Once Pierce and Garnett were traded, the number one goal of this season became development. Yes, the losses and draft position came about as a result of the focus on development and roster flexibility. But the most important thing was to develop the players.
So who improved the most this year? Who showed the Celtics and the rest of the league the most development this year? Our writers weigh in.
Avery Bradley: Despite battling injuries in the season's second half, Bradley impressed this season when he did play, showcasing an improved offensive game and a solid mid-range jump shot. Add Bradley's burgeoning offense to his pesky defensive abilities, and there is no doubt that Danny Ainge has a tough decision on his hands this summer in deciding what to do with Bradley long-term.
It's hard to say who improved the most this year. Nobody really made any large, hard-to-miss leaps and bounds, in my opinion.
If forced to choose, though, I'd have to go with Jared Sullinger. He showed us what he can do with a heavier dose of minutes and, as a result, put up some pretty big numbers every now and then. However, I'm looking forward to how he looks next season after a full summer of conditioning and weight lifting. I also expect him to shoot more effectively from downtown.
Sully was pretty inconsistent all year but he laid the groundwork for a promising future.
Kelly Olynyk. He went from preseason Dirk Nowitzki incarnate to one of the lost boys struggling to figuring out the speed and strength of the NBA game and finally, he's regained his confidence and has come on strong in the final weeks of the season. It's amazing how different he looks know vs. the first of the year. He's slow as it is, but his hesitation to take a shot or put the ball on the floor absolutely crippled his development. The only thing I'm not sure about is whether or not Kelly should win Best Hair or Worst Hair.
Kelly Olynyk: Kelly Olynyk went from the shy kid who sits in the back corner of the classroom to the person that sits a few rows up from the back row. He's still not in the front row, but he's getting better and is finally breaking out of his shell. Olynyk was once afraid to shoot anything, and he struggled through injuries, but now he appears to be confident and completely healthy. As Kelly approaches his first offseason as a professional, he should come back next year and compete to win this award for back-to-back seasons.
Chris Johnson, he came out of no where and has really impressed many with his poise and comfort level on the court.
Chris Johnson started out in the D League and ended the season as a key part of the rotation. He proved that he belongs at this level.
Lots of good candidates here. I don't really have any quibbles with any of the above names and it is encouraging that so many guys made strides this season in the right direction. Ultimately though, I'm going to give this to Jared Sullinger. He showed signs of progress last year so this isn't a total surprise. And on the flipside, he's still got plenty of room to grow, or rather, to lean up. But what he showed this year was that he's a stud on the blocks and he's got legit All Star potential.
Watching him snatching one handed rebounds and finishing in traffic is an awesome thing that we haven't seen around here in quite some time. Adding an outside shot gives him a weapon for when his lack of length might otherwise limit him in certain matchups.
You want to develop guys that are either going to be around the long haul, or bring in a haul via trade. Sullinger is one of those guys right now.
So that's who each of us picked. Who would you say is most improved?