Week one of the NBA season is in the books, and it was an uneven one for the Celtics. A hot shooting start to the year (league-best 50.8 FG%) has been overshadowed by Boston’s problems on the defensive glass. A shorthanded bench struggled on both ends of the floor as well, forcing the new-look starting five to carry a heavy load during the 2-1 start. Reinforcements should be on the way for the bench this week, but let’s examine who has come out of the gate well in the first edition of the Celtics player power rankings for the 2016-17 season.
Marcus Smart – Boston’s “sixth starter” has been sidelined for several days since suffering a sprained ankle in the preseason finale. He’s targeting a return on Wednesday against the Bulls, and the Celtics’ defense could use his intensity on the perimeter immediately after allowing opponents to hit 11.7 3-pointers per game to start the year.
Kelly Olynyk – The seven-footer was cleared for contact in practice last week, but the Celtics training staff is going to be cautious with him after an offseason shoulder surgery. Danny Ainge estimates he’ll be ready to go by mid-November, giving a boost to a second unit that has not found a sustainable source of offense without him.
The Power Rankings
13. Demetrius Jackson – Barring a blowout game or injuries, the second round draft pick will likely see his first game action of the season on November 11 when the Maine Red Claws open up their regular season. With a logjam of guards in front of the 22-year-old, Jackson is primed to get plenty of game reps with the Celtics’ D-League affiliate all year long.
12. James Young – Despite failing to see the floor in Boston’s first three games, Young had plenty of reason to celebrate last week after securing the 15th roster spot over R.J. Hunter. The swingman still has lots of potential as a 21-year-old, but Danny Ainge has a big decision to make about Young’s future on Monday since the deadline for Young’s 2017-18 team option to be picked up arrives at midnight. The $2.8 million option won’t cost Boston much cap room, but the more interesting question is whether or not the team believe Young will develop enough this season to prove himself worthy of the raise.
11. Jordan Mickey – With the second unit struggling, the 6-foot-9 forward got his first chance to see the floor during Saturday’s win against the Hornets. He did little to make an impression in his eight minutes (three points, two rebounds) but the second-year forward should remain as an athletic big option for Brad Stevens in the coming weeks.
10. Jonas Jerebko – The Swede left a positive impression with Celtics fans over the summer following his postseason performance last season, but he’s failed to carry over that momentum into 2016. The 6-foot-10 forward is shooting a meager 25 percent from the field thus far and has also contributed to Boston’s rebounding problems: he’s snagged just four boards in 47 minutes of action.
9. Gerald Green – The journeyman wing has not been shy about trying to jump start the bench’s offense in his return to Boston. Green is attempting the third-most shots (15) per 36 minutes out of any Celtic as he tries to provide Stevens with the shot creation team needs off the pine. The early results haven’t been pretty: the 30-year-old is hitting 40 percent of his attempts from the field and 16.7 percent from deep as he continues to shake off the shooting rust following a preseason hip injury.
8. Tyler Zeller – Olynyk’s shoulder injury has opened the door for some early minutes for the veteran big man. Floor spacing has been an issue with the seven-footer out there, but he’s managed to post the best rebounding percentage (14.6) number on the roster. Until Stevens finds a solution to Boston’s problems on the glass, look for Zeller to continue to see consistent time.
7. Jaylen Brown – Many wondered just how much production the 20-year-old would give Boston during his rookie season, but the No. 3 overall pick has already shown he’s a capable contributor. Through three games, he leads the team in field goal percentage (58.8%) via an assortment of impressive finishes in the paint and at the rim. Valid concerns remain about his outside shot and defensive awareness, but Brown should be a staple in Stevens’ rotation all year long.
6. Terry Rozier – The preseason hype for the second-year guard has failed to fully carry over to the regular season. He’s been unable to provide much of a scoring spark (6.0 ppg) despite playing 24 minutes per game. The speedster should benefit from the return of Smart this week, taking some of the ballhandling onus off his plate.
5. Amir Johnson – This spot may actually be too high for the 6-foot-9 center. Johnson’s been a weakness for Stevens during the first week on multiple fronts. Not only are his rebounding numbers down (grabbing just 5.1 defensive boards per 36 minutes), but he’s turning the ball on 24.6 percent of his possessions, a team-high. Johnson’s defensive chemistry with Al Horford remains strong, but he may be a candidate to move to the bench if he doesn’t improve on the glass.
4. Al Horford – A fairly pedestrian start to the year for the $126 million addition to the starting five. While he’s failed to score more than 14 points or grab over seven rebounds in his first three contests, Horford’s versatility has been on full display. He ranks among Boston’s top three players in rebounds (7.0), assists (5.0) and blocks (2.3) per game. Those all-around contributions have translated well to the team’s success, as the Celtics have outscored opponents by 20 points with Horford on the floor.
3. Jae Crowder –The Celtics are among the league leaders in 3-point attempts (3rd) and 3-point shooting percentage (39.4%) after one week of games, and Jae Crowder is a big reason why. The small forward is shooting a career-best 41 percent from beyond the arc, despite taking 5.7 attempts per game. If he can sustain that kind of efficiency amid the high volume, the Celtics could have one of the best offenses in the league.
2. Isaiah Thomas – It was going to be hard for Thomas to boost his All-Star numbers amid an improved supporting cast, but he’s managed to do just that during Boston’s 2-1 start to the year. 24.7 ppg and 6.7 apg put the point guard among the top-15 players in the league in both categories. One worrisome issue for Thomas lingers: a free throw shooting slump that has him making just 68% from the charity stripe through three games, nearly 20 points below his career average.
1. Avery Bradley – While Bradley’s near career-best 31-point performance against the Hornets will get the headlines, the bigger story here is his commitment to rebounding. The 6-foot-2 guard leads the team in rebounds per game (8.7) which includes a career-high 11 boards on Saturday night. Combine those numbers with a ridiculous 66.7 shooting percentage from 3-point range, and Bradley is a runaway winner in the Week 1 Power Rankings.
All statistical information provided via NBA.com/stats unless otherwise noted.