August 19, 2017, 12:56 am
Hoop-Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look at the 2016-17 season and what went right and wrong for every team. From coaching analysis to fantasy impact, we dive in to the year that was and make sense of it all. If you’ve missed any, you can find them here.
The Celtics were already way ahead of schedule with their rebuild process last year when they finished with 48 wins and the fifth seed. One year later and they have made another significant jump. This time, winning 53 games, obtaining the top seed, and reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.
Their four-year turnaround is impressive in itself but let’s just focus on this past season. They let Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner walk. They signed Al Horford to a massive four-year contract, one that he’s lived up to thus far. They drafted Jaylen Brown, and while he was initially deemed a “project,” he now seems like a legit baller.
Not only did they go 2-for-2 in off-season additions but the players already on the club took a big leap forward as well. Isaiah Thomas took his game to another level, finishing in the top-5 in MVP voting, above the likes of Stephen Curry, John Wall and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder all set career-high marks for three-pointers made, field goal percentage and three-point percentage. Even though Marcus Smart still couldn’t shoot, he improved in almost every other category. Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk continued being very productive in their roles and even Terry Rozier earned a spot in the rotation.
The playoffs did not go as smoothly as the Celtics would have hoped. They stumbled a bit against both the Bulls and the Wizards, until the Cavs eventually took them out. Even without a championship, the Celtics still had an incredibly successful season; especially when you take into account how little time this group has been together. Other than Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart was the longest tenured player on the team.
This was Brad Stevens’ fourth year as the head coach of the Celtics. His first year was when Danny Ainge sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets, the first official year of the “rebuild.” Four seasons later, he has led them to the top seed in the conference… damn.
The Celtics were the blueprint for efficiency and effort. They made more threes than the prior season, while doing so at a higher percentage. They made 12.0 triples per game at 35.9 percent compared to 8.7 a year prior at 33.5 percent. Their top three 3-point shooters, Thomas, Bradley and Crowder, combined to shoot an incredible 46.3 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from deep, compared to the league average of 35.8. The Celtics improved their scoring from 105.7 to 108.0 points per game and finished third in the league in assists, assist-to-turnover ratio and three-pointers made.
Stevens’ most notable attribute is his temperament — always composed, never making a show. Nonetheless, every play and every possession matters to him and his attention to detail is second to none. This translates well to the players. It’s a system where they hold each other accountable and have an understanding that if they don’t play hard, they simply won’t play.
ADP: 24 / 32 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 10/10 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 13/11 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 76
Leading the charge for the Celtics, Thomas’ third year with the team was his best season yet. He was considered to have a breakout season in 2015-16 when he averaged 22.2 points per game but his game reached an entirely new level this year. He is listed at 5’9, currently tied with Kay Felder for shortest player in the NBA and he is now a bona fide MVP candidate and was given the nickname “King of the Fourth.” He led the entire league in fourth quarter points and as most players were fatigued, he was able to turn it on even more and turn in some memorable performances.
He finished third in the NBA in scoring at 28.9 per game and shot a career-best 46.3 percent from the field with a career-high 7.8 free throws per game at 90.9 percent. He is only one of four players in NBA history to have averaged at least 28 points with a 60.0 true shooting percentage. Add a career high 3.2 triples per game and it’s easy to see why he brought back first round value and was a steal in most fantasy leagues.
Thomas is due to make only $6.3 million in the last year of his contract next season and most will agree that he is currently the most underpaid player in the league. If his numbers resemble anything close to this year’s, expect a max deal, at least from someone.
Thomas missed the last three games of the Eastern Conference Finals with a hip injury and is still not 100 percent but he is expected to be at full strength by training camp. Although the addition of Gordon Hayward may diminish his usage rate, he should remain a safe mid-to-late second round target.
ADP: 25 / 18 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 43/38 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 38/34 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 68
The Celtics snagged Horford from the Hawks with a hefty four-year, $113 million contract last off-season and he’s been worth every penny so far. He’s been the perfect fit for this team with coaches and players raving about his infectious style of play and what a great teammate he is.
At 31 years old, the four-time All-Star with one All-NBA team selection posted career highs in assists and triples this season. He was the first center to average 14 points and five assists in a season since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1978-79. His best game this year came against DeMarcus Cousins on December 2 when he was the first player to record 26 points, four triples, six blocks and two steals in a single game. This all goes without mention of his monster performance in the playoffs.
His career-low 6.8 rebounds per game hurt his fantasy value. He was drafted in the second round in most leagues but still returned third round value with a line of 14.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.3 blocks, 0.8 steals and 1.3 triples on a career-low 47.3 percent shooting. He missed 14 games, eight of which were from a concussion, two from an elbow strain and two with a groin injury. He should remain a safe early-middle round pick next year.
ADP: 88 / 80 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 115/113 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 57/57 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 55
Not only did the Celtics have the smallest point guard in the NBA but they also had the shortest shooting guard. Bradley has come a long way since playing 5.2 minutes per game for the Celtics in 2010-11. Fast-forward six years and now he is the second leading-scorer on a 53-win team, with two All-NBA Defensive team selections under his belt.
Bradley posted career high averages in points, rebounds, assists and triples. The biggest surprise was his rebounding with 6.1 per game, compared to only 2.9 a year prior.
Injuries have plagued Bradley throughout his career and he missed 22 games this year with a strained Achilles. The Celtics eased him back into the lineup and eventually he was back to full strength, leading them in minutes during their playoff run.
On the Pistons, Bradley should assume Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s old role and easily match last season’s output. More than likely, he will improve like he’s been doing every year in the league thus far. Pope attempted 5.75 three-pointers per game last year and Bradley will likely get the same green light. Consider Pope’s 39.9 field goal percentage and 35.0 three-point percentage last year compared to Bradley’s 46.3 and 39.0. Bradley was a top-60 player last year on a per-game basis and if he stays healthy, could jump in to the top-50 conversation but may drop in drafts because of his injury history.
ADP: 63 / 59 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 67/46 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 67/50 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 72
Another former second-round pick in this starting lineup, Crowder was a throw-in for the Rondo-to-Dallas trade. Three years later, he has turned out to be the best player in that deal. Even though his steals dipped from 1.7 to 1.0 this year, he averaged career-highs in rebounds, assists, triples and both field goal and three-point percentage.
His name was thrown around the rumor mill as the Celtics were trying to land a star. However, they are surely thrilled they didn’t have to trade him as they have him locked up for three more years at a bargain price.
A very balanced player, he is way more than a 3-and-D guy. He missed eight games in November with an ankle sprain but still outperformed his ADP and finished the season in the top-50 in fantasy. Even with the additions of Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris, Crowder is too valuable for his role to diminish as he is often tasked with guarding the opponent’s best player.
ADP: NA / 117 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 70/85 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 97/115 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 79
Smart’s hustle, tenacity and never back down mentality have not gone unnoticed, as it’s hard to miss a guy who is always giving 110 percent. As the sixth man, he led the team in steals, deflections and was third in blocks and is already considered a premier perimeter defender at 23 years old.
His gritty style of play has translated well into fantasy as his all-around production had him hovering around top-100 value all season. There remains one giant hole in his game and that’s his field goal percentage. He finished in the top-120 on a per-game basis but for a team that was punting field goal percentage, he would have been a top-60 player.
A career 29.1 percentage from downtown puts him as the worst-three point shooter of all time of players that have attempted at least four per game. It wasn’t even that he was taking too many contested shots as he was 27.3 percent on “wide-open” looks according to NBA.com. On the bright side, he was able to drastically improve his free-throw shooting, going from 64.6 percent his rookie season to 81.2 percent this past season. At 23 years old, there’s no reason he can’t fix his field goal percentage the same way.
Other than his shooting woes, he was able to post career-highs in almost every statistical category. His scoring went from 9.1 to 10.6 and his assists jumped from 3.0 to 4.6. His steals and blocks went up as well. His high IQ on both ends of the floor will keep him on the floor and remain fantasy relevant for many years to come.
ADP: NA / NA (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 135/145 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 161/160 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 75
Olynyk was sixth on the Celtics in minutes per game, right around his career-mark with 20.5 per game. He played in over 30 minutes only five times all season and delivered all five times. He posted 9.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and 0.9 triples on 51.0 percent shooting. His field-goal percentage, rebounds and assists were all career-highs and that was good enough to have him hover around the top-150 in fantasy, even in limited minutes.
He played a key role for the Celtics this year and they would have loved to keep the former first team All-American but his price tag was too high and they needed to make room for Gordon Hayward. The Heat ended up snatching him with a 4-year, $50 Million contract. He will likely remain in the 20-25 minute per game role which caps his fantasy value. His per-36 numbers this season were 15.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.6 triples.
ADP: NA / NA (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 121/112 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 162/149 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 80
Chosen 56th overall in the 2005 draft, Johnson has carved out a very nice career for himself and was another player the Celtics could not afford to hold on to. He averaged 20.1 minutes in the regular season, but was invisible in the playoffs, playing only 10.1 minutes with a few DNPs.
Although his stats were down across the board from a year ago, he remained very efficient. His per-36 production was 11.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.4 blocks and 0.6 triples. Even though he attempted 0.8 treys per game, his field-goal percentage remained sky-high at 57.6 percent (40.9 from deep).
The 12-year veteran is only 30 years old and although some point out that he plays like his knees are bothering him, he was still durable enough to play in 80 games this year, the most on the team. His fantasy outlook in Philadelphia does not look promising with them already stacked with Joel Embiid, Richaun Holmes and Jahlil Okafor as their bigs.
ADP: NA / 165 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 257/260 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 317/322 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 78
The rookie had a tough time earning playing time with the Celtics talented roster but nonetheless was very productive in the minutes he did play. He topped 30 minutes only four times this season and produced each time. During those four games he put up 14/7, 12/7, 20/8 and 19/5.
As most rookies hit the “rookie wall,” Brown only got better as the season progressed. He played meaningful minutes in the Cleveland series with a Game 2 performance of 19 points, four rebounds and two steals on 7-for-11 shooting. He is a force in transition and has earned praise from coaches for his maturity. He certainly has earned a place in the Celtics rotation but it will be difficult for him to grow with the additions of Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum. He is unlikely to be worth drafting in most formats next year.
ADP: NA / NA (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 263/248 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 304/294 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 74
The 16th overall pick of the 2015 draft had a significant increase in playing time this season, playing 17.1 minutes compared to 8.0 the prior season. Topping out at 28 minutes, he has not yet been unleashed but has certainly earned his spot and was seventh in minutes played during the playoffs in a tightened rotation.
The biggest flaw in his game this season was his 36.7 field goal percentage, converting only 46 percent of his shots at the rim. His huge wingspan, athleticism and quickness suggest he should be able to finish stronger. His 2015-16 D-League stats of 19.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.9 steals, 1.8 triples and 4.7 free throws per game have not been forgotten. However, his role may not expand much next year.
ADP: NA / NA (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 268/250 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 332/307 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 78
Jerebko played 15.8 minutes for the Celtics during the regular season but he played only 10.7 in the playoffs with six DNPs. The 30 year old topped 25 minutes only once this season and surpassed 10 points only twice. His best game of the season came against the Cavs on December 29 when he posted 12 points, seven rebounds, two steals and two triples.
He played 27.9 minutes per game as a rookie for Detroit in 2009-10 but missed the entire following season with an Achilles injury and never got the same type of minutes again. The 6’10 stretch-four joined the Jazz this off-season but is unlikely to make a fantasy contribution next year.
As Danny Ainge continues to amaze with his impressive collection of talent and picks, all the Celtics fans can do is kick their feet up and enjoy the show. Not only did they finish atop the Eastern Conference only four years after blowing their team up, but they have three first-round picks next year (two potential lottery) and four first-round picks in 2019. As Ainge and Brad Stevens continue doing what they do, some may see a dynasty in the making.