For yet another year, Brandon Bass has continued to be a steadying presence on the Celtics. He has been an on-again, off-again starter in Boston for the past 4 years, and remains one of the only two members of the roster that was a part of the "Big 3" era. He has continued to start some games, given his consistent contributions on the court, but has clearly taken a backseat to the younger power forwards on the team, and might have played his final games as a Celtic, as a result.
Bass came to Boston in 2011, at the end of the Big 3 era, and came off the bench at first. That was the year in which Kevin Garnett made the switch from power forward to center, opening up the opportunity for Bass to start at the 4. He started 39 games that season, and finished with averages of 12.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and just under a block and an assist in 31.7 minutes per game.
Since then, Bass has continued to work hard on his game, say all the right things, make a very high percentage of his mid-range jump shots, and occasionally thrill us with a powerful dunk.
Over the past three years, Bass's PER has improved, his Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) has improved, his FG% has improved, his points per 36 minutes has improved, and his passing has improved. However, despite a consistent marginal uptick in efficiency, he has seen his minutes per game begin to decrease. This past season, Bass played 23.5 minutes per game, which is his lowest average of the past 5 years.
What's more, his year ended with an poor playoff performance, in which he started all 4 games, but only shot 35% from the floor, and averaged 5 points, 2.5 assists, and 2 rebounds in 21.5 minutes per game. In a discussion with reporters on Wednesday, Bass discussed his uncharacteristically poor play.
"I didn't like the way I performed," Bass said Wednesday afternoon. "I know I could play 10 times better than the way I played. But it happens. My whole career in the playoffs, I always played at a higher level than I played in the season. So the law of averages got me this year. I think it happens. But I'm in the gym already, improving right now."
He was a dignified and professional as always, but that first-round performance didn't help his case in his competition against the younger power forwards that figure to continue to cut into his minutes moving forward.
In the 2012 and 2013 NBA drafts, Boston selected Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, two power forwards with enticing potential. Their roles on the team have continued to grow, as a result of the quality of their play and their potential for further growth. With only so many minutes to go around at the power forward position, players have been forced to play out of position, which has led to stunted development and sub-optimal results on the court.
In fact, youth seems to be the story for the Celtics moving forward. They have a very young team, with a very young head coach. They are likely at least 3 or 4 years away from title contention (optimistically), and would like players who will be able to contribute to a title run after that amount of time. Bass, at 30 years old, and after 10 seasons in the league, doesn't really fit that profile.
What's more, he seems to understand that.
In yesterday's discussion, Bass had some things to say when asked about whether or not he would like to stay in Boston long-term.
"I think it's been a great time for me. It's been a great learning experience for me as well. And I've been happy here. My family's been happy here. So we'll see what happens."
Perhaps I'm reading too much into this statement, but Bass's use of 'has been' is interesting. He seems to understand that his time with the Celtics might be ending.
For the past four season, Bass has been a stoic and steady contributor to two vastly different types of teams. He works hard to develop and improve his game, and consistently produces at both ends of the court. If Boston truly does move in a different direction at the end of this year, Celtics fans everywhere should be thankful for the work and the dedication he has given this team.
Whether he plays for Boston next year or not, I wish Brandon Bass nothing but the best.
All stats taken from basketball-reference.com, interview from masslive.com