Many fans may be dissatisfied with the Boston Celtics' performance so far this season, but there is still plenty to be encouraged by. At 14-28, they are in fourth place of the anemic Atlantic Division, and are close to having the worst record in the NBA, but head coach Brad Stevens has made it clear that that player development is the most important thing this season.
With a young roster, we have seen players take their game to the next level, but some have gone above and beyond the expectations set for them.
To report on the State of the Celtics, I asked our team of writers six questions about the season so far. In the fifth part of our series, I asked:
Which Celtics player has surpassed your expectations so far this season?
Kevin O'Connor: Avery Bradley
We already knew that Avery Bradley could hit the mid-range jumper and corner three-pointer when spotting up, but we're in the middle of seeing him fully develop his in-between game. Before every game Bradley works with assistant coach Ron Adams, who sends him through a number of shooting drills. The progress has translated onto the court, where Bradley has started to show the signs of a very good jump shooter, displaying potential off of dribble handoffs, pull ups, and both on and off-ball screens. AB will be looking for a big payday this summer if he overcomes his shooting woes as of late.
Kiorrik: Phil Pressey
Phil Pressey has come leaps and bounds since his pre-season games. I'm sure there will come a point where opposing teams game-plan a bit better against his skills, but I figure we have at least 10 to 20 games where we can enjoy watching this young little point-guard try to out-do Rajon in no-look half-court bounce-passes through three defenders. Behind the back. Out of a spin move. Too much? Phil doesn't think so.
Alex Skillin: Avery Bradley
I think Avery Bradley's surprised me the most this season. His improvements on the offensive end have been pretty eye-opening at times, and considering his already stellar defense, there is little doubt that Bradley can be a solid contributor for a contending team. He still has a few kinks to work out in his game, but with Rondo back, I expect Bradley to only continue his upward development over the next few months.
Jordan Crawford (yes, still). He was the surprise of the early season and he was turned into a potential 1st round pick. That's far and away more than I though we would have gotten for him, so that's huge. He also helped us bridge the gap before Rondo's return, which was very helpful.
Tim MacLean: Avery Bradley
Avery Bradley has definitely surpassed the expectations I had for him going into this year. While I knew that he would continue to be the usual defensive pest he has been throughout his young career, I did not see this leap in offensive production coming. Bradley continues to put the team on his back offensively and he's at the point where I'm completely confident in him whenever he takes a shot, especially from mid-range.
Hump has surprised me as I always thought of him as slow and soft like his ex-wife. He does play hard however, rebounds well, and he can be effective, despite his hesitation to shoot the open shot. I had high expectations for Bradley, Sully, and Bass so they have not surpassed my expectations but rather they have essentially met my expectations.
Jay Asser: Avery Bradley
As much as I was his biggest believer heading into the season, I'll still say Avery Bradley. I expected a bounce back year from AB shooting the ball, but I didn't see this coming. Bradley has always shot well from the corner 3's but his newfound mid-range jumper has been a pleasant surprise this season. His scoring has increased every month and he's done all this without Rondo so far. Shedding the point guard responsibilities opened up his offense but having Rondo back will get him more open looks and better take advantage of his cutting. Bradley's rebounding has also been underrated this year. He's pulling down a career-high 4.2 rebounds, a full two rebounds more per game than last year. All in all, he's made a pretty big leap in production.