The Celtics fell in unspectacular fashion to the Atlanta Hawks two weeks ago, and as many fans still ease their pain from the loss, I've decided to start a series on grading all of the Celtic players performances this season. Today I'll start with the point guards!
- Isaiah Thomas
Regular season stats: 32.2 minutes per game. 22.2 points, 3 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.11 steals, 2.7 turnovers. 42.8 FG%, 35.9 3P%, 87 FT%.
Playoff stats: 36.7 minutes per game. 24.2 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 2.3 turnovers. 39.5 FG%, 28.3 3P%, 81 FT%.
Analysis: Isaiah Thomas started the season on the bench, but after 3 games he moved into the starting lineup and remained there for the rest of the year. He flourished in his new role and garnered his first all star appearance in February, while also leading the Celtics to 48 wins and a playoff berth as the 5th seed in the eastern conference. He led the Celtics in scoring in 56 games over the course of the season, including a franchise record 17 straight times. IT also showed off his durability as he appeared in all 82 regular season games and the 6 playoff games despite dealing with a left wrist ailment, and spraining his ankle towards the end of game 5 against the Hawks. Thomas at times was the only source of offense from this Celtics team down the stretch, and he routinely was able to deliver clutch baskets and passes that ultimately would become game deciders. One of the main reasons that Brad Stevens hesitated to start Thomas was because of his height and defense, but Thomas used all 5'9" of him to harass his man and the Celtics actually improved their defensive efficiency from tied for 12th in 2014-2015 to tied for 4th in 2015-2016 according to ESPN. The only problem with Isaiah this season was his shooting in the playoffs. After Avery Bradley went down, the Atlanta Hawks were able to key on Thomas because he was one of the few reliable shooters the Celtics had, and he struggled for most of the series because he was double teamed. He did turn in one of the most memorable performances in the playoffs this year as he scored 42 points in game 3 against the Atlanta Hawks and propelled the Celtics to their first playoff win in the Brad Stevens era, and it's hard to fault him too much for his poor shooting just because he was the only reliable offensive threat as the team dealt with a rash of injuries late in the season. Overall, IT had a heck of a season and if his shot continues to improve then he could be even better next year with an influx of talent around him that the Celtics are pursuing this summer.
- Marcus Smart
Regular season stats: 27.3 minutes per game. 9.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.49 steals, 1.3 turnovers. 34.8 FG%, 25.3 3P%, 78 FT%.
Playoff stats: 32.2 minutes per game. 12 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.67 steals, 2.5 turnovers. 36.7 FG%, 34.4 3P%, 81 FT%
Analysis: Marcus came into the season as the starter, but quickly was switched out for Isaiah Thomas after an injury. Smart returned for a few games, only to injure his knee against the Brooklyn Nets on November 20th which caused him to miss 18 consecutive games. He finally returned on December 27th and didn't miss another game for the rest of the season. Marcus Smart is one of those players where the boxscore does him no justice, he routinely makes the type of hustle plays that win games and is the type of guy that any player or coach would want during a high pressure situation. He had a terrible season shooting the ball, but some of that can be attributed to his injuries which started all the way back in the summer league where he dislocated two fingers. Marcus is now going into the offseason truly healthy and I think we'll definitely see a bump in his shooting numbers next season, this guy still has a ton of potential offensively and there is absolutely no reason the Celtics should give up on him. One of my favorite things about Smart is his ability to provide in the clutch, in game 4 against the Hawks the Celtics trailed 80-77 before Marcus took things into his own hands and turned the game around. It started with a high flying dunk where he drove from the corner to cut the deficit to 1. On the next possession, he hit a three to tie the game at 82. And finally, Marcus hit a stepback three over Kyle Korver to give the Celtics an 85-84 lead. The craziest thing about this offensive outburst was that he had also been tasked to guard Paul Millsap, who had torched the Celtics for 41 points when Marcus was put on him, Millsap would only score two more baskets the rest of the game. Marcus Smart finished game 4 with 20 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals. I expect Smart to blow up next season, I think his offensive numbers will jump by a big margin and defensively he is already one of the best in the league.
- Terry Rozier
Regular season stats: 8 minutes per game. 1.8 points, 1.6 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.5 turnovers. 27.4 FG%, 22.2 3P%, 80 FT%.
Playoff stats: 19.8 minutes per game. 4.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.4 turnovers. 39.1 FG%, 36.4 3P%, 100 FT%
Analysis: I clearly remember sitting on my couch watching the 2015 draft and smiling as Bobby Portis slid down the draft boards towards the Celtics pick, I was absolutely praying he would fall to 16. The Celtics seemed set at guard with Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, and James Young (still a believer). So as Adam Silver stepped to the podium, I was fairly certain Bobby Portis, who reminded me of KG with his work ethic and intensity, would become a Celtic. Instead I was shocked as Silver announced the selection "With the 16th pick in the 2015 NBA draft, the Boston Celtics select Terry Rozier from Louisville." I wasn't sure whether to be happy or disappointed. Rozier was on the Celtics draft board and I had watched him play in college, but the pick definitely seemed like a reach. Boston had depth at the guard positions so Rozier didn't really have much a chance to make an impact in the regular season, he appeared in only 39 games as he constantly trekked back and forth from Boston to Maine for D-League assignments. in 14 D-League appearances Rozier averaged 19.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 7.9 assists in 33.7 minutes per game and was putting in the time to hone his craft just in case he got an opportunity in Boston. That opportunity came at the most inopportune time for the Celtics as Avery Bradley went down in game 1 against the Hawks with a strained hamstring, and Brad Stevens said that Terry Rozier and RJ Hunter would be seeing increased minutes. He didn't put up the best stats in the playoffs, but you definitely knew you were going to great effort out of Rozier every time he was on the court. He came up with big rebounds and was a spark plug of energy off the bench. If the Celtics don't bring Evan Turner back this summer then Terry can slide into his role as the lead ball handler off the bench alongside Marcus Smart, they both are high energy players that provide quality defense and could be a tandem together. Rozier is already back working on his game with tough workouts, which he has shown via his snapchat (trozzay3). If he improves his decision making and his shot then I think he can develop into a valuable role player for the 2016-2017 Celtics squad.
Feel free to comment and let me know what you think! The next article will feature the shooting guards.