The NBA regular season is coming to a close quickly for the Celtics, but the team still has plenty of work to do over the final five games of their campaign. Boston clinched a postseason spot on Sunday night against the Lakers, but remain in a dogfight with Atlanta, Charlotte and Miami for playoff positioning in the middle of the Eastern Conference.
With games against all three of those teams over the final week of the season, the Celtics will control their own destiny when it comes to homecourt advantage for the first round. Boston may be doing so without the services of Evan Turner though, who suffered an eye injury on Sunday night in Los Angeles. Turner will miss Wednesday’s game, and if he is forced to miss more time, Brad Stevens may need to look deeper into the team’s bench for some scoring punch off the bench. Let’s take a look at which players could help out on that front in this week’s edition of the player power rankings.
14. James Young – The 20-year-old continues to get some extended seasoning in the D-League and the added reps have paid off. In his past three games with the Red Claws, he’s averaged 17.6 points on 57.7 percent shooting from the field (19-of-33).
13. R.J. Hunter – Outside of a few minutes of garbage time action against the Clippers last week, the shooting guard has been glued to Boston’s bench for the past eight games. With Turner’s status up in the air (left eye abrasion), Stevens could look to the rookie for a scoring boost off the bench.
12. Jordan Mickey – After dominating the D-League for the first few months of the season, the big man made a return visit Red Claws Tuesday night for the start of their postseason. Mickey posted 16 points and eight rebounds off the bench in a 115-114 loss to the Canton Charge. He had been with big club since March 14 despite the Celtics having a healthy front line over that stretch.
11. Tyler Zeller – Situational matchups will be the key to the seven-footer’s playing time the rest of the way. Zeller has appeared in just three of Boston’s last seven games, but saw significant run against the sizable front lines of the Clippers and Lakers over the past week.
10. Terry Rozier – Rebounding has always been a weakness for the 2015-16 Celtics, but the rookie out of Louisville is doing his best to chip in on that front. The 6-foot-2 guard has grabbed 17 rebounds over his last three games in just 58 minutes of action. Those numbers improved his total rebounding percentage on the season to 11.1, ahead of taller teammates like Kelly Olynyk and Turner.
9. Jonas Jerebko – The Swede’s offense is up-and-down but he’s remained a valuable contributor on the glass on a nightly basis. Jerebko’s 8.8 rebounds per 36 minutes is on pace to be a new career-high, while his 39.2 percent shooting from 3-point range would be the second-best mark of his six-year NBA career.
8. Kelly Olynyk – Three weeks after returning from a right shoulder separation, Olynyk has found his 3-point shooting touch once more (50 percent from deep in last seven games). However, it’s fair to wonder if the shoulder is still affecting him on the glass. Over those same seven contests, he’s grabbed just 18 total rebounds, which isn’t an encouraging number for a seven-footer.
7. Marcus Smart – Shooting continues to be an unavoidable problem for the second-year guard, but the good news for Celtics fans is that Smart is filling up the box score in other ways. Over Boston’s five-game road trip, he averaged 8.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.8 assists a night.
6. Jared Sullinger – The West Coast trip was a roller coaster ride for the starting power forward. Against Golden State, he rose to the challenge with 20 points and 12 rebounds in an upset win, but quickly followed up that performance with a dud against the Lakers (six points, two rebounds) that led to him watching the action from the bench for much of second half. With the playoffs approaching, Stevens is likely looking for more consistency from the 6-foot-9 forward.
5. Amir Johnson – It’s been a long absence from the top-5 of the player power rankings for the 28-year-old veteran, but the big man is finding his groove at the best possible time for Boston. He’s been a stabilizing force on the defensive end and has added a bit of a scoring and rebounding punch in recent weeks, posting 9.1 points and 9.3 rebounds on 71.4(!) percent shooting in his last 10 games.
4. Jae Crowder – Some rust is apparent with Crowder’s shot (37.9 percent from field) after a three-week absence due to a high ankle sprain, but the starting small forward looked sharp physically in his first two games back, especially on the defensive end. He grabbed 15 total rebounds and forced seven steals in those contests.
3. Evan Turner – It’s not clear when he will be able to open his left eye again, but the Celtics won’t be able to afford a lengthy absence from their sixth man if they hope to earn homecourt advantage for the first round of the East playoffs. Turner averaged 14.6 ppg on the team’s west coast trip and is a red hot from 3-point range since the All-Star break, going 9-of-17 from deep.
2. Avery Bradley – Those wondering abut Bradley’s value to Boston should keep these numbers in mind: Steph Curry is shooting 39.1 percent from the field against the Celtics this season. That’s the lowest split Curry has against any team in the NBA. The Celtics have Bradley to thank in large part for that defense against the league’s reigning MVP, as well as Curry’s turnover problems (season-high nine Friday night) in Boston’s upset win.
1. Isaiah Thomas – The All-Star guard continues to pile up franchise records after a historic month of March. He’s now led Boston in scoring for 16 consecutive games, surpassing Larry Bird’s former franchise record last week. Thomas has also topped the 20-point mark in each of those contests.