A couple weeks ago after the Celtics traded Jeff Green, I posted this question on Facebook. Since I got such a rousing discussion started (2 whole responses), I decided it was worth exploring the answer. Without Green and Rajon Rondo, there is no longer an obvious "best player" on this roster. Bill Simmons often makes this joke when two crappy teams are playing on a nationally televised game: "Tobias Harris, K.J. McDaniels, it's the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76'ers tonight on TNT." So who does Ernie Johnson call out when (if?) the Celtics ever get a nationally televised game ever again?
*If you don't want to read a lot of words about basketball you can skip to the end for a new running feature
The youngsters - James Young, Phil Pressey
Young has the ability to one day be a go to scorer for this team, but he suffers, like most rookies, from a poor understanding of NBA defensive schemes. He's also only 19 so let's give him some time. Pressey can be fun to watch for about 4 minutes a game when he is darting around the court, crawling into a much taller man's shorts like a bed bug in a New York hotel. He also has the worst field goal percentage in the NBA if he played enough minutes to qualify.
The oldsters - Gerald Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Shavlik Randolph
The only three guys on the team older than X Mark...yikes. Wallace, with his nitrous oxide voice, has proven to be a solid team leader. But after years of living up to the nickname "Crash," he just can't do much on the court anymore. The original Tay Tay (fuck off Taylor Swift), has actually played really well since coming to the team and I considered bumping him up to the "Maybe" section. He was a part of the great 2000's Pistons teams and he is doing some good things right now. However, I really didn't expect him to even play a minute for this team and any guy who is or was a buyout candidate just can't be the team's best player. Shavlik Randolph used to play for Duke when I was at Maryland so that immediately disqualifies him. Our fans used to say "Shavlik my balls" to him when he was close by, although I guess he could use that as his own method of trash talking. Nice how that works out.
The role players - Marcus Thornton, Jae Crowder
Thornton is supposed to be a scorer off the bench, but he isn't getting many minutes. He has put up some games where he'll score more points than minutes played, but they don't happen too frequently. His True Shooting percentage (measures overall shooting efficiency based on 2's, 3's and FT's) is just 13th on the team this year, so he's not exactly filling his role. Crowder is one of those classic hustle guys that hardworking cities like Boston love (isn't it weird that almost every city besides LA is "hardworking" or "lunch pail"?). He is strong on defense and can hit a shot here and there. He put up 22 points in a game, but has failed to crack double digits since. Nice player and possibly worth resigning next year, but should never be more than a 7th or 8th man.
MAYBE (HOPEFULLY!) SOMEDAY
The rookie - Marcus Smart
I have never been so confident in predicting that a player will become my father's favorite as I am with Smart. His offense right now is the only thing holding him back from already being this team's best player (though he is shooting over 40% on 3's in January). His skill on defense is the best skill that anyone has on this team besides maybe Sully's offensive rebounding. Smart does two subtle things really well. The first is his off the ball defense. He is great at leaving his man to help cover someone cutting to the basket to prevent a pass and then speeding back to his man to not give him an open look. The second is boxing out. NBA players treat boxing out as if they are going to catch a disease from sticking their ass into another man's crotch (Magic has been retired for years, guys). Smart is all about boxing out. As soon as a shot goes up, his head spins to find the closest man to keep away from the hoop. It's beautiful.
The sophomore - Kelly Olynyk
Olynyk is basically the mirror image of Smart. Since starring in Dazed and Confused as a kid, Olynyk shot up to 7 feet tall but maintained the offensive skills of a point guard. He can handle the ball. He can use his height to survey the defense and make smart passes. He has taken the reigns from Rondo with his pass fakes that lead to layups. He's shot the ball decently from 3 and I believe he is the second highest scorer off the bench in the NBA behind Jamal Crawford. Sadly, his lack of athleticism, T-rex arms and doughy physique limit his ability to be a high end defensive player. He can't guard athletic 4's or strong 5's so it is hard to see what kind of defensive player he will ever be. He is also already 24 so he isn't exactly a young prospect despite his short time in the league. But sure, he's the next Dirk...
The statistical darling - Tyler Zeller
There is a stat created by former ESPN writer and current Grizzlies VP John Hollinger called Player Efficiency Rating (PER). It is similar to WAR in baseball as it is supposed to be a sort of catch all statistic. There are a lot of flaws to the stat like there are WAR (mainly how it values defense), but it is a quick and dirty way to see how players are performing overall. Zeller leads the team with a 19.5 PER (league average is 15, the best players usually put up something between 22 and 28, Anthony Davis is at 31.9 this year!). He's achieved this with efficient shooting and rebounding, decent defense and low turnovers. He also doesn't play a ton of minutes so he has not been overexposed. However, if I am going to call a 7-footer the best player on the team, he has to be a much better rim protector than Zeller has been. Once an opponent gets into the lane against this team, they show no fear going to the basket and that includes when Zeller is on the court. Still, this is one of Danny Ainge's best trade acquisitions.
Really? - Evan Turner
In general, Turner is not a great player. He is wild, inefficient, a bad leader and he sometimes doesn't care about playing defense. But he can do pretty much everything on the court (besides shoot 3's) when he is engaged and he fills up the stat sheet like our long lost Rondo. On a good team he would be nowhere near the top of the list, but here we are. He is also the guy most likely to take the final shot on this team in a close game so that counts for something.
Wait, come on, seriously?? - Brandon Bass
Yes really. On a crappy team there is something to be said about consistency. While our next two players are alternating between 20 point nights and 3 point nights, Bass goes out every night and gives you 10 points, 5 rebounds and solid defense against multiple positions. I don't actually think he is the team's best player, but his hard work and lack of bitching deserve this highest of praise from an infrequent blogger that calls his site "Sexy." You are welcome Brandon. Keep up the strong work.
The 5th year senior - Avery Bradley
Bradley has been in the league 5 years (only 5 months older than Olynyk though), but it still feels like he is a second year player. On offense he never feels sure of himself whether he is dribbling the ball up the court or deciding to take a shot. He is maybe the worst entry passer I have ever seen. His defense has also taken a step back this year. But he is becoming a very good outside shooter and when he wants to play tough defense he is still as good as any perimeter player in the league besides Tony Allen and Smart. I think Bradley's problem is that he is most comfortable as the 4th or 5th best player on a team and right now he is being asked to be 1 or 2. In a different environment I think his play would jump even higher like it did in Ray Allen's final year in Boston.
THE WINNER (BY DEFAULT)
The AssMan - Jared Sullinger
Sully is a very good player and he is probably the best player on the Celtics right now. He is an amazing offensive rebounder with skills similar to Dennis Rodman. I remember reading a Rodman interview in Sports Illustrated back when he was on the Bulls and he talked about how knowing the trajectory of all his teammate's shots and how they would come off the rim allowed him to out maneuver players for the rebounds. He was never the biggest or most athletic guy, but because he understood the angles, he was an otherworldly offensive rebounder. When I watch Sully go for boards, this is what I see. He's not great on the defensive glass because taller players give him problems, but he is still good. He is a pretty good defender, able to get low against taller players and he is quick on his feet for a guy his size. He is a great post player on offense with moves around the hoop you just don't see anymore. He may never become a great outside shooter, but he makes just enough that teams have to pay attention. He can be very inconsistent, but I think that is as much about the coach's game plan as any lack of skill. With his wide array of skills (and lack of competition) Jared "Sully" Sullinger is the new face of the Boston Celtics.
THAT'S SO RANDOM
- I'm going to try something new at the end of my posts. For the people reading this that don't like the sport I'm talking about or sports at all, I am going to just write some quick random thoughts that don't warrant full posts. The title will be "That's So Random", inspired by the character Ja'Mie from the HBO show Summer Heights High. If you like creepy and funny, check out that show.
- Writing this section makes me feel like a young Andy Rooney or Peter Gammons. So do my increasingly bushy eyebrows. Sarah is a lucky girl.
- Real quick on the deflated football scandal (no way I am calling that shit "Deflategate"). This scandal makes me embarrassed to be a sports fan. I'm not kidding. The fact that Bill Nye and Rosie O'Donnell are weighing in on this has to signal to people that it is has gotten out of control. The Patriots won 45-7. If people think that using underinflated footballs for the first half (when the game was still close) is the reason for the blowout then they should have a fucking lobotomy. Get over it. Whether they cheated or not, it's such a minor violation. Cheating is wrong no matter what, but the amount of attention you pay to each instance of cheating should be reflective of the violation. Fine the team, as the league rules dictate in this situation, and move on.
- Don't bother with Seth Rogen's The Interview. I saw it last night and I had very low expectations and even those weren't met. SPOILER ALERT I wanted to see it to see what the fuss was about, but it was actually incredibly tame towards North Korea, and borderline supportive! They actually make Kim Jong Un seem like a fun dude to hang out with and his death scene really isn't that bad. I know North Korea is crazy, but if they wanted to kill America over this piece of shit movie, they need to go see a therapist.
- One thing I learned recently was how to spell "bogeyman." My mind is completely blown that there is only one "o" in that word. I'm much more afraid of a "boogie man" than I am a "bogeyman."
- I may do a "Top Stand Up Specials" list at some point, but for now everyone should check out Bill Burr's most recent one on Netflix. Really you should check out anything he's ever done. He's brutally honest but somehow doesn't come off as ignorant, unless he admits that he is ignorant about something. From Bill: "First time I heard the story of Scientology I was like 'that is the dumbest shit I have ever heard in my life.' While simultaneously still kinda believing that a woman that never got fucked had a baby that walked on water, died and came back three days later."
- RIP Ernie Banks. Great baseball player. Mr. Cub. Owner of possibly the most perfect quote any man has ever uttered: "It's a great day for a ballgame, let's play two!"
- It's the final season of Parks and Recreation. It is no longer as consistently hilarious as it used to be, but there are still great jokes and I really like watching all these characters. There was an episode that ran last week that focused entirely on Leslie and Ron and it was one of the best the show ever ran. It ended with this Willie Nelson song "Buddy". Got a little dusty in my apartment that night.