By Tyler Sullivan Follow on Twitter @TylerSully
At the quarter mark of the season, the Celtics (13-9) are pretty much right where most people pegged them to be at this point. Right in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race and have been a tough out for even the NBA’s elite.
This team is good. Championship good? No. But they should and expect to be in the playoffs. Maybe even win a couple rounds.
Here are some high, lows, stats and even a report card that recaps the first part of the season for the C’s.
Eastern Conference Playoff Picture (as of 12/10)
- Cleveland Cavaliers (14-7)
- Charlotte Hornets (13-8)
- Toronto Raptors (14-9)
- Atlanta Hawks (14-9)
- Indiana Pacers (12-8)
- Miami Heat (12-8)
- Boston Celtics (13-9)
- Chicago Bulls (11-8)
The mediocre Eastern Conference has held true to its mediocre status, but the Celtics have put themselves in position to make the playoffs. Even though they are one game out of first place in the East in the win column, beating Cleveland is unrealistic. The 2-seed however is not, but that says more about the conference than anything else. Still, the Celtics are not hurting their cause and could be in the top-5 by seasons end.
We knew that Boston’s defense was going to be their calling card, but their offense (partially because of the defense) has been a pleasant surprise. They are in the top-10 (8th) in the league in points scored averaging 103.2 a game and their bench contributes 40.8 of the points on average (3rd in the NBA).
The C’s are also giving themselves second chance points grabbing 262 offensive rebounds (4th in the NBA) so far this year.
The biggest reason why the Celtics offense has been effective is their unselfishness. This team is so balanced (the nice way of saying they don’t have a superstar) that they are always looking for the open guy and find him by sensational passing. They are 5th in the NBA in total assists.
90.6% of the Celtics made 3 pointers come off assists and 55.4% of their shots inside the arch are off the assist.
Defensively, this team is dynamite. They lead the league in steals (244) and are running away with in the forced turnovers category (412).
They are only allowing 97.9 points per game (7th best in the NBA).
Boston is also going up-tempo ranking in the top five in Pace with 98.4 possessions per game.
Celtics had a great win against the Bulls on a night when they weren’t playing their best and gutted through to get the W. That however was not the best game of the season for the Celtics.
Boston was on the last leg of their ten day-five game road trip and were playing a Pelicans team who just beat the Cavs in their most recent game. After a close loss to the Spurs, Boston responded with five Celtics players finishing the game with double figured and ended the road trip on a solid note.
Danny Ainge agrees.
The 111-101 loss to Brooklyn on November 22nd was simply unacceptable. In a game that does not just matters for the present standings, but the C’s future, it was a bad night not to show up.
One win can make the difference in the lottery.
2016 NBA Draft
Speaking of Brooklyn lets take a look at where the Celtics are at draft pick-wise if the season ended today and the ping pong balls go as they are projected to.
Brooklyn’s pick would end up being the 4th overall pick, Boston own pick would place them 14th overall and Dallas’ first rounder is down at 20th overall.
Is that enough to pool together and trade to the number 1 spot and select Ben Simmons? Didn’t think so. Let’s hope the Nets get lucky in the Lottery.
- Isaiah Thomas – He’s been a lightening rod offensively for the Celtics leading the team with 21 PPG, but it’s been his passing ability (6.3 assists per game) that has been the bonus. However, he’s been overmatched at times on the defensive end especially against a taller opponent. Grade: A–
- Avery Bradley – I wrote before the season that if Bradley truly does eliminate that long 2pt-shot from his arsenal and turns it into a three pointer, he’d have his best year as a pro. That’s exactly what is happening. AB has been great from 3-point land hitting 42.6% of his shots. His defense has also been superb. Grade: A
- Jared Sullinger – A lot of Celtics followers (myself included) were ready to write off Sully if he got off to a bad start, but he’s won everyone over with his play. He doesn’t really look like he’s slimmed down physically, but you can tell he is in better shape by the way he’s running around at the end of games. Offensively and defensively he’s my first quarter MVP. That being said, he did not play well in the Brooklyn loss that was killer for the green. Grade: A
- Amir Johnson – Had a slow start to his Celtics career, but Amir has come on as of late and has really anchored this team defensively. He and Sullinger are in the top-10 in Defensive plus/minus. Grade: B
- David Lee – Injuries and some lack of playing time has halted his season, but he was a vital part in sparking the Boston’s win over the Bulls. He has also been a great veteran voice in the locker room. Grade: B
- Jae Crowder – The NBA league leader in steals turned his great defense into transition offense and has been a major bright spot for Boston. He is hitting the 3-pointer with some regularity and is 15th in the NBA with a 98.4 defensive rating. Grade: A
- Kelly Olynyk – When he’s aggressive on offense, he’s a factor. When he’s not, he’s still a factor just not in a positive way. Needs to find more consistency. Grade: B-
- Evan Turner – It’s not always pretty, but Turner more often than not gets the job done and is a really nice piece for the Celtics off the bench. He’s also the best personality on the C’s. Grade: B-
- Marcus Smart – By far the Celtics best defender, but injuries have stunted his growth in his second year in the league. When he returns, Smart needs to hit shots with more regularity. Grade: C+
- R.J. Hunter – If you asked, most people would assume he was the Celtics first pick in the draft not Rozier, by the way Hunter has grasped the NBA Game. The rookie is dealing with a hip-flexor injury, but other than that he’s been a great part of this 2015-16 Celtics team and could be a lot more in years to come. His release is lightening quick and the confidence is there for him to be a really good player. Grade: B+
- Jonas Jerebko – He’s starting to get the Tyler Zeller treatment seeing very limited minutes and has been shooting the ball poor so far. Grade: C-
- Jordan Mickey – Just haven’t seen too much of him in Boston. Grade: Absent
- Terry Rozier – The rookie has seen his fair share of Portland and mainly has been used as the “human victory cigar” for Boston, but when in real game action, Rozier’s been aggressive and is extremely quick. Grade: C+
- James Young – He’s shown signs of improvement even if the stats don’t show it. Young has been back and fourth from the D-League, but still needs to show more. Grade: C
- Tyler Zeller – Opening night starter and it’s been a free fall ever since. Grade: F
- Brad Stevens – Off to his best start since coming into the NBA and Coach Stevens is Mr. Calm, Cool and Collective. His plays coming out of timeouts go off without a hitch and you can tell that he is evolving into one of the best coaches in the league. The reason he doesn’t get a perfect grade is because there were some nights where Boston came out flat and ended up losing the game (Brooklyn being key among them). That’s on the coach. Grade: A-