

"We have a long way to go," said Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations. "There's a lot of good, positive things happening with our team. A lot of good development that's going on with a lot of our young guys."

But within their development, Boston has also seen growth from a leadership standpoint in others such as Brandon Bass.

"I definitely feel I need to take on a little more of a leadership role this year," Bass told CSNNE.com recently. "Maybe do a little more than I've done in the past to help our team win."

Said Ainge: "We have some good veteran guys that have been great examples and hard workers for our young guys. We're figuring out who we want on the bus."


TOP OF THE CLASS

Avery Bradley

There hasn't been a Celtics player more consistent at both ends of the floor this season, than Bradley. He's shooting the ball more, scoring more points and maybe most important, has developed into the kind of all-around player that teams have to be concerned with on many levels. Throw in the fact that this has been the healthiest he has been since coming into the NBA, it adds up to an impact player that will have a decent amount of suitors this summer when he becomes a restricted free agent. GRADE: B+

Jared Sullinger

Sullinger has risen to the challenge of being the low-post presence the Celtics have been dying to have. And the more he plays, the better he seems to be at making his presence felt. Making his play all the more impressive has been the Celtics using him at the center position where he has been at a height disadvantage most of the time and yet still manages to put up big numbers and hold his own or outplay his opponent. GRADE: B+


Kris Humphries

Arguably the biggest surprise this season for the Celtics, Humphries embodies what coaches talk about when they tell players to, "stay the course." From spot-duty at the start of the season to being a starter in Boston's last six games, Humphries has not only bolstered Boston's interior presence but has also improved his stock in the eyes of other NBA teams heading into free agency this summer. GRADE: B+

GOOD BUT NOT GREAT

Brandon Bass

Bass has shown the ability to do so much more than expected when the season started. Once a defensive liability, Bass took it upon himself to be the team's defensive anchor. Known primarily for his pick-and-pop shooting, he has become a better passer which has all but killed the "No-Pass-Bass" moniker he came to Boston with, from Orlando. But his play of late has leveled off, opening the door for Kris Humphries to get more minutes. And with the emergence of Kelly Olynyk lately, Bass' impact on the Celtics may continue to lessen. That said, it shouldn't take away from what has been a better-than-average season for Bass. GRADE: B

Phil Pressey

No Celtic player has come on as strong lately as Pressey who has 19 assists without a single turnover in his last two games. Most significant about that is he has done it both as a starter and as a backup coming off the bench behind Rajon Rondo. And if he continues to show more confidence in his shooting, Pressey has the potential to become a big-time, difference-maker off the bench. Grade: B

Kelly Olynyk

Like most rookies, Olynyk's play has been up and down this season. But the one thing that has been steady throughout has been his feel for the game. He's a 7-footer with a point guard's mentality, a rare combination in this day and age. Look for his role, and playing time, to continue to rise as the season progresses. GRADE: B

PASSING

Gerald Wallace

As much as you like his veteran leadership and willingness to call his teammates out collectively when they don't play the right way, "Crash" isn't exactly setting the NBA ablaze when he's on the floor. The more you watch him, the clearer it becomes that this 31-year-old, high-energy veteran has lost a step. That's not a knock on him. That's just the reality of what happens when a player like Wallace gets older after having made a career out of utilizing his athleticism and effort to be an impact player. The effort is still there, but the athleticism has definitely started to taper off.

He knows this. The Celtics know this. And every team that Boston plays, they know it as well. But to his credit, he shows up every game ready to compete which is the kind of veteran you want for a young, impressionable team like the Celtics are now. GRADE: C+


Jeff Green

Maybe the most frustrating player on the Celtics roster because of the gap that exists between his talent (off the charts) and production (not so great), you really don't know what you're going to get from him on any given night. He can dominate a game on Sunday, disappear on Monday and re-surface with a big performance afterwards. There's a part of him that wants to be the go-to guy, the player that gets the job done down the stretch. And while he has hit more than his share of game-winning, buzzer-beaters, he still tends to disappear during stretches that if he were more consistent, there would be no need for a heroic, late-game shot. And defensively, he has made progress but like his scoring, that too is inconsistent. The return of Rondo should take some of the "be-the-man" burden/pressure off of Green which could bode well for him and the Celtics going forward. GRADE: C+


Vitor Faverani

Although he is 25 years old, Faverani is still an NBA rookie who is experiencing the ins and outs of NBA life. Part of that involves knowing how to handle success and struggles which tend to go hand-in-hand for young big men. To Faverani's credit, he has dealt with being in the rotation some nights and not playing others, as well as you can expect. He has some skills that make him the kind of player you want to keep around and develop. No offense to Sullinger, but Faverani has the best looking 3-point shot among the team's big men even if his numbers might suggest otherwise. For Faverani, the main thing is to become more steady and make his presence felt when he gets into the game. That doesn't mean he has to go out and score a bunch of points. But by getting rebounds, maybe a block here and there while mixing in an occasional 3-pointer, it would greatly enhance his chances of playing for what's starting to become a crowded frontcourt. GRADE: C


INCOMPLETE

Rajon Rondo

His body of work consists of one game, and that was Friday's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers - almost a year after his torn right ACL injury. As expected, there was some clear rust in Rondo's game to start. But as he warmed up, he got better and started doing Rondo-like things such as his up-and-under scoop shot and getting a steal that starts a fast break which ends with a Celtics basket. But what remains to be seen is his recovery time from playing in games, even with his minutes being restricted. Rondo felt good about an hour after Friday's loss, but who knows how he'll feel a day or two later.  As hopeful has Rondo's play was in his season opener, there are just too many unknowns to give him a fair grade. GRADE: INCOMPLETE

Keith Bogans

Bogans' excused absence from the Celtics hasn't been a distraction or issue for the team because the player involved, didn't really play. And that right there is why both sides are where they are now. The Celtics know he's unhappy with sitting. So rather than risk that disappointment becoming an issue inside the locker room, they sent him home with pay. Because he played so sparingly, it's hard to tell if Bogans still has anything of significance to offer other than a tradable contract. It's unlikely that he'll get a chance, even if there were injuries, to see action with the Celtics. Hopefully both sides can find a common ground that will allow each to come away feeling good. We'll see. GRADE: INCOMPLETE


Jerryd Bayless

This was a tough one to toss into the incomplete category because he played quite a bit with his previous team, the Memphis Grizzlies. But I'm judging these players as Celtics. Because of that, it just didn't seem fair to grade him for what has been a handful of games with very few practices sprinkled in. That said, Bayless has been pretty good all things considered. He has had a game or two where for a period of time, he was the best player on the floor. But more often than not, he looks like a new guy thinking rather than just playing the way he knows how to play. Still, considering Bayless' talent and the financial savings Boston received in trading Courtney Lee for him, he has been a good acquisition so far. GRADE: INCOMPLETE


Joel Anthony

One of the newest members of the Boston Celtics, Anthony has not played a single minute for the Green team yet. Even as he tries to catch up, it's hard to imagine his limited playing time with Miami being all that different now that he's a Boston Celtic. GRADE: INCOMPLETE


Chris Johnson

Guys on 10-day contracts learn not to get too comfortable, and Johnson won't be an exception to that rule. He spent eight games with the Memphis Grizzlies last year, the kind of experience that can only help him whenever he gets his chance to play. GRADE: INCOMPLETE