Ladies and gentlemen, the stretch run is here. All-Star Weekend is over, and as of this writing, just 20 games lie between the Boston Celtics and the NBA Playoffs. The race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference is as tight as ever, which makes each of these games all that much more important — and our Player of the Week’s performance that much more impactful.
It’s a familiar sample size for this week’s award, just in an unfamiliar format. We’ve got four games to cover: two before the All-Star break and two after. First up was the Celtics’ narrow loss to Milwaukee sans four starters, followed by the win over Detroit to enter the break. The following week, then, we have dramatic wins over Indiana and Philadelphia to round out the slate. Let’s get into it.
In the interest of being completely transparent, this was a dogfight between two players, and at least a small reason why Derrick White didn’t take home the hardware this week was because I’m a bit leery of a three-peat. White has been a revelation for the Celtics in recent weeks, and has captured the past two Player of the Week awards, which covered the three weeks prior to the All-Star Break in all.
He was that good again during this two-week stretch, and if you feel he should have taken the top spot again this week, I won’t argue with you. He averaged 18 points per game on 46/37/84 shooting splits, and didn’t miss a bit upon returning to the bench as the team came back from the break fully healthy. We’re going on more than a month of excellent basketball from Derrick White, a remarkable run from a glue guy.
Elsewhere, the entire starting lineup against Milwaukee deserves a shout-out for taking the Bucks to overtime despite missing four starters (and with the fifth playing only 13 minutes). Grant Williams, Mike Muscala, Blake Griffin, Sam Hauser and White all scored in double-figures in one of the team’s scrappier performances this season. Against Detroit, Marcus Smart returned from a lengthy absence due to an injured ankle and recorded a comical 9-7-6-6 stat line to help guide into the break on a winning note.
CelticsBlog Player of the Week #17: Malcolm Brogdon
4 GP, 31.3 MPG, 20 PTS (59% FG, 59% 3PT), 4.8 REB, 4.5 AST, +23
Our game of backup guard hot potato brings us back to Brogdon, meaning the Celtics’ reserve duo has accounted for five of the last six Player of the Week awards dating back to the beginning of January. It’s safe to say the team has gotten more than their fair share of value from the duo, who are far and away the most crucial pieces of this bench.
Brogdon doesn’t bring the defensive value of White — he’s arguably the worst defender in the Celtics’ regular rotation — but he remains the superior offensive player, even as White has surged in that area. What he’s given the Celtics this season is essentially a turbo-charged version of his final year in Milwaukee — hyper-efficient scoring and offensive competency in a role player capacity. He was a 50-40-90 player that season, and to this point, he’s beaten it in terms of true shooting percentage, 62.9% versus 61.4%, despite posting a higher usage rate. The only guards that outrank him (26th) on the leaderboard for true shooting percentage are Steph Curry (10th) and Damian Lillard (15th).
There’s a mechanical efficiency to everything Brogdon does offensively. It’s like he’s a robot built exclusively for scoring efficiency; every catch-and-shoot three feels like an inevitability, every drive precisely engineered for success. He’s the kind of player that can pile up stats without necessarily catching your eye as a viewer. These 20+ point outings really sneak up on you.
Across this four-game stretch, Brogdon scored 24 or more points three times, with the lone blemish being a fairly anonymous five-point outing against Philadelphia. After cashing in on 13 of his 22 attempts in these games, he’s extended his three-point shooting lead, with a 46.4% mark that outpaces second-place Luke Kennard by nearly a full percentage point. It doesn’t matter how he takes these threes, they’re just going in — he converts catch-and-shoot threes at a 46.1% rate and pull-ups at 47.1%.
The stretch run is now approaching, and with the Milwaukee Bucks hanging tight in the race for the Eastern Conference’s top seed, the games will continue to matter for the Celtics. Our next week includes four games: Monday’s disappointing loss to the Knicks and three straight ESPN games against the Cavaliers, Nets and a New York rematch. Are there any Celtics who can overthrow Brogdon and White for Player of the Week honors? Check back next week when we break it down.