Source: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
In the third edition of Grading The Green, we will be focusing on the small forwards. I base all my grades on the specific players expectations and how they impacted the team based on their role and performance. In the first edition I covered the point guards and in the second edition I covered the shooting guards. If you missed them, make sure to check them out! I always love feedback on my articles, and especially these kind where I'm attempting to grade players. Feel free to comment and let me know what you think of the grades and what you personally would've graded the guys!
- Jae Crowder
Regular Season Stats: 31.6 minutes per game. 14.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.73 steals. 44.3 FG%, 33.6 3P%, 82 FT%.
Playoff Stats: 32.8 minutes per game. 9.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.5 steals. 27.8 FG%, 24.4 3P%, 64 FT%.
Analysis: During most of the regular season, it looked like the Celtics had made an absolute steal of a deal in the offseason when they extended Jae Crowder on a 5 year, $35 million dollar contract. It looked even more genius with the projected rising cap and Danny Ainge had once again made an excellent move to improve the teams future. Crowder was having a career year and even logged a career high in points as he netted 27 in a loss to Minnesota. His defense excelled as he continued to jump passing lanes to make steals and garner easy buckets for himself or his teammates. The Celtics were at their best when Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, and Jae Crowder manned the perimeter. The defensive trio consistently made game changing plays for the team and really helped the whole club play their best team basketball with their knack to create easy scoring opportunities. Despite small nicks and bruises, Crowder appeared in every game of the season until he suffered a high ankle sprain against the Houston Rockets on March 11th. From there, his season began to roll downhill. He missed 9 of the next 10 games and when he began to make appearances again it was obvious he wasn't the player that he had been before the injury. Crowder couldn't get the same lift on his shot and it really impacted him. The Celtics limped into the playoffs with Crowder hurt, Isaiah Thomas was banged up, and Avery Bradley went down in game one. And without a true perimeter threat, the Hawks packed the paint and let the Celtics shoot from outside where they struggled mightily. Crowder's 3 point percentage dipped by almost 10 percent and through the first 3 games he shot a combined 3-18 from downtown. He failed to make an impact on games like he did in the regular season and it came back to doom the Celtics. This offseason Crowder needs to get healthy and continue to work on his shooting, it would also be good if he could improve his ability to handle the ball so he can create more offensively for himself. Barring the addition of Kevin Durant, Jae Crowder will remain the Celtics starting small forward next season, and should round back into form if he gets healthy.
- Evan Turner
Regular Season Stats: 28 minutes per game. 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists. 45.6 FG%, 24.1 3P%, 83 FT%.
Playoff Stats: 35.7 minutes per game. 13.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.33 steals, 1 block. 36.5 FG%, 21.4 3P%, 78 FT%.
Analysis: Evan Turner has slowly revitalized his career in Boston, and it could lead to a big payday for him this summer. He was the focal point of the offense when he came off the bench despite his poor ability to shoot from the three point arc. He is one of the few players in the league that actually thrives in mid range as most of the NBA tries to stay move from it. Brad Stevens has even told Avery Bradley that he wants him to pull up from three point range even though Bradley likes to roll off screens for the deep mid range jumper. Turner has a unique ability to read the floor and know when to make the pass or create offense for himself, and I have to admit, when he first signed with Boston I didn't think much of him. Stevens has helped him turn back into the player he was at Ohio State by giving him the reins to the offense when he's on the court, and he's been a fun guy to watch. Stats wise this wasn't his best season, but when he was on the court during clutch situations you always knew in the back of your mind he would figure out how to make the right play, and more than often he came up big for Boston. Turner was the second leading scorer in the playoffs for the Celtics (I don't count Bradley since he got hurt in game 1) behind Isaiah Thomas and he played admirably in the wins Boston pulled out in games 3 and 4 at home. In game 4 he was overshadowed by Marcus Smart's offensive flurry in the fourth quarter, but Evan quietly put up a line of 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. ET actually assisted on one of Marcus's step back three pointers that turned the tide in Boston's favor. Over the past two years Evan Turner has proved he can be a primary ball handler off the bench, and with the cap rising this man is going to get paid this summer, it just remains to be seen if that team that pays him is the Celtics. Turner has expressed that he would like to return to Boston, and even has remained in the city during the offseason thus far. Bringing Evan back is going to be a tough decision for Danny Ainge. On one hand, you get a guy that has proven himself in the clutch and can run Brad Stevens system, and on the other hand it might be time to insert Marcus Smart into Evan Turner's role to see if he can develop into a primary ball handler. Smart is going into his third year and showed in his sophomore season that he was a lot better at running the pick and roll, Marcus also has a timely ability to make plays so it'll be interesting to see what the Celtics decide to do with this conundrum.
- Jonas Jerebko
Regular Season Stats: 15.1 minutes per game. 4.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 0.8 assists. 41.3 FG%, 39.8 3P%, 78 FT%.
Playoff Stats: 27 minutes per game. 9.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists. 47.8 FG%, 31.8 3P%, 80 FT%.
Analysis: The Swedish Larry Bird didn't see a ton of playing time during the regular season, but broke out in the playoffs when he was needed the most. After being a part of the bench mob and dealing with irregular minutes throughout the season, he finally got his to make a consistent impact as he saw himself start four times during the postseason. Jerekbo started at power forward in the playoffs, but I consider him a small forward because he has played at that spot for most of his career. The Celtics moved Jared Sullinger to the bench in favor of Jerebko, and that really helped turn the series around in games 3 and 4. Sullinger was too slow to keep up with Paul Millsap and Al Horford on defense, so Brad Stevens elected to go small to add more shooting and quickness into the lineup with Jerebko. And Jonas really took this opportunity and ran with it, in game 3 he logged 11 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists. But the cherry on top was game 4, where Jerebko put up 16 points and 10 rebounds, as well as 3 three pointers. He sparked the crowd and essentially was the guy that injected energy into the crowd and team as the third quarter began to wind down with the Celtics trailing by 11. With a little over a minute in the third quarter, he stroked a 3 to cut the lead to 8. On defense, he grabbed a rebound and Evan Turner put in a layup to cut it down to 6. Amir Johnson swatted a shot and with 20 seconds left in the quarter Jerebko nailed another three to cut the deficit to 3. He was still hot when the 4th quarter started and immediately hit a mid range jumper to drop the Hawks lead down to 1. Marcus Smart got a steal, and Jerebko made another basket to put the Celtics ahead 74-73. He got hot at a crucial time for the Celtics as they rallied back and beat the Atlanta Hawks in overtime to tie the series. Boston may not have won the series, but it was still a nice building block for this team to show they can compete in the playoffs without one of their best players in Avery Bradley. I expect the Celtics to exercise Jerebko's team option this summer and bring him back, maybe he'll once again come up big when needed.