Its the time of year when everyone is handing out awards and grades for the regular season. To borrow a phrase, that seems collegy. However, considering that the Young Guns are going to college in NBA University taking classes in Pick n Roll 101, Fundamental Defensive Rotations, and the History of the Boston Celtics, I felt that it was somewhat appropriate to grade out the students.
By the way, one of my toughest and favorite college teachers told us that if we consistently got better over the course of the semester, we'd get a bump in our letter grade. I'll apply that same scale to this class. So here are the grades for each player (starting on the left and moving right)
Hard to grade him on limited time. Also, considering the fact that he was drafted in the second round, I'm not sure what kind of expectations to put on him. However, Danny has been a constant supporter of him and has a lot of confidence in him. From what I've seen, the kid is solid. That's it. Nothing spectacular, just solid. He can defend, he can knock down the occasional open shot, he doesn't turn the ball over. On the other hand, he hasn't found his way onto the court much. I could punt and give him an incomplete, but I think you need to earn your minutes if you are healthy (even if the team is stacked at your position). Grade: C+
What more can you say about this kid. If Paul Pierce is "the Truth" then Al is "the Future." He was expected to go on the shelf but he showed that the future is not too far off. Amazing instincts, nose for the ball, and touch that can't be taught. However, the things you can teach (rotations, defensive assignments, positioning) he's picking up faster than anyone thought possible. Still some hicups on defense and obviously picking up quick fouls for reaching when he should be moving his feet. But that too will come in time. Grade: A-
Missed a lot of time due to various injuries, so its hard to put a finger on him. Still, he's shown great range, strong basketball IQ, and a knack for making good things happen. He has enough ball control to man the point position in the future, but doesn't produce as many assists as you'd like to see from your playmaker. Grade: B-
On a team with few defensive standouts, this guy stands out. That will always make teacher happy. He also does a great job of attacking the rim and uses his athleticism to his advantage more often than not. Needs to work on making those layups once he's worked so hard to get to that rim though. This will come with time. As will his jumper, which is already better than at the start of the season. Needs to work on his focus, but I'm a sucker for good defense. Grade: B+
Last year was a typical rookie point-guard year. I was preaching patience then, and now we're seeing some of the fruits of that labor. He's always had all the tools you need to be a great point guard. It was just a matter of when he was going to "get it." He's not all the way there, but he's a lot further along than he was at the start of the season. Love the way he pushes the pace of any game he's in. I love the way he ball-hawks on defense. However, still going to need to see him run the offense on a consistent basis before I'm comfortable letting Gary ride off into the sunset.Grade: B+
Can't teach this kid's size, but he's had to learn just about everything else. He's improved on defense to the point where he's now a defensive sub. Rebounds like a man on a mission and uses his wingspan to block his share of shots. Passes well for a player his size but has little in the way of post moves. If he can accept his role as defensive rebounding specialist, he'll find his share of points just by cleaning up for others and being in the right spot when the defense overshifts. Maybe down the line he'll develop a go-to move, but that would just be gravy to me. Still suffers from being overaggressive and picking up fouls in bunches. Sometimes looks lost out there and hasn't been able to beat out Blount for playing time. Looking forward to seeing him line up next to Al in our frontcourt of the future. Grade: B
All in all a very promising year for the Celtics youth movement. The team is built not only to compete for today, but also to develop for tomorrow. A great balance and an impressive feat for GM Danny Ainge.