Brad Stevens preaches continual improvement. Even in a blowout loss he’s coaching and evaluating and looking for how his players respond in that moment. In wins and losses, in hot streaks and in cold spells, he’s evaluating and gathering data for future use. That could mean as soon as the next play or as late as the offseason and beyond.
I thought I’d take a similar approach and take stock of where this team is now that we’ve got a larger sample size to evaluate in the playoffs (when the stakes are elevated).
Isaiah Thomas - He’s had a few less-than-stellar games here and there, but I don’t see how you could ask for more from this man, even under normal circumstances (and his circumstances are anything but normal). He’s a star. Period.
Al Horford - When the defense keys on your best player, you count on your second best player to step up. Horford isn’t a volume scorer, so the way he steps up is by making great reads from the top of the key. Sometimes that means taking his own shots (he’s shooting 53.8% from 3 during these playoffs) but usually it means finding the open man (he leads the team in assists at 6 per game). He’s worth every penny. Period.
Terry Rozier - During the season it seemed like he was on a short leash because he didn’t know how to change speeds. It was all ahead forward, regardless of the situation. In the playoffs, however, it seems like the game is starting to slow down for him. Or rather, he’s seeing when to slow down and recognizing when to use his impressive quick twitch muscles to blow by people. He’s proving himself worthy of the faith Danny Ainge and the Celtics have had in him all along.
Marcus Smart - He’s always been a feast or famine kind of guy, and the playoffs are much less forgiving than the regular season. He still makes “game winning plays” but all too often he’s also making plays that make it a lot harder to win games. His Jekyll and Hyde routine is making it harder to forgive his streaky-at-best outside shooting.
Jae Crowder - This one is tough for me because I like Jae a lot. I can’t quite put a finger on exactly what is wrong either. His shooting percentage is down but beyond that his production is pretty even with the numbers he put up in the regular season. Perhaps this is just me normalizing my expectations, because I was hoping for something more from him when the stakes were raised and instead it seems like he’s plateaued.
Amir Johnson - Bless his soul, I think he just looks tired. He looks like the oldest 30 year old ever out there. I’ve seen it written that his game is more suited for the regular season than the playoffs. That’s probably true and I do think fans are being overly harsh on him searching for a scapegoat for the team’s early-game struggles. Still, I don’t know if he’s a net-positive on the court any longer.
Avery Bradley - There have been times when he’s carried this team on his back on both ends of the court. There have been times when he takes a backseat to the Isaiah show without a hint of jealousy. And of course there’s the usual bumps and bruises that he suffers from putting his body through the grind of playing some of the best defense in the league. Of course he’s checking some of the best players in the league and can’t stop everyone all the time. This is about what I’ve come to expect from Avery and he’s an extremely valuable guy to have on your team.
Kelly Olynyk - When he hits his first few shots, you know it is going to be a good night and he’s going to stretch the floor and make heady plays to help you win. When he misses a few or pump fakes a wide open shot because he’s thinking too hard about what the right read is, then it is usually a long night for him. He’s not terrible at defense (good rotations, etc.) but he’s not quick or long enough to be much of a rim protector or post defender.
Gerald Green - I remember thinking when he was signed that he was bound to go through long periods of DNP-CDs but also help the team win a playoff game or two (I can’t find where I wrote this so I have no proof at the moment, but trust me!). He’s a gunner who can give you instant offense and sometimes that’s all you need.
Brad Stevens - I tend to think of Stevens as a pleasant mix of Yoda, Will Hunting, and Forest Gump. He’s not always perfect, but more often than not he’s putting his team in position to succeed. Never too high, never too low, steady as a rock and quietly as competitive as anyone in the game.
Jaylen Brown - It seems like the only time he can see the court is when Marcus Smart is pulling himself out of the game or during blowouts. I’ll defer to Brad Stevens in terms of X’s and O’s but the fan in me wants to see him get some run. Or put another way, things in the last couple of games haven’t exactly gone great, so what’s the risk of giving the kid a shot?
Jonas Jerebko - Last year he was the surprise hero in a couple of wins over the Hawks. This year he’s out of the rotation except in garbage time. Maybe that’s a matchups thing but I think Stevens just had to set his rotations and Jonas was one of the odd men out.
Tyler Zeller - Just not an impact big man.
James Young - Last days in green.
Jordan Mickey & Demetrius Jackson - DNP-Too-Young
(This is the part where you go to the comments to tell me why I’m wrong.)