Why Rodney Hood Isn’t Coming To Boston

By Vinny, @sailboatstudios on Twitter

It’s that time of year again. Names appear in trade rumors – almost as if pulled out of a hat at random. Kemba Walker, Lou Williams, DeAndre Jordan, George Hill all linked to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The sexiest names attached to the team with, seemingly, the most to offer, (Brooklyn pick) while it remains uncertain the value of the Nets pick, it’s still important and an enviable asset. The issue of course is, using it to acquire guard George Hill, an older guard on a massive contract is an overpay. The sad fact is Tristan Thompson cratering in production ruins any possibility of a Cavaliers blockbuster deal, if T.T was the players he was last season Cleveland absolutely could’ve been in the running for somebody like Jordan or Gasol. But now Thompson is a gigantic albatross, if you’re rebuilding there’s no reason to take on Thompson’s contract and not receive a lottery pick in return is borderline lunacy.

In a league where teams don’t have necessary cap space or even digestible contracts to make the idea of a transaction possible, teams in contention already have an established point guard (Milwaukee, Boston, New Orleans); don’t have the assets (San Antonio, Cleveland). So all there’s left are the bottom of the playoff standings, Philadelphia, New York, and Utah. While Orlando and Phoenix can trump an offer of Frankie Smokes and Michael Beasley 2.0, it doesn’t make complete sense for them to sabotage their chances at a high draft pick for two Kemba Walker seasons.

Course, the issues in Boston aren’t the quality of play from their starters, but the uncertainty of Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. Finding offense outside of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford is a tall order, when Jaylen Brown gets going the Celtics are unstoppable but he too suffers from inconstancy. According to Marc Stein, of The New York Times, Jazz shooting guard Rodney Hood reportedly is on the market. Hood is a classic case of a “He did well his first season, everybody expected him to just keep improving but he stagnated,” at age 25 Hood is no longer a prospect and likely this is the best he’s going to be. Buried under Donovan MitchellMania, Hood’s been solid this season, a career-high in three-point percentage (38.6) and points (16.7). Hood fancies himself a starter and due for a handsome payday. I suppose we cannot blame him. Garry Harris (4-Years, $84 million) and Tim Hardaway (4-Years, $71 million) are either in or slightly below Hood’s level, but this upcoming summer is a terrible time to be a free agent.

So the question, in my mind, is why do the Jazz want to trade him. And more importantly, as a Celtics fan, why would they want Marcus Smart? Why are the Jazz suddenly interested in taking on Smart’s $11,345,050 cap hold for this summer? I get it, their seasons over. But I’d rather have Hood leave for nothing than try to swap him for Smart. If Rozier is thrown in then I’d listen. Rozier isn’t a knockdown shooter, he’s shooting a below-average percentage, if you take out his one-for-seven performance against New Orleans a few nights ago, his percentage is a more respectable 35.5%. The kicker could be Rozier is under team-control until 2019 – and maybe longer since he’s very cheap to hang on to because he was drafted later than Smart.

The Celtics tried to trade Marcus Smart last off-season to make room for Gordon Hayward, but the pickings were so slim they moved Avery Bradley instead. It takes two to tango, Ainge knows how difficult it is to find a willing partner. Don’t hold your breath for Ainge to work his magic in the next month, it’s more likely he uses the DPE to pick up recently bought out Greg Monroe, Tyreke Evans, or if we’re talking bottom of the barrel: Mario Herzonja. It’s easier to just add a player relatively for free than to orchestrate a trade around players below the targeted players value.

But, just for fun, here’s my proposed trade to the Utah Jazz if Dennis Lindsey is reading this for some reason:

Utah: Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, 2019 Celtics 1st

Boston: Rodney Hood, Raul Neto

Vinny’s All-Stars, 2018, East Edition

Voting for the All-Star game on the NBA.com website is restricting. Plain and simple. You have to choose two guards, three frontcourt players and you absolutely cannot pick a player out of his position. If you cannot decide between DeMar DeRozan and Victor Oladipo and you want to cheat and vote for one as a small forward you can’t. It’s against the rules for NBA.com to acknowledge the NBA uses three-guard lineups. To make things worse my vote for Al Horford for starting center over Joel Embiid won’t be validated, fans susceptible to the bubbling personality omit the fact Embiid shoots under 30% from three and hasn’t played 1,000 minutes yet this season.

The East is an easier conference to nail down your starters. There are two locks, one “The stats don’t show it, but you should be an All-Star” and one starting center that’s not named Joel Embiid. LeBron and Giannis stand as the people you cannot leave out of the conversation. There is no reason for James to be inserted in as the starter of the East All-Stars isn’t anything beyond “He’s LeBron, he’s the best and hasn’t aged.” There isn’t much to talk about when it comes to LeBron’s greatness. He’s the best player in the world.

 

Starting Center: Al Horford

For all the MVP buzz Kyrie Irving’s received, we should also note Horford has a legitimate candidacy. Though the basic stats don’t show it, the thirty-one-year old Horford upped his game and the play of those around him. In just one season Isaiah Thomas went from a fringe All-Star to a top-5 player for the 2016-17 season. In just a few short months Kyrie Irving’s been transformed to a team-friendly player. None of this is coincidental. At age 28, Horford attempted only 65 three-point attempts. This season he’s taken 136 and made 43.4% of them. A testament to his strong work ethic, always improving himself.

Horford proves he’s still the unheralded superstar from his Atlanta glory days, stepping above Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis. Both Horford and Embiid have outstanding net ratings of 8.7 (K.P is 1.7), Al’s 5.2 BPM ranks higher than Embiid’s 2.9. The Celtics are on pace for sixty-wins, while the Sixers continue to fight New York, Indiana and Detroit for the eighth spot. Yet, superficially will demand Embiid start the All-Star Game. Horford will never get his due, will never get the respect he deserves for elevating Kyrie Irving in ways not even LeBron could. It’s a damn shame fans are hellbent on making the All-Star event “fun” not realizing Horford is pretty fun too.

 

Power Forward: LeBron James

Yeah, he’s a four on my roster because I feel like it. It doesn’t really matter where Giannis and LeBron fall on the roster, just as long as they’re on it as starters. If the Cavaliers could get their act together, James has a strong case to make for him being the MVP in a year there seems to be no front-runner. 27.3 PPG, 8.8 APG, 8 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 1.1 BPG it’s hard to fathom how every year he’s somehow found ways to get better even at his age.

There is a time and place to talk about why the Cavaliers have struggled and LeBron’s role in it. But as a lone individual, James is an unstoppable force that continues to feast upon the hopes and dreams of Eastern Conference foes. We seen what he can do by himself in the playoffs last season even with a Cavs squad not jelling. What else can I say about him other than he’s the third-best player in the history of NBA.

Small Forward: Giannis Antetkoumpo

Just like LeBron, Giannis carries the corpse a fledgling roster unable to create when he’s not on the floor. And unlike LeBron, it isn’t Giannis’s fault. The “Greek Freak” became more than an Internet phenomenon, graduating to otherworldly status as. He’s done everything for Milwaukee short of cloning himself. An unheard of comparison for Giannis this year is 2015-16 Kawhi Leonard and 2010-11 Kevin Durant. Despite Giannis’s inability to shoot long range he still converts 54.6% of his field goal attempts, averaging 28.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 417 of his shot attempts coming from the restricted-area. 245 shot attempts coming from anywhere but in the paint. Just like Ben Simmons, Giannis is limited by an inability to extend beyond his comfort zone. But he possesses so much skill it almost doesn’t matter. Unlike Simmons, Giannis’s face does not turn green when forced to heave a mid-or-longer range shot.

His development is right up there with Kevin Durant (2010-11) and Kawhi Leonard (2015-16) were at the point Giannis is right now. In my opinion, K.D in 2011 was either the second or third best player in the league at the time (Behind Howard and maybe Kobe). Kawhi was second best (in my opinion) to the unanimous MVP Stephen Curry in 2016.

Of course, Giannis is the better athlete and the least polished of the three. Out of the 245 shot attempts outside of the paint, Giannis made only 78. He shoots a poor 28.5% on above the break three attempts and smarter teams like Boston, San Antonio, Cleveland, etc, know how to get him away from his bread and butter. Regardless, the Bucks are a hodgepodge of pieces that are either slightly above-or-below average. Prospects such as Jabari Parker and Thon Maker remain in an enigma. Head coach Jason Kidd looks overmatched at times, overthinking and under-thinking in situational spots that aren’t as complicated as they seem.

With an ORtg of 120, Giannis ranks 17th overall in the league. Giannis owns a higher usage rate than Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis. As of now he’s a step below then for the MVP race. If the Bucks can win somewhere close to fifty-games perhaps he’ll be everyone’s favorite Cinderella Pick.

 

Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan beats out Victor Oladipo by a hair! This is the toughest decision I’ve had to make on the East ballot. For everything DeRozan is, Oladipo is arguably better because he isn’t the same liability on the defensive side of the court. But I went with DeRozan because how crucial he’s been to the best Raptors squad of the decade. When the season kicked off, All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry stumbled out the gates, first nine games he shot a poor 37.6% from the field. In most instances when your $33 million a year PG falters you’re not winning, but DeRozan kept the Raptors heads above water at 5-4.

DeRozan’s never been one to extend his game beyond being an unbelievable finisher at the rim, over the summer he’s become less reluctant to shoot longer-range shots. Last year, DeRozan attempted 124 threes… this season 137 making 35%. With the steadily declining USG% of Lowry, more emphasis on DeRozan has been put on the offensive end. Shooting a career-high in three-point percentage, averaging the highest assists per game (5.0) and he’s doing this with a turnover rate of 9.6. Which is insanely low considering how much he has the ball. Last twenty-three games, the Raptors won sixteen, with the help of DeRozan scorching the earth 26.9 PPG, 4 RPG, 5.3 APG, 48.6 FG%, 38.6 3P% and an offensive rating of 121.

Throughout the season, DeRozan’s been money, as usual, in the RA, 64.9% on 171 attempts. In 2016-17 DeRozan made 41.2% of his mid-range shots, this year he’s upped it to 46.6%. Shooting 18 of 44 on corner three-attempts, this shows DeRozan isn’t afraid as he was in years past to shoot the ball. In the clutch, DeRozan averages 4.6 points on 45.3% shooting tight situations. He’s an amazing player, possibly the best (pure) two-guard in the NBA.

 

Point Guard: Kyrie Irving

The stats are the same as last year. So why the hell is he getting all this praise? Well, it’s the behind the scenes makeup that makes this season from Irving special. Prior to Boston, Irving’s reputation was of one of a selfish gunner. He didn’t have the right mindset to get others involved, like Mike Conley or the traditional point guards of years past. The assists totals don’t show it, but watching Kyrie this season you’d be hard pressed to argue he hasn’t tried to get others involved and forgone stats for victories. This job is difficult when you take into account he’s sharing the court with inexperienced youngsters Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart who couldn’t throw the ball into the Atlantic Ocean.

The case for Irving to start the All-Star is purely above statistics, though he’s been very reliable in the clutch. His fourth quarter heroics rivaling fan-favorite Isaiah Thomas. 48.1% from the field, 4 PPG in the clutch, a 119 ORtg and 8.6 Netrg. A remarkable amount of his scoring in the clutch comes unassisted (73.7%) meaning he an act for creating for himself. Whether it be around the basket or jump shot.

Although he isn’t the best Boston Celtics player, he’s the most compelling and deserves the praise he’s received over the course of the season.

 

Written By: Vinny, @Sailboatstudios on Twitter

The Fall of Jae Crowder

Time after time Jae Crowder remained the unsung hero of the Boston Celtics. Whether it was during the 48-win season, or his underrated 2016-17 campaign, where he shot an incredibly efficient 46.3% from the field and 39.8% from three. Of course the now twenty-seven year old forward isn’t without his flaws. Since 2015, possibly due to J.R Smith’s cheap-shot which tore Crowder’s ACL, his defense ended every season in the toilet. Especially in 2017, ending the postseason with a defensive rating of 114. Regardless, last season was Crowder’s best. Sporting a career high in offensive rating (118), a net rating of 7.1. Crowder reaches his ceiling as a fringe All-Star, three-and-D wing. Shooting 72.8% in the restricted area. 38% on above the break threes. 46.2% on corner three-point attempts, the acquisition of Jae Crowder was an underrated gain for Cleveland when the blockbuster Isaiah Thomas/Kyrie Irving trade happened. In the Finals LeBron succumbed to exhaustion having to guard both Durant and Draymond. Cleveland needed an extra wing that could give James a breather, their options last season were limited to Shumpert and J.R Smith.

But a truly awful summer, in where he lost his mother to cancer, Crowder came into camp in a funk and never looks to be clicking on offense since suiting up for Cleveland. 39.7 field goal percentage, 30.3 three-point percentage and a P.E.R of 9.8! He’s making only 62% of his attempts in the restricted area and 28.3% of above the break three-point attempts. Crowder’s dreadful play isn’t limited to offense. Last season, Crowder brought down 5.8 rebounds per game, this season it’s fallen to 3.3. In contrast, backup forward Jeff Green is emerging as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. The Underachievers averages for this season are a solid 11 PPG – 3.4 RPG – 1.4 APG – 1 Stocks, 66.4% in the RA and 39% from above the break threes. Basically, Green is giving Cleveland 85% of Jae Crowder’s best year of his career at the age of thirty-two.

Their per 100s, Green vs Crowder’s 2016-17 line are also similar:
JC99: 21.2 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.1 Stocks (blocks + steals), 118 ORtg
Green: 24.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.2 APG, 2.1 Stocks, 117 ORtg

This is without a doubt a lost year for Crowder. Completely understandable given the circumstances. Still, he’s only twenty-seven, in a fantastic contract and can be moved. How far his star has fallen is yet to be determined. While writing the first draft of this piece I pitched a deal between Cleveland and New York, with the Knicks taking Crowder and whatever salary flotsam and in return they’d get either Michael Beasley (or Doug McDermott) and Jarrett Jack to replace Jose Calderon as the backup point guard. I needed to put my pencil down and reflect at what I just said… Jae Crowder is a step below Michael Beasley… MICHAEL BEASLEY?!

But, as always, I am not wrong. The man i distinctly remember wearing Spongbob Squarepants underwear while at Kansas State, revamped his career over the last three-seasons. We point to the last month or so of his run as a Knick, but the reinvention of Beasley’s been going on since 2015. In the last 110 games, played for the Rockets, Bucks before ultimately the Knicks, Beasley shot 52.6% from the field, averaging 10.9 points and 4.2 rebounds in that span. His per 100s over the last three seasons are apparently the stuff of legends, overall the numbers are 31 PPG, 12 RPG, 2.9 APG and 2.8 Stocks.

This season Beasley’s shooting an incredible 69.5% from RA, and while he isn’t the three-point threat Crowder was last season, he shoots 75% when he attempts a shot taken very, very early into the shot-clock (24-22); and 62.5% on shots take with zero dribbles. In contrast, Crowder shoots 58.3% very, very early into the shot-clock and 42.5% on zero dribbles.

Course, Beasley isn’t someone who’ll turn the tide in series against Golden State. I recommend caution in sounding the alarm on Cleveland’s hopes of going to a fourth straight finals, they should look into moderate improvements to make their path through the East less rocky. Against the Celtics, even with the Green Team thumping the Cavaliers from tip-off to the buzzer, shooters like J.R Smith and Kyle Korver struck fear into my heart as guys who can jump start any comeback. Cleveland may need an extra jumper cable if they want to bust through Washington and Boston, and maybe even Toronto.

The defensive downside to Beasley aren’t a kidding matter. But neither are Korver and Smith’s. Perhaps if you throw the former No. 2 overall pick into the LeBron washing machine he’ll come out on the other side better than ever. In Kyle Korver’s first thirty-five games next to James, he shot an incredible 49% from downtown and 48.2% on catch & shoot. Of course, Korver is one of the best long range shooters of all-time, but regardless, the same can happen to Beasley (or McDermott) if on this Cavs squad.

With Isaiah Thomas back in the fold the Cavaliers should get better in the coming weeks. With I.T, LeBron and Love all healthy come April the East playoffs should be a cakewalk for them. However, Love and Thomas have suffered their fair share of injuries in the past, perhaps it be wise to add another bullet in the chamber. It’s a damn shame how far Jae Crowder’s sunk in such a short time. There isn’t a doubt in my mind he’ll bounce back next season… but the Cavaliers won’t be title contenders next season.

Three of the Most Interesting RFAs: Niko, Favors, Randle

Players get paid based off past performance and the leverage they have to negotiate. Average starters in the cap spike era (2015, 2016) like Evan Turner, Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov made more than their wildest dreams thanks to just solid production and teams having more money then they knew what to do with. Fast forward to last summer, better players hitting free agency, Kentavious Cardwell-Pope and JaMychal Green are left dangling until the end of the free agent frenzy, due to a competitive teams not having enough cap space to sign either player. Eventually it was the Lakers tossing KCP a bone worth $17,745,894, for one season, and Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green returned to Memphis for $16,400,000 for two seasons; signed on September 27. Turner, Deng and Mozgov combine for $206,000,000 for twelve-years; all sighing on four-years contracts.

Teams aren’t smarter. The pocketbook’s just been somewhat taken away them. To observe the free agent class of 2018 is very murky, probably so unclear not many teams will allow their restricted free agents to hit the auction block. Of course there’s the top tier, LeBron, Durant, Chris Paul, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins will definitely get a big payday come July 1st. But the second, and third tiers aren’t sexy to the casual fans. A bunch of underachievers, some enjoying a renaissance.

Forward Nikola Mirotic of the Chicago Bulls isn’t getting consideration for the Most Improved Player award, already Victor Oladipo’s name is being engraved on to it. But for a player like Mirotic, one who rose to prominence in the professional ranks, for a short time in his first year rivaled Andrew Wiggins for the Rookie of the Year trophy (which Wiggins won), fell hard soon after. Injuries and inconsistency on the court plagued his career, falling apart on defense and starting only fifteen games in 2016-17. While Mirotic is on the books for 2018-19, for $12,500,000, the Bulls were rumored not to pick up his team-option once it came up this upcoming summer. Instability rocked the franchise from top to bottom. Niko got popped by forward Bobby Portis during a practice and the Bulls sank even lower, becoming the laughingstock of the NBA.

Somehow, even if it was for a short time, the Bulls leadership righted the ship stringing along ten wins in their last fifteen contests. Portis and Niko are having bounce back seasons, the aforementioned Portis just had his team-option for next season picked up. The two have so far put their differences behind them, at least for the moment. A career-best in field goal (49.5) and three-point (46.3) percentages, points (18.4) and rebounds (7.1), assists (1.5) Niko raises the Bulls’ plus/minus rating to 7.7 versus -9.1 when he’s off the floor. Though he hasn’t backed off his willingness to waive his no-trade clause. He’s on a very manageable deal, for the hypothetical team that does trade for Niko they’d inherit his Bird Rights’. You cannot say Niko will continue to produce at this level for the rest of the season. Regardless, this is a nice story and a possible Godsend to the Chicago Bulls organization. Possibly this gives them the opportunity to sell incredibly high on him.

If Portis and Niko have a run-in again, or if some other acts of shenanigans then maybe the Bulls do him a solid and let him out of his deal early. You think I’m crazy for not ruling this out? I think it’s more like Portis decks Mirotic again, than it is that Niko plays at this rate.

Playoff bound teams such as Detroit and Milwaukee could use a stretch power forward next to their rim protecting center or otherworldly franchise star. I’m picturing a Jabari Parker for Nikola Mirotic swap in my head right now.

 

In the great state of Utah, the leadership of the Jazz franchise has been impeccable since the heartbreaking loss of Gordon Hayward. Donovan Mitchell has emerged as a possible Rookie of the Year candidate, and Gilbert Arenas 2.0. Big man Derrick Favors is at his healthiest since 2014. Though starting in all thirty-six contests, Favors mostly goes against opposing teams bench units, with great success. A career-high 55.4%, he’s upped his free throw percentage considerably (73.1), his splits are an admirable 12.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.5 APG and 0.9 BPG. Favors doesn’t do one particular thing outstanding, he’s solid on the glass, around the basket and doesn’t kill you on defense. He isn’t DeAndre Jordan or even Greg Monroe on the defensive glass, but Favors can roll to the rim, take advantage of smaller defenders. His 37.1% off of shots taken more than five feet from the basket is piss poor. It makes it even more difficult to see his role in the modern NBA. Favors isn’t a floor spacer, but he isn’t a lane-clogger… if that makes any sense at all.

Derrick Favors without a doubt is a starter quality player at the center position… just not with Rudy Gobert by his side. While it’s understandable, the situation in Utah is very murky. The players the team values the most are Gobert and Mitchell, Favors is a nice guy they wouldn’t mind keeping but hardly want to push stacks of unmarked bills in front of to keep him around. The duo of Favors-Gobert is -5.9 points worse off; -8.3 in +/-, per 100; while the Favors-Jerebko duo scores in at +6.1, their +/- came in at 4.4.

The reasonable thing to do is to have Favors come off the bench. But his status and ego block Utah from doing this, so they’ll have to make good with an awkward situation. A tumultuous December, losing seven of their last nine since Rudy Gobert left the lineup with a sprained PCL and bone bruise in his tibia sustained in Boston. In the six games without his frontcourt mate, Favors averages 14.4 points and shot 56.3%. Utah’s struggles to find a cohesive starting lineup without Gobert going back-and-forth between starting Jonas Jerebko and Duke guard Rodney Hood. The recent stretched out the chances of a surprise playoff run to rest, the Jazz remain 3.5 games behind New Orleans and Portland for the last two playoff spots.

Out of the possible destinations for Favors in free agency, I’d like to see him in Atlanta playing next to John Collins. It’ll be hard to pinpoint the worth of Favors this summer, depending on his statistical output and success of the Jazz he could find himself in a lukewarm market that isn’t interested in an old school center that cannot rebound or defend at an elite level.

 

The last player I want to talk about is Lakers forward Julius Randle, fourth year from Kentucky, the former seventh overall pick in the overrated 2014 Draft enjoyed some statistical success, though it’s done little to move the needle for those uncertain whether he’s someone you break the bank for. The positives for Randle is he’s shooting 58.3% on two-pointers. His 13.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game off the bench is good for Sixth Man of the Year consideration if the Lakers as a team were better.

His per 36 numbers are even more impressive 20.9 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.7 SPG and 1.2 BPG projections him as a poor man’s Blake Griffin who can’t go to his right hand at all. Here’s Blake’s per 36 numbers from his 2013-14 season in Los Angeles: 24.3 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.6 BPG. That same year Griffin hit 70.8% of his 651 attempts in the restricted area; Randle is currently hitting 70.5% of his 217 attempts.

On the last year of his rookie contract the Lakers are in a tough spot if their big plans don’t come into fruition. Scheduled to become a RFA in 2018, the Lakers can make a qualifying offer to Randle for $5,564,134, the cap hit would be worth $12,447,726 for the 2018-19 season. With younger, probably better players like Larry Nance Jr. and Kyle Kuzma under team-control for a longer period of time and are cheaper alternatives to retaining Randle, Los Angeles holds all the leverage in the negotiations. His net rating this season’s been unimpressive (-2.9), his best month of the season came in December, 14.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists, though it didn’t lead to team success. Though the Lakers offensive rating goes up +3.3 with him on the floor versus with him off.

Randle has shown promise as a ball-handler in transition, 1.11 points per possession in that play type, and though he doesn’t run a lot of pick-and-roll as the ball-handler the small sample shows promise as Randle’s PPP is at 1.50; last season it came in at 0.86 on only a slightly larger sample size. While these are reasons for optimism, teams are prone to leaving Randle open as he converts on only 38.6% of his wide open attempts. In previous years Randle showed a reliance on “hero-ball”, frequently taking shots in isolation when his usual bread and butter was available. In 2015-16 Randle sported a ridiculous isolation frequency of 21.2 percent, almost doubling the unanimous MVP Curry’s. And registered in the 30.2 percentile. This year Randle’s cut down on the poor shot selection. Randle shoots 67.7% on attempts taken touching the ball for less than two seconds, suggesting he’s an uptempo kind of player. His 70.3% shooting on tight coverage (2-4 feet) suggest he can get to his spots whenever he wants. He also shoots an insane 76.6% on shots taken very early in the shot clock (22-18).

Julius Randle is a fascinating player to watch from afar. I doubt we’ll see him in a Lakers uniform in the future, or if he can carve himself out a starting job on a decent team. Like Favors, Randle’s also missed his preferred era by two decades. Now he’s a 6’9 center because he can’t defend threes and doesn’t have a jump shot to succeed as a modern day four. Hence why he’s coming off the bench for a bottom-feeder like the Lakers.

 

Pre-Houston Comeback Ranking of Celtics Bench Players

Since the streak ended the night before Thanksgiving the Celtics have fallen back down to earth. Going 13-8 since November 22nd, their defense morphing into last year’s inconsistent, and sometimes horrendous, iteration. The wear and tear of a long, demanding season is beginning to manifest itself in players like Al Horford, his legs look tired, the lift to his jump shot is heavier than before. But Horford is still an All-Star caliber player, him and Kyrie have worked together like peanut butter and jelly. There isn’t a lot of reasons for optimism outside of Boston’s starters. The delusional lens fans have been wearing since the sixteen-game win streak gave us the impression the backups were better than they actually are. Marcus Smart offense is akin to eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii. Terry Rozier is an average three-point shooter, however has a very below-average field goal percentage that makes him a borderline liability on offense as well. Marcus Morris cannot stay on the floor, a nagging knee injury is likely to sideline him for the ninth time in ten games.

Until Lou Williams, Tyreke Evans or Greg Monroe are bought out, this is the core of the Celtics bench that’ll make or break games like Wednesday night in Charlotte. Terry Rozier kept the offense afloat, scoring 15 points off the bench, Shane Larkin chipped in 11.

Marcus Smart won’t rank high on this list due to his everlasting woes on offense. His shenanigans win us more games than loses, an injury to Smart drastically changes the outlook of the Celtics identity as a fight you tooth and nail team. His time in green could be up this summer, as he will demander starter quality money he is not worth.

The best player on the Celtics bench this season so far has been none other than German center Daniel Theis. Yeah, the skinny white guy. I can’t decide whether he was signed to be a Kelly Olynyk or Amir Johnson replacement. Theis played for the Brose Bamberg of the EuroLeague, averaging 9.6 points in thirty-games. The stopgap center carved a role for himself on the Celtics while he did not have the body to go against the strong builds of Dwight Howard or Steven Adams. Theis proves himself useful against thinner, second unit quality centers, the Bulls is his ideal matchup. Robin Lopez, Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis, tall, but not athletic enough to protect the rim, Theis put out his first professional double-double, fifteen rebounds, ten points, eight of them coming from the charity stripe.

Brad Stevens tries to stretch Theis’ range, averaging nearly a three-point attempt in every game since November 25; though he’s converted on only 11.8% of them. In that span he’s also averaged nearly a block and an assist a game, an above-average defensive rating of 101. A positive net rating of 0.7 (Amir Johnson’s dead tired legs still chugged a way better net rating, 8.0, than the younger Theis). Theis is high on this list because of one key factor: consistency. You know what you’re getting with Daniel. In November he scores 16 second change points, in December… yup, 16. When the Celtics were kicking ass all of November, Theis’ net rating when playing at home, 13.4; in the up and down month of December… 11.2. Good, ole’ dependable Daniel Theis. That all being said he’s not coming back to the Celtics next summer. Either he’ll play himself out of the rotation somehow, or he’ll exceed expectations and get a contract offer too rich for Ainge’s taste.

The fact Theis is our best player on the bench, the only one not named Marcus Smart, that can consistently give a good effort on defense and score somewhat shows how flawed this team really is. The sixteen-game win streak wasn’t just a testament to the coaching brilliance of Brad Stevens, it potential gave Boston home court in at least two playoff rounds for what’s otherwise a 48-win team.

 

Coming in second is the Louisville Weirdo Terry “I Still Call Him ‘Tito’” Rozier. Possibly the next Avery Bradley, only a better ball-handler, and not the on-ball defender AB was in Boston. Rozier is a league average three-point shooter, as stated before. Bradley spent the summer of 2012 rehabbing a separated shoulder, converted on only 31.7% of his three-point attempts. But his game was right around the same place Rozier’s was in at the time. Bradley’s offensive rating in 2012-13 was 101.6; Rozier an even 101.

Sometimes you can trust Rozier to create on offense, unlike Smart, the spurts of promise that look genuine, an actual identity for what Rozier’s ceiling can be appears. For Smart he’ll stumble to he basket and side-rim a desperate finger-roll, and one every twenty-games he’ll zing the ball across court like a bulkier John Stockton. Rozier proves he can be competent… more often than Smart at least, and shoots 39.8% on catch and shoot threes. Over the years Rozier shown the ability to go coast-to-coast, immense ball-control whereas before his handling was similar to rookie year Jaylen Brown.

The ceiling for Rozier is higher than Marcus Smart, he’ll never be able to lockdown James Harden. It’s games like the one on Thursday night that make you forget just how maddeningly flawed Smart is. The poor shot selection, inability to finish at the rim, to jump higher, the incessant flopping that can cause the Celtics games. The relatively small cap hold makes Smart’s return for 2018-19 inevitable. Somehow the fourth-year guard managed to take steps backwards from last season. Field-goal percentage (33.8%) is worse than any other year in his short career, keep in mind he is two-years removed from season he shot 34.8 fg% and 25.3 3p%. Fewer free-throw attempts (2.4) since his rookie season. The only shot made consistently last season was from the corners, 41.9% in 2016-17. This year he’s shooting 26.3%. 30.3% on catch and shoot threes.

So why is Smart ranked number 3? Because his on-ball defense is better than Avery Bradley and his daily shenanigans inexplicably help Boston than hurt them. The same stuff I rally against, I have to admit has its uses. If you’re able to convince a referee a slender body one Harden is able to knock your tank sized frame down is a valuable trait. AND! Despite all of this, all of this noise, Smart’s net rating is +7.1.

But let’s not fool ourselves. Marcus Smart against playoff caliber teams almost always flounders because of better coaching, personal, and the magic of number 36 isn’t a factor. What’s Smart’s role for the playoffs? Is he going to take 5 three-point attempts like he nearly averages this season? Can he run an offense, or is he a better off-ball shooting guard than on-ball guard?

 

Coming in forth is Marcus Morris. He should be one on this list, but nagging health issues knocks him a couple spots.

During Boston’s game against the Warriors Stevens began the contest with Jayson Tatum guarding Kevin Durant, and the rook got cooked on simple zipper action. Stevens put Morris on KD and suddenly a game where he seemed destined to go for forty, instead scores only 24.

He’s a better reserve player that plays starter minutes than an actual starter. Morris’ net rating as a starter, -2.7, and off the bench, 4.4. Nights like when against the Rockets is what Boston want from their stretch forward on a daily basis, a ten point, four rebound and a block, in the second half he acted as the spark that ignited the powder keg to the comeback. Marcus Smart is the “King of the Lost Cause,” quipped cleverly by Ryan Bernardoni, but so is Morris. Except Morris can nail outside shots, can score in isolation and MAYBE guard LeBron (don’t hold me to that claim).

Move over Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, there’s a new set of M&M Boys taking over the sports landscape.

 

The Rest: Shane Larkin, Abdul Nader, Guerschon Yabusele…

Larkin: a energy scorer

Abdul Nader: Ceiling is an empty scorer

Yabusele: built like a tank, that’s all I know about him.