Monday, May 16, 2016

Celtics Final Grades

It's been a little over two weeks since the Celtics were eliminated from the postseason by the Atlanta Hawks (now also sitting at home after being swept by the Cavs) in six games. The C's finished their 2015-16 campaign on a sour note after concluding the regular season with a 48-34 record (despite a four-way tie with Miami, Atlanta and Charlotte), which was only good enough for the fifth seed in the East.

We here on Causeway Street had high expectations for this scrappy, bunch of underdogs [see our preseason predictions here] especially after huge memorable wins in Cleveland, Golden State (Oakland for those who are not sure what city the Warriors play in) and Oklahoma City, just to name a few.

With the Draft Lottery tomorrow night, now seems a good time as any to wrap up the 2015-16' season with the Celtics final grades:

Avery Bradley - 15.2 PPG, 3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.5 SPG 45% FGA, 36% 3PA [76 GP]

A second-straight relatively healthy season for the longest tenured Celtic [six-years], Avery Bradley, who made strides both offensively and defensively. He hit clutch shots down the stretch when the team needed them from someone other than Isaiah Thomas, and usually guarded the opposing team's best perimeter player (i.e. Damian Lillard, Steph Curry, etc) and locked them down. After seeing the Celtics struggle with the Hawks in five out-of-six games in the first round, clearly Bradley (missed 5 games with leg injury) is much more valuable than most thought. Look for the young vet to make the NBA all-defensive first team after finishing sixth in the defensive player of the year voting, first among all guards.

Grade: A

Jae Crowder - 14.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.7 SPG 44% FGA, 33% 3PA [73 GP]

What a turnaround for the Celtics best wing player, as Jae Crowder grabbed a starting role from game one of the preseason and ran with it. He boosted his averages all across the board after Danny Ainge re-signed him at $35 million deal for five years last July. Crowder has not only been worth every penny in year-one, but he will continue to get better (finished fifth in the NBA's most improved player voting). The 24-year old stayed healthy all season until a high ankle sprain in late March affected his shooting touch throughout April and in the first round against the Hawks. Despite the injury, Crowder still displayed his lock down defense on Paul Millsap in the playoffs (limiting him to scoring barely 16 points in the series).

Grade: A-

Isaiah Thomas - 22.2 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 43% FGA, 36% 3PA [82 GP]

The league's best sixth man got what he always wanted since coming into the NBA, a starting job. Not only did Brad Stevens hand Isaiah Thomas starting point guard duties in early November, the 'little-guy' was rewarded in February by being named an East Conference All-Star reserve (first nod). It didn't end there, as he lead the team in scoring for 17 consecutive games (a new franchise record) plus scored at least 20 points or more in 19 straight games in the same stretch. Thomas was nothing short (no pun intended) than fantastic this season. He finished seventh for the Most Improved Player voting and led the league in playoff scoring through the first six games. Despite his ability to put the ball in the hole in a variety of ways, it just wasn't enough to extend the Celtics season beyond April.

Grade: A-

Evan Turner - 10.5 PPG, 5 RPG, 4.4 APG, 1 SPG, 46% FGA [81 GP]

In a contract year, Evan Turner didn't just do a little bit of everything, he became the Celtics best go-to-guy off the bench. The team's MVP a season ago, Turner finished fifth in the Sixth Man of the Year voting. When either starting for Bradley or Crowder (when both were out with injury) the swingman scoring average bumped to 16 points per game, and became the C's second leading scorer in the postseason. Despite the early exit, it's clear Turner wants to remain in green but he's due for a pay raise. For arguably being the Celtics best all-around player, E.T. more than deserves a bigger contract here in Boston or where ever he ends up.

Grade: B+

Jared Sullinger - 10.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1 SPG, 44% FGA 28.2% 3PA [81 GP]

It was thought all hope was lost early on this season for Sully when David Lee was starting over him. Then Brad Stevens quickly realized about 10 games in who his best rebounder on the team is, and quickly a change was made for the better. Sullinger has had nights where he's hustling and diving on the floor for loose rebounds and hitting that mid-range jumper he clearly worked on. But in the playoffs he was overmatched, and had to find other ways to contribute while losing playing time in the process. Nonetheless, the young vet notched a career-high 25 double-doubles, while playing in 81 games (his most in four seasons). The power-forward still has the potential to be an even better player, but it might not happen here in Boston as Sullinger awaits the free agency game come July.

Grade: B-

Kelly Olynyk - 10 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1 SPG, 46% FGA, 41% 3PA [69 GP]

The 'Man Bun' was enjoying quite a season for himself until the last game before the All-Star break when he injured his shoulder. The Celtics best shooter never really recovered from the injury, and the big man isn't known for anything else if he's not shooting the ball well. Brad Stevens continued to show trust in him despite Kelly Olynyk showing any signs of improving on defensive assignments. But if Dirk Nowitzki can make it through his hall-of-fame career as a seven-footer that could never play defense or rebound well, why can't Kelly O? No, I'm not comparing the two, but you get what you get with Olynyk. Too bad he didn't show much of anything in the postseason.

Grade: B-

Amir Johnson - 7.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1 SPG, 58.3% FGA [79 GP]

Believe it or not, Amir Johnson (29 years-old) at $12 million this season was the Celtics highest paid and oldest player (once Lee was waived). He had a great start to the 2015-16 campaign but tapered off a bit to the point he was barely playing in the fourth quarter. However, once injuries struck Stevens' lineup late in the year, Johnson proved to be the spark in the frontcourt, especially on the western road trip at the start of April and in the playoffs against the Hawks (8.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 67% FGA). Unfortunately, it's anyone guess if the big man will remain in Boston, as he has a team option for next season that could or not be picked up.

Grade: B- 

Marcus Smart - 9.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 35% FGA, 25.3% 3PA [61 GP]

Marcus Smart lost his starting job due to injury and had a slow start offensively that he didn't quite recover from. While all Celtics fans and analysts were looking for major improvements from year one, by the end of his second season, Smart was labeled the NBA's biggest flopper. Though a much better defender than his rookie campaign, the 2014 sixth overall draft pick still has not commanded respect from his peers or league officials. Smart is always looking to make the right play, but it seems like his best asset on offense is driving to the hoop and getting to the free-throw line. Smart, not being afraid to take any shot could go a long way, but he has to work on his shot selection which did improve in the playoffs (12 PPG, 37% FGA, 34% 3PA). It's a start, but don't be fooled into thinking the second year guard made huge strides from a year ago.

Grade: C+

Jonas Jerebko - 4.4 PPG, 4 RPG, 1 APG, 41.3% FGA, 40% 3PA [78 GP]

Hurricane Jonas has always known his role since the moment he arrived Boston. But this season despite barely playing at home but getting more of an opportunity on the road, Jonas Jerebko earned a lot of respect after being inserted into the starting lineup in the Celtics playoff series against the Hawks in Game 3 and beyond. His averages jumped to 9.2 PPG, 7 RPG, 48% FGA while recording two double-doubles (both wins). The 'Swedish Freak' showed he can be trusted in big-game situations. Jerebko will also play the waiting game on his team option for next season (worth about $5 million).

Grade: C+

Tyler Zeller - 6.1 PPG, 3 RPG, 1 APG, 48% FGA [60 GP]

Tyler Zeller was someone who fell out of sorts in Brad Stevens' lineup, but should have gotten more playing time, especially in the postseason (did more in eight minutes of Game 6, than Olynyk did all series). Good things usually happened when Zeller was on the floor. He showed he has a soft touch around the rim, and developed a mid-range shot that could have been used more when you look back on the season. Now a free agent, it's tough to say if the Celtics will bring back the big man.

Grade: C

Terry Rozier - 2 PPG, 2 RPG, 1 APG, 28% FGA, 22.2% 3PA [39 GP]

Although spent a lot of time developing more up north with the Maine Red Claws, out of the trio of Celtics rookies, Terry Rozier benefited the most from his split time with the Celtics and the D-League. So much so that Brad Stevens began to trust the point guard, and used the rook in his rotation towards the end of the season. Say what you will about his regular season stats, but you can point out key moments against the Warriors, Lakers and even the Hawks in the postseason (5 PPG, 39% FGA, 36.4% 3PA in 20 minutes off the bench). Rozier is only going to get better.

Grade: C

RJ Hunter - 3 PPG, 1 RPG, 37% FGA, 30.2% 3PA [36 GP]

As the rookie with the high basketball I.Q. and pretty shot, RJ Hunter should have gotten more playing time than any other rookie on the Celtics this season. But despite some shinning moments, it didn't amount to increased minutes. Hunter, known for his quick release, was not the one trick pony most thought he'd be when drafted. Unfortunately the rook did not take advantage of Stevens using him in the postseason as he went 2-for-9 (1-for-5 from 3) in five games. Can't deny his cool handshakes with his teammates though.

Grade: D

James Young - 1 PPG, 1 RPG, 31% FGA, 23.1% 3PA [29 GP]

Not much to say here expect the fact that all three Celtics rookie when giving playing time, looked better than James Young did this season. The C's should keep him up north with the Red Claws until further notice, or needed as trade bait. Think it's fair to say Danny Ainge might have a draft bust on his roster as there hasn't been any improvements since day one of his career.

Grade: F

Jordan Mickey - Incomplete

John Holland - Incomplete

Brad Stevens - 48 wins (eight win improvement from 2015)

Stevens has to start to take more of a hit in 2016 than the players do for the way the Celtics season ended. When you look back at losses to the Nets (twice), Lakers and Timberwolves, just to name a few, this team should have surpassed 50 wins, thus being the third best team in the East and having homecourt advantage in the first-round. You should begin to lose credibility (after being known as one of the best coaches in the NBA) when you're one of few teams to beat the Warriors, the Thunder, and the Cavaliers all on the road while holding on to sole possession of the third seed, only to lose it with a week left in the season.

The Celtics should have been good enough to make it to the second round, but Stevens only made one major adjustment and too many panic moves and was out-coached by a mediocre Hawks staff at best. The season should be considered as a failure because the C's are no better than they were a year ago (except on paper). Even the media thinks Stevens had a better year last season, as it was evident in the Coach of the Year voting where he finished sixth instead of fourth (2015) or higher. As it stands, Stevens is now 2-8 in the postseason, that's unacceptable for the best young head coach in the NBA.

Grade: B-

Bottom line, it's year three (of the rebuild) and there has to be some liability from Ainge all the way down to Stevens on a season that had so much promise. There needs to be upgrades and improvements or else Celtics fans will not be content on one and done playoff appearances three years in a row in a weak, LeBron James dominated conference.

What do you think on this past Celtics season, comment below or hit us up/follow on Twitter: @CausewayStreet 

Picture used via Getty Images

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