The Celtics are riding a wave of momentum into the week before the NBA’s 2016 All-Star Game, posting wins in eight of their past nine games. The stretch has cemented them as contenders for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference with the possibility of roster upgrades still looming ahead of the Feb. 18 trade deadline.
Battles with familiar faces at TD Garden will prove to be the only tests remaining before a lengthy eight-day respite that starts on Thursday. First, Rajon Rondo and the Sacramento Kings pay a visit on Sunday. After that, Paul Pierce, Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers cap the first half of the season with a trip to the Garden on Wednesday night.
With the NBA rumor mill heating up in the next couple weeks leading up to the deadline, let’s explore this week’s player power rankings, quite possibly the last one that will include all the original members of this season’s Celtic roster.
14. Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter (tie): After spending plenty of time with the Red Claws in the D-League, the rookie guards have enjoyed a two-week long stint with the big club for the first time since December. Both have remained glued to the bench, however, only seeing garbage time minutes in two of Boston’s past eight games.
13. James Young: With starting small forward Jae Crowder nursing ankle and calf injuries, the second-year swingman may find himself with an opportunity for minutes before the All-Star break.
12. Jordan Mickey: Isaiah Thomas isn’t the only All-Star on the Celtics this year. The rookie out of LSU was selected to the D-League All-Star team last week, but isn’t expected to participate in the festivities while recovering from a sprained ankle.
11. David Lee: Trade rumors surrounding the 31-year-old power forward continue to swirl ahead of the Feb. 18 trade deadline. With a $15-million salary and an ineffective season so far, it is unclear if there will be any takers for the veteran.
10. Jonas Jerebko: An emerging Tyler Zeller has cut into his minutes a little bit, but the stretch forward is still fourth in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage (47.4 percent) since Dec. 1. As long as head coach Brad Stevens wants to spread the floor, Jerebko will continue to see minutes.
9. Tyler Zeller: The big man took advantage of his return to the Celtics’ rotation this week with his first double-double of the season in Tuesday’s win over the Knicks. Will there be more minutes waiting for the fourth-year center? It may be in Stevens’ best interest to hand him some, as the Celtics are 11-1 this year when Zeller plays 10 or more minutes, according to Celtics play-by-play voice Sean Grande.
8. Amir Johnson: The Celtics have been scoring a lot more in the past 10 games since turning to more small-ball lineups. The same can’t be said for Johnson. The 28-year-old hasn’t cracked double digits in points since Jan. 15.
7. Jared Sullinger: It is unclear whether it’s due to injury or simply matchups, but the power forward’s minutes are trending sharply downwards in the past two weeks. He’s only played 20 or more minutes in two game since Jan. 24. If Zeller continues to play well, those minutes could shift down further.
6. Kelly Olynyk: The seven-footer was snubbed by the league Thursday when he was left out of the 3-point shooting competition in front of his countrymen in Toronto on All-Star weekend. A 1-of-12 mark from downtown over the past week probably didn’t help his cause, but his 41.7 percent accuracy mark from 3-point range still is among the NBA’s elite.
5. Avery Bradley: On a team that has not been shy in hoisting up 3-point attempts, Bradley has been the most aggressive of the bunch. He is averaging a career-high 5.6 attempts per game from downtown this year and took 25 combined in just two games against Orlando and Denver in the past two weeks.
4. Evan Turner: A season-high ranking for one of Boston’s top reserves, as Turner has increasingly been a dependable weapon for Stevens off the pine. He’s averaging 13.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists over the last 10 games as the Celtics have gone 8-2 overall.
3. Jae Crowder: All-Star Weekend can’t come soon enough for the swingman who is battling both ankle and shin injuries. He was also the recipient of a Carmelo Anthony elbow in Tuesday’s win over the Knicks.
2. Marcus Smart: The second-year guard has been on fire from the perimeter in the past week after a putrid start to the season. He’s gone 13 of 28 from deep in his last five games, bumping up his 3-point shooting percentage seven points (to 27 percent) for the season.
1. Isaiah Thomas: The point guard will be a busy man during next weekend’s NBA All-Star festivities in Toronto. Not only will he be playing for the East on Sunday night, but he’ll talk part in the Skills Challenge on Saturday evening as well.