The first few weeks of the season were filled with question marks for an undermanned Celtics squad that faced key absences all over the rotation. That finally changed on Saturday night when Jae Crowder and Al Horford returned to the lineup, giving head coach Brad Stevens a healthy roster for the first time all season.
The Celtics have responded to the clean bill of health with a couple tough road wins in Detroit and Minnesota, but uncertainty remains about the team’s rotation. For two straight games, Stevens has gone 11 players deep. Who will emerge from the pack as a mainstay in the second unit for Stevens? And which player has skyrocketed to the top? We examine it all in this week’s edition of the player power rankings:
15. Demetrius Jackson: Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge likes his young guards to show off a solid all-around game, and that’s exactly what the rookie has delivered during his first three games in the D-League. The 22-year-old is among the Maine Red Claws leaders in points (22.3), rebounds (5.7), assists (7) and steals (2.3 per game).
14. Jordan Mickey: Any chance that Mickey had of breaking into Stevens’ rotation dried up even before Al Horford returned to action on Saturday night. With three DNPs in his last four games, he could be joining Jackson in the D-League for additional seasoning quite shortly.
13. James Young: One problem has loomed over the third-year swingman throughout his tenure with the Celtics: Inconsistency. After Young delivered a career-best performance against the Pacers last weekend, that issue continued: He scored just two points over 23 minutes in the team’s next three games. He’ll have to produce more than that in the coming weeks if he wants to steal any of Jaylen Brown’s minutes.
12. Gerald Green: The Celtics gambled on the 31-year-old swingman coming off one of the worst offensive seasons of his career (39.2 percent shooting from the field). After hitting a team-worst 31.9 percent of his shot attempts in 10 games this year, it’s fair to wonder if the 6-foot-7 wing has lost his shooting touch for good.
11. Tyler Zeller: Boston’s front line has returned to full strength, and like last year, Zeller is in line to be the odd man out of the rotation most nights. The seven-footer has struggled with his shot of late (33 percent from field in last five games), making the decision easier for Stevens.
10. Jaylen Brown: The rookie has fallen into a secondary role, and that’s probably a good thing for the No. 3 overall pick. With less offensive responsibility placed on him, Brown’s defense has improved, highlighted by his play in Boston’s fourth-quarter comeback over the Wolves on Monday night.
9. Kelly Olynyk: The seven-footer had the worst plus/minus (-32) of any player on the roster in the past week. Sequences like this are a big reason why:
Kelly O doing his best to solve Boston’s rebound problems pic.twitter.com/ZTPSFrFS8B
— Rich Levine (@rich_levine) November 22, 2016
He’s scored just eight points in his last three games combined, causing his playing time to take a dramatic dip in wins over Detroit and Minnesota.
8. Amir Johnson: The veteran big man still holds a spot in the starting five, but Stevens is only giving him reserve-type minutes, largely due to his rebounding deficiencies. His 6.7 boards per 36 minutes played is the lowest number he’s posted since his rookie season.
7. Jonas Jerebko: An early-season shooting slump has disappeared for the Swede, who shot 5-of-7 from beyond the arc in Boston’s last four games. His work on the glass (22.2 percent defensive rebounding rate) in those contests should open the door for him to earn additional minutes as well.
6. Terry Rozier: The second unit has struggled overall during the opening month to the season, but the second-year guard continues to be a consistent contributor off the pine. He’s been the second-best 3-point shooter on the team (45.7 percent) while also maintaining a steady presence at point guard (only 0.6 turnovers/game).
5. Jae Crowder: The injury bug has surfaced yet again for the starting small forward since Crowder did not play the fourth quarter against the Wolves on Monday night due to lingering soreness in his left ankle. The 26-year-old missed more than three weeks after spraining that same ankle last month.
4. Marcus Smart: Not the best shooting week for the reserve guard (26 percent from the field), but those struggles are overshadowed by game-changing plays on the glass like this one in Detroit:
3. Avery Bradley: After piling up six double-doubles in his first 12 games of the year, Bradley has been able to take a bit of a breather on the glass since Horford and Crowder returned (only seven rebounds in last two games). He’s remained a reliable second scoring option for Stevens on a nightly basis, scoring 13 or more points in all 14 games this season.
2. Isaiah Thomas: The most underrated part of the 5-foot-9 guard’s game remains his ability to get to the free throw line. The All-Star is averaging 9.9 attempts per contest from the charity stripe, the fifth-best mark in the NBA.
1. Al Horford: It took the All-Star big man less than a half to shake off any rust he experienced following a lengthy absence due to a concussion. While his numbers have been impressive across the board over the past two games, the most encouraging stat for Celtics fans has to be this: In the 158 minutes that Horford has played this season, the Celtics have outscored their opponents by 46 points. That’s the best plus/minus on the entire roster.