With nearly half of the regular season in the books and plenty of lineup experimentation along the way, Brad Stevens has appeared to settle on a playing rotation that relies on small-ball.
Traditional big men such as David Lee and Tyler Zeller have been glued to the bench for the majority of the past two weeks, while floor spacing bigs like Jonas Jerebko and Kelly Olynyk have seen increased minutes.
The alignment has produced mixed results for the Celtics thus far, providing added pace and efficiency on offense, but also a notable slip on the defensive end. Boston has allowed 100 or more points in four straight games since the switch.
What players are thriving in the new alignment? And who will need to step up in order to maintain their share of minutes? Let’s examine it all in this week’s edition of the rankings.
15. Terry Rozier – It’s been an up-and-down season for the No. 16 overall pick in the D-League, but the rookie did a little bit of everything for the Maine Red Claws on Monday night, posting 20 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals in a loss to Grand Rapids.
14. R.J. Hunter – The sharpshooter has been sent down to Maine to gain some reps in the past week, but the realities of the D-League prevented that on Wednesday. Maine’s game in Canton was postponed due to an uneven spot on the court.
13. Jordan Mickey – A sprained ankle suffered Friday night has sidelined the D-League MVP candidate for a pair of games. The power forward has headed back to Boston for treatment with the Celtics training staff.
12. James Young – Small-ball may be here to stay for the Celtics, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing for the second-year swingman. Young has played just one minute of garbage time in Boston’s last six games.
11. David Lee – Like Young, Lee has logged five straight DNP’s, continuing the tradition that Gerald Wallace started last season in which the team’s highest paid player doubles as a veteran leader and bench warmer.
10. Tyler Zeller – The big man has seen brief playing stints against bigger teams like Washington and Toronto in the past week, but his infrequent playing time has prevented him from finding a rhythm. He’s shooting just 18 percent from the field (4-of-22) in five games in 2016.
9. Jonas Jerebko – The Swede has been limited to 15 minutes on most nights by Brad Stevens, but he’s provided Boston’s bench with a nice boost in the last week. His on-court plus/minus in the last three games was a +14, despite the fact that the Celtics lost two of those contests.
8. Amir Johnson – Johnson enjoyed a memorable homecoming to Toronto on Wednesday night as his former team paid tribute to him.
That was easily the highlight of the big man’s week however, as his recent improved production came to a halt. In his last three games, Johnson is averaging just four points and three rebounds in 21 minutes.
7. Evan Turner – A sore right knee that has reportedly bothered Turner since October nearly snapped his playing streak of 152 consecutive games on Saturday night against Washington. The sixth-year guard played through the pain, but he thinks the ailment will affect him for the remainder of the season.
6. Jared Sullinger – Sullinger’s offense has come back to life with a pair of double-doubles in his last four games. Still, Monday’s late-game postup against the Mavericks in a one-point game was a painful reminder that the Celtics need better go-to options in crunch time.
5. Marcus Smart – Small-ball has sent the minutes for the second-year guard skyrocketing in the past week, as he’s averaged over 30 minutes in his past five contests, capped by a triple-double off the bench against Phoenix last Friday, the first for Boston in over 40 years.
4. Avery Bradley – Stevens has turned to Bradley to captain the second unit’s offense in stints, and he’s slowly managed to break out of a 1-for-20 3-point shooting slump in the process. The veteran guard has only made seven of his last 22 attempts from beyond the arc, a healthy amount below his season average 3-point average of 35 percent.
3. Kelly Olynyk – The sharpshooting big man has been on an absolute tear during the past few weeks, pushing his 3-point shooting to 43.3 percent, good for the 10th best mark in the NBA.
2. Jae Crowder – How consistent has the bargain small forward become for the Celtics? Noted NBA analyst Zach Lowe posed a question this week that would have been laughed at last season:
Parlor game question: Is Jae Crowder the Celtics’ best all-around player?— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) Januar y 17, 2016
After scoring in double-digits for 17 straight games and consistently defending the opposition’s best wing, Crowder has made quite the case for himself.
1. Isaiah Thomas – Boston’s top offensive sparkplug is putting together quite the push for an All-Star spot in the month of January, posting 24.4 points and 6.4 assists per game over his last 10 contests. The 5-9 guard will find out next Thursday if he’s done enough to earn the nod from the Eastern Conference coaches.
Meet the 2015 Boston Celtics