Celtics

Celtics player power rankings: Who will step up in Marcus Smart’s absence?

Brooklyn’s Shane Larkin drove against Boston’s Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley during the second quarter of a game at TD Garden Nov. 20. Getty Images

The Celtics were dealt a couple of damaging blows in the past week, highlighted by losing Marcus Smart for at least two weeks with a lower leg injury and a disappointing loss to the Brooklyn Nets. The team was able to avoid additional adversity by escaping with the victory over the winless Sixers on Wednesday night, which ended a two-game losing streak.

Still, the Smart injury and a pair of ugly losses have led to a major shakeup in the Celtics player power rankings this week. With plenty of playing time up for grabs now in Smart’s absence, plus a revamped starting five, there is plenty to break down all across the rankings. Let’s dive in to see which players are taking advantage of their extra opportunities and earning the trust of Brad Stevens during this tumultuous stretch.

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15. Jordan Mickey (last week: 14)

The power forward continues to carve up D-League competition for the Maine Red Claws, averaging 20.4 points, 12 rebounds and 4.8 blocks per game. As we’ve seen with players like Fab Melo, D-League stats don’t necessarily mean much in the long run, but the Celtics’ front office has to be pleased with the second round pick so far.

14. James Young (last week: 15)

Young gets to spend a bit more time with the big club in the aftermath of the Smart injury, but he appears to be nothing more than emergency depth at this point. With the Celtics having little time to practice in the midst of a busy schedule, there’s no real opportunity for Young to prove he’s worthy of moving up the depth chart in the foreseeable future.

13. Terry Rozier (last week: 13)

Brad Stevens gave Rozier an opportunity to earn some of Smart’s minutes twice this week and the youngster did little to help his cause. He’s playing tentative on both sides of the floor and not using his athleticism to his advantage just yet.

12. R.J. Hunter (last week: 12)

Hunter is known for his offense, but he still had a positive impact on a game without scoring a point in Brooklyn back on Sunday. He took over Rozier’s minutes in the second half and forced a pair of steals in eight minutes. Hunter’s not forcing his own offense but he’s helping provide the adequate spacing Boston’s offense needs when he’s in there. His shooting percentages remain mediocre but he should continue to see opportunities on a roster in desperate need of capable shooters.

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11. David Lee (last week: 10)

The rollercoaster ride that is Lee’s season continues to head downhill. After a couple of positive offensive outings, Lee was a net negative against the Nets and Sixers this week as he provided a couple highlights for a future Rondae Hollis-Jefferson mix tape.

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Unfortunately, Lee has been on the receiving end of blocks this season, as a staggering 16 percent of his shot attempts (12-of-74) have been rejected by defenders.

10. Tyler Zeller (last week: 11)

A slow climb out of power rankings cellar may have begun this week for Zeller, as the center saw productive meaningful minutes for the first time since the start of the year. There is no guarantee additional playing time is headed his way, but with Lee and other frontcourt players struggling at times, Zeller should get more chances to stabilize the paint.

9. Jonas Jerebko (last week: 9)

Jerebko’s energy has been consistent all season, but his shooting has not been. He’s misfired on 14 of 15 shots in the last four games, including all four from 3-point range. That kind of accuracy could be making the Boston brass wonder whether his hot finish in green last year may have been merely a hot streak, especially since he shot a subpar 33.5 percent from deep in his first three seasons in Detroit.

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8. Marcus Smart (last week: 4)

The second-year guard will be out for at least the next two weeks with a lower left leg injury, leaving the Celtics in a bit of a bind to make up for his defensive intensity. One thing Boston won’t miss is Smart’s scoring touch — or lack there of. Outside of Rozier, Smart’s hit a team-worst 33 percent of his shots from the field.

7. Kelly Olynyk (last week: 8)

Olynyk’s offense remains consistently inconsistent, failing to be the reliable floor spacer that Stevens needs him to be. That’s not the only issue for the seven-footer; He needs to get his fouling under control. In just 70 minutes of playing time in the last week, Olynyk piled up a team-high 11 fouls.

6. Amir Johnson (last week: 6)

It has been two steps forward and one step back for Johnson in recent days as he tries to find his rhythm within Boston’s schemes on both ends. Johnson’s physical limitations have hampered the big man on the glass too. In the past three games, the former Raptor has only grabbed 17 total rebounds, an unacceptable number for a starting forward.

5. Evan Turner (last week: 7)

The pressure on Turner has been turned up a notch now that he anchors a second unit without Isaiah Thomas or Avery Bradley for the foreseeable future. With no other shot creator to turn to amongst the reserves, Turner must maintain a proper balance between scoring (9.5 ppg) and distributing (3.5 apg) with his bench mates.

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4. Jared Sullinger (last week: 3)

Sullinger’s rebounding has remained steady, but his shot making has taken a dip lately. He’s shooting a meager 36 percent from the field in his past five contests despite grabbing an impressive 9.2 rebounds per game in that stretch. Despite the modest slump, Sullinger remains the only big Stevens can count on for big minutes on a nightly basis this year.

3. Jae Crowder (last week: 2)

After a dismal shooting start to the year, Crowder’s perimeter attempts are starting to find the bottom of the net regularly. The small forward is shooting 40 percent from long distance in his last five games, including a crucial go-ahead 3-point shot against Philadelphia Wednesday night. The only issue is that Crowder may need to tweak his shooting form in order to avoid future offensive fouls.

2. Isaiah Thomas (last week: 1)

At long last, Thomas is getting some extended run with the starting five in Boston. The speedster’s defensive drawbacks are already starting to pop up more, as shown by Jarrett Jack and Jeff Teague producing big scoring nights in recent losses. Thomas has been scoring enough (21.1 ppg) on his own to deflect some of those issues, but he needs to take more accountability with his defense as he faces superior competition.

1. Avery Bradley (last week: 5)

Bradley becomes the first Celtic to unseat Thomas at the top of the player power rankings in week five and he does so thanks to an incredible shooting stretch. Despite splitting time between the starting five and bench, the veteran guard is averaging 20.2 points per game over the past week on 50.8 percent shooting from the field and 46.7 percent from 3-point range.

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That kind of output may not have been worthy of the No. 1 spot on its own, but this block sealed the deal.

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