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The unexpected excellence of Jonas Jerebko

Although he was an afterthought when initially acquired, the Swedish power forward has been playing great for the Celtics

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

When Tayshaun Prince was traded from Boston to Detroit, people were not exactly effusive in praise for the return that Danny Ainge received. As Stan Van Gundy expressed so elegantly, "The reason Boston made the trade is to save money." Jonas Jerebko and Luigi Datome were looked at more as expiring contracts than players. Heck, Jonas Jerebko can't even get his name pronounced right. But, the depleted frontline of the Celtics has given Jerebko an opportunity to play extended minutes. Since getting over his sickness during his first weekend with the Celtics, he's averaging just under 20 minutes per game. During this stretch Jerebko is shooting over 55% from the field and 57% from three point range. He posted his first 20 point game of the season, and even recorded a double-double. Jerebko hasn't done the latter since late 2011. He's playing some of the best basketball of his career, and it's having a positive effect on the team too.

Boston's offense is performing at an incredibly efficient level with him on the court. The Celtics are scoring 116 points per 100 possessions with Jerebko playing, which is higher than any NBA team's offensive rating this season. Although Isaiah Thomas has a lot to with this (the numbers with Jonas on court and Isaiah off aren't too pretty), Jerebko has done his part too. He's a solid shooter, which helps the floor spacing of the second unit. Jerebko isn't a great rebounder by any means, but he's been making hustle plays to compensate. He has extended numerous possessions on the offensive end by doing whatever he can to tip balls back in play to teammates. Interestingly, he's played mostly at center for Boston. Per Basketball Reference, Jerebko has played 77% of his minutes at center for the Celtics, compared to an average of just 13% in Detroit. That type of versatility is a staple of this Celtics team. It's nice to have a guy who's willing to go a little outside his comfort zone to help the team win.

Jerebko is undersized and sometimes overpowered playing center on the defensive end though. But he's surviving on energy and effort right now. Brad Stevens lauded his competitiveness and defensive ability during an interview with 98.5's Zolak and Bertrand.

"I always thought that when he was on the court, [Detroit was] a little bit harder to play against, just because of how hard he played....He's a better defender than I thought when he got here... He gives you a little bit more versatility and ability to switch onto some guards "

With Kelly Olynyk coming back, Jerebko should get some more minutes at his natural position. His effort and versatility on defense will be needed coming off the bench for the Celtics.

Jonas Jerebko will likely regress back to being the player he's been most of his career. However, that doesn't mean we can't enjoy his play right now. He's chipping in during a pretty dire time for the Celtics front court. Not to mention putting together a solid auction for being resigned next year. Let's hope his excellent three point shooting, effort, and more importantly, his impassioned celebrations can continue for a little bit longer.

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