Basketball

Celtics Monthly Roster Grade: The Starters

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Welcome to your Celtics monthly roster grade! The 2020-21 NBA season is roughly a month in and with that, I will be going over each player on the Celtics roster and giving them a grade based on how they have played so far this season. In this article, we start with Celtics players who have seen consistent time in the starting lineup.

The first month of the season went well for the Celtics. So far this season the Celtics have played a total of 16 games and hold a record of 10-6. At the time of writing this Boston is tied for second place in the East with the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston has not yet played a game this season at full strength due to Kemba Walker’s knee rehab, Romeo Langford’s wrist injury, and now with Payton Pritchard‘s right MCL sprain. The Celtics have also had a few players test positive for the Coronavirus, forcing them to miss a few games.

Now let’s get to grading!

Celtics Monthly Roster Grade

Kemba Walker

Grade: B+

We don’t have very much to work with for Walker’s grade. He missed the first 12 games of the season rehabbing from the knee injection he got after the 2019-2020 season. In four games, Walker has played he has averaged 17 points, 4.8 assists, and a team-leading 2.3 steals per game while playing on a minutes restriction. Walker is shooting about 43% from the field which is about the same as last season, and 34.5% from three which is a little lower than last season.

Once Walker gets back to full strength and is no longer on a minutes restriction his grade will most likely start to shoot up. We should see the Celtics’ big three get to play together for the first time this season tonight against the Spurs.

Marcus Smart

Grade: B+

Marcus Smart has once again stepped up to the challenge of being the team’s starting point guard while Kemba Walker was out. In 15 games, Smart is averaging 13.6 PPG, 6.2 APG, and 1.9 steals per game. All of those stats are career highs for the 26-year-old. Just like every year for Smart, he puts it all out on the court every game no matter what the score this. Smart, who was named to the All-Defensive first team last season, has continued to show this season why he is one of the league’s top defenders.

It will be interesting to see whether coach Brad Stevens continues to start Marcus Smart when everyone on the team is healthy. If he does end up starting he would slot in at the two-guard role. If the Celtics continue to stick with the two-big lineup, we would see Smart come off the bench.

Jaylen Brown

Grade: A+

Brown has been the best player on the Celtics so far this season. He has taken a huge leap from last season into becoming a superstar and is an early candidate for the Most Improved Player award. Brown is averaging 27.3 PPG, tied for the 6th most PPG in the league. Jaylen is shooting at a 52.8% clip from the field and 43.8% from three, both of those splits are career highs for the former third overall draft pick.

Due to Jayson Tatum testing positive for the Coronavirus and missing five games, Brown has seen time as the go-to bucket-getter for Boston. In the games without Tatum, Brown is putting up 29.4 PPG.

The Celtics clearly made the right decision by not trading Brown to the Rockets in a deal for James Harden earlier this month. The Celtics will need Brown to continue playing how he has been if they want to be top tier finals contenders.

Jayson Tatum

Grade: A

Don’t let Jaylen Brown leading Boston in scoring distract you from the fact that Jayson Tatum is also putting up career-high numbers. In Tatum’s 11 games, he is putting up 26.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and 3.9 APG. Percentage-wise, Tatum is shooting 47.4% and 44.2% from deep. With Tatum on the court, the Celtics are 8-3. In the games he has missed they are 2-3. In two out of Tatum’s eleven games, he has hit the game-winning shot, a tribute to his confidence despite his youth.

Although Brown leads the team in most stats, in the games that Tatum plays he is clearly the team’s star player. Tatum is the player the team is looking to get the ball to for shot opportunities. Now that the Celtics are starting to get healthy again, teams better start getting prepared to face “The Jay’s.”

Daniel Theis

Grade: B-

Theis has not been spectacular so far this season, but he is doing what he is asked to do. Theis is averaging a solid 9.7 PPG while shooting 63.4% to go along with a 33.3% three-point percentage. Theis, who was scouted as a three-point shooting big man, has not completely lived up to that in his NBA career yet. Theis is taking an average of 1.9 threes per game, a career-high. Due to the Celtics using a two big-man lineup so far this season, Theis has seen his rebounding numbers drop to 5.2 per game compared to 6.6 RPG last season while being the lone big-man in the starting lineup.

If the Celtics do end up going back to a one big-man starting lineup, Theis most likely gets the start over Tristian Thompson.

Tristian Thompson

Grade: B

The Thompson signing by Danny Ainge is looking to be a great investment. Thompson has thrived with Theis while both being in the starting lineup. Tristan “Double T” Thompson is averaging only 6.1 PPG this season but is leading the team in the rebounding with 8.6 RPG, still less than when he was in Cleveland. Thompson is another Celtic who has missed some time this season due to COVID. Unlike Tatum, however, Thompson only missed two games.

Thompson did come off the bench for a stretch with the Cavs, so if he does get moved to the bench sometime later this year, it is still likely he puts up great numbers.

Overview

Now that the Celtics are trending towards health (knock on wood), this next month should really show how they play as a team and if they are ligament finals contenders. I will be doing a Celtics Monthly Roster Grade article each month, so make sure to check back in a month for the next one!

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Sam has been writing for Overtime Heroics since June of 2020, he currently is a writer for the Boston Celtics. Sam also helps run the Overtime Heroics Celtics Twitter account.