Coming out on the other side of the NBA All-Star break, the Boston Celtics sit at 37-21, good for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The C’s sit 5.5 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks in the conference and 4.5 games behind the Toronto Raptors in the division.
Their 23-8 record in the friendly confines of the TD Garden is something Celtics fans are used to, but an average 14-13 road record has hindered them this season. For comparison, the Bucks are 20-9 on the road, and the Raptors are 19-11. The Celtics haven’t been the dominant force we expected them to be entering the season, but they’re still a very good team.
Let’s dish out some grades entering the ceremonial second half of the season, starting with the coach and general manager, and down through the top-10 rotation players.
Danny Ainge: B — The big win for Ainge was that Anthony Davis didn’t move to another team at the trade deadline, leaving an opening to attempt to acquire him in July. It would’ve been nice to see a small move to improve (as MIL, TOR, and PHI did), but the big picture is still intact.
Brad Stevens: C- — The NBA is finally getting real for Stevens. He’s a fantastic coach. Maybe the best play-caller in the NBA. But when you have a team with these types of personalities, you need to learn how to be a manager, and that’s new to Stevens. His job isn’t in jeopardy by any means, but Stevens needs to grow as much as his young players do.
Kyrie Irving: B — On the court, he’s probably been an A- this season. He leads the Celtics in per games averages of points (23.6), minutes (32.5) and assists (6.9), while also holding the team’s highest Player Efficiency Rating (25.30). Kyrie’s talent is impossible to deny. But he’s clearly caused some issues with teammates, said the wrong things to the media at times, and missed 11 games due to a variety of issues.
Al Horford: B — Horford’s been his typical solid self. He’s missed 10 games with knee issues/rest, but when he’s out there, he’s helping the team win by any means. I’m grading these players against themselves and their own expectations, so this grade doesn’t mean he’s been equal to Kyrie. Horford leads the team with 6.8 rebounds per game and 1.4 blocks per game.
Gordon Hayward: D+ — This is a really tough one because of Hayward’s injury last season. We knew he’d be rusty this year, but how long would it last? Hayward’s been flat out terrible at times, disappearing on the floor for zero-point games. On the plus side, he’s played in 53 games, earning 17 starts. He’s worked his averages up to 11.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He’s been playing well in his last five games, so there’s plenty of room for this grade to go up quickly if Hayward carries this momentum into the second half.
Jayson Tatum: B+ — Tatum’s taken some slack this season for not progressing as much as we expected. While he’s had some growing pains, he’s still a top-three 21-and-under prospect in the NBA. He’s second on the team in points (16.5) and rebounds (6.3), and has shown the ability to take over games at times. I haven’t seen anything that would make me change my mind about Tatum evolving into a star.
Jaylen Brown: C+ — Brown’s growth appears to have been stunted more than Tatum’s. His 12.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists is solid, but even Brown views himself as a superstar in the making. On top of letting us down on the court, Brown’s been the center of plenty of public controversy with his teammates, most notably Irving and Marcus Morris.
Terry Rozier: B- — Rozier has flashed the type of potential he showed last postseasons in his fourth professional season. He continues to provide valuable minutes, though there has been a dip in his production as he’s averaged 9.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in just over 23 minutes per night.
Marcus Smart: A- — Smart’s been one of the glue pieces on the Celtics all season long. His insertion into the starting lineup was the spark that turned a cold start into a salvageable season for Boston. His energy is contagious, and we know we’re always going to see it translate on defense. But the pleasant surprise has been his recent hot streak from downtown — 36 percent now on the season. Smart’s ability to hit three-pointers it crucial.
Marcus Morris: A- — My only knock on Morris is that he just doesn’t share the ball. That said, he’s been a tremendous scoring option. Morris has been the Celtics’ most consistent player this season, averaging 14.5 points and 6.1 boards in 27.7 minutes. He and Smart’s toughness has been a key to much of the success the starting lineup’s had.
Aron Baynes: B — Baynes shares the toughness that Smart and Morris have, but multiple serious injuries this season have held him back. Baynes is averaging just 14.9 minutes over 34 games. “Incomplete” might be a more accurate grade here. Let’s see how he looks when he returns from another injury.
Daniel Theis: B+ — Theis has been a pleasant surprise in wake of Baynes’ injuries — 6.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 15.2 minutes. He’s done an above average job for a role player, getting minutes over a long-term project like Robert Williams.