Jonas Jerebko arrived in Boston without much fanfare last season. He was involved in the midseason Tayshaun Prince trade that also netted the Celtics Gigi Datome. Despite the relatively low expectations, Jerebko performed well after joining the team. He added a spark off the bench and helped Boston's unlikely trip to the playoffs. He retuned to the Celtics in free agency after signing a two year, $10 million deal. Coming into this season, what does Jonas Jerebko bring to the Boston Celtics?
The Celtics have a dire need for three-point shooting. This is where Jonas Jerebko can step in. He's by far the best returning three-point shooter from last year's team, at least percentage wise. Jerebko made over 40% of his threes for the Celtics in 2015, which would be fantastic to keep up. Strangely enough, Jerebko was an awful three-point shooter through his first three years in the league, making just over 30% of his attempts. But over the last two seasons, he's made a hair under 40% of them. That's a huge improvement, and a key part of his game now. Jerebko fits perfectly as a stretch four off the bench for the Celtics. He's a nice spot up shooter and deadly in the corners.
His shooting ability affects the entire team too. The threat of his shot gives more space for everyone else on the floor. This makes the driving lanes a little bigger and frees up some room for pick and rolls. He's not commanding a Kyle Korver level of respect from defenses, but they can't cheat off him either. Brad Stevens even experimented a bit with some fun lineups featuring Jerebko playing center. I can't imagine we see much of that this season, but it was an interesting way to put his quickness and spacing to use. On the whole, Boston's offensive rating was almost 5 points per possession better with Jerebko on the floor. Small sample size concerns aside, that's a positive sign of his impact on offense.
The rest of Jerebko's offensive game is unspectacular. He's an average finisher at rim, but ineffective elsewhere in the paint. He's not a great driver or dangerous pick and roll threat either. But, Jerebko does add some offensive rebounds to the mix. He kept quite a few balls alive last year just by hustling to tip them back in bounds. These extra possessions are a good way to create value on the court.
On the defensive end, Jerebko adds some versatility to the team. Jerebko won't be confused for a lockdown defender, but he's quick for his size and gives good effort. That's enough to survive against most of the competition he usually faces. Bigger players can pose a risk defensively, but the Celtics used some interesting wrinkles to scheme around that last year. Jerebko spent the majority of his time in Boston playing with Jae Crowder. Crowder was able to take some of those tougher assignments, like Al Jefferson. This allowed Jerebko to take a more favorable matchup for his skillset. He's much better suited to guarding quicker players than bruisers in the post. Brad Stevens did a good job of maximizing Jerebko's talents last season, so hopefully that trend continues this year.
Playing time is a legitimate concern for Jerebko this season. The front court rotation is packed. He'll be competing for minutes with Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller, and David Lee. Odds are he won't top the 18 minutes per game he averaged last season given the roster construction. He still provides good value for his role and salary. His shooting range and effort should earn him a spot in the rotation. Jerebko might not play a ton this year, but he'll be a useful player when he does.