Winners and Losers from Boston Celtics' Week 3 of NBA Preseason
The Boston Celtics may be heading into 2013-14 after a 2-6 preseason performance and a less-than-clever ribbing from Toronto Raptors CEO Tim Leiweke, but at least they have their 1-1 performance in Week 3 to fall back on.
Boston suffered a 104-89 loss at the Minnesota Timberwolves but rallied for a 101-97 home victory over a Brooklyn Nets team playing without Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson.
While the win would have been more meaningful with Pierce and KG in the lineup, Boston at least got to send the much-maligned Jason Terry home with his tail tucked between his legs.
The C’s Week 3 brought some unexpected moments as well, with Jordan Crawford falling back to Earth in a major way, Gerald Wallace continuing to exceed expectations and Vitor Faverani staking his claim to the starting center job.
It’s safe to say that Brad Stevens is going to have a tough time putting this rotation together and divvying up the minutes.
The preseason is finally over, and the 2013-14 regular season is just around the corner, so let’s take a moment to assess the winners and losers from Week 3.
Winner: Gerald Wallace
Week 3 Stats: 15.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.0 BPG, 3.0 TOPG, 57.9 FG%, 33.3 3P%
In a week when he ripped the Celts’ lack of effort and selfish play after losing to Minnesota, Wallace continued his string of unexpectedly strong preseason play.
"Crash" led Boston in scoring with 16 against the Timberwolves and dropped in 14 more points against the Nets.
Though he had some difficulty with his outside shot and was not as active on the glass as he could be, Wallace contributed in a myriad of ways and started at the 3 against Brooklyn, with Jeff Green sliding over to the 2.
Wallace moved well without the basketball, slipping behind the defense for easy scores, and he has generally looked more reliable on the offensive end of the floor than Green. He is taking jumpers but not settling for them in place of aggressive drives to the rim.
Additionally, he has looked good as a passer, dishing out five dimes against Brooklyn. We’ll get to Boston’s point guards (or lack thereof) later, but it’s safe to say that this team could use playmaking from every position to offset the lack of passing skills in the backcourt.
With his ability to push the ball up the floor and attack on the break, Wallace could be used as a secondary ball-handler and potentially as a point forward, although hopefully that does not end up being a last-resort option.
He likely won’t move into the starting lineup for opening day since the team appears committed to giving Green a shot as the first option, but Wallace should play heavy minutes from the jump as he provides the Celts with much-needed grit and toughness.
In fact, he played so well in Week 3 that he may have boosted his trade value enough that a contender or pseudo-contender might be willing to swing a deal for him.
Loser: Jordan Crawford
Week 3 Stats: 3.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.0 BPG, 0.5 TOPG, 15.4 FG%, 0.0 3P%
Crawford looked excellent in Week 2, running the offense well and shooting jumpers with confidence, but someone must have reminded him before Week 3 that he’s Jordan Crawford and that’s just not what Jordan Crawford does.
In limited action off the bench, he failed to develop any kind of rhythm, misfiring on all eight of this attempted threes and notching just one assist in 32 total minutes of work.
None of the Celtic guards were particularly impressive in Week 3, but for as shaky as Courtney Lee and MarShon Brooks looked, they could not hold a candle to Crawford.
His defense remains poor, and his decision-making is questionable, so if Crawford cannot consistently knock down outside shots, it will be difficult to see him playing regular minutes in 2013-14.
He clearly thrives when he has the ball in his hands as he did for long stretches in Week 2, and Stevens’ decision to use him as more of an instant-offense scorer off the bench did not have the desired effect.
Crawford will likely find himself a handful of minutes bringing the ball up the court simply because the Celtics don’t have anyone on the roster appreciably better than him at it, but his poor overall Week 3 performance means he’ll likely be scrapping for playing time once more.
And to think that he looked like he could have been the starter until Rajon Rondo came back.
Winner: Brandon Bass
Week 3 Stats: 13.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 0.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 0.5 TOPG, 56.3 FG%, 0.0 3P%
With a strong Week 3 performance, Brandon Bass may have saved his starting job, at least for the immediate future.
He had been having a ho-hum run during the first six games but strung together a pair of strong efforts to round out the preseason.
He found the range on his jumper and reliably knocked down shots from mid-range. He also ran the floor well and did a nice job manning the offensive boards.
Often criticized for his work on the glass, he grabbed eight rebounds against Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic in Minnesota and nine boards against Reggie Evans and Mason Plumlee at home.
Because he shoots a lot of jumpers, Bass is not always in position for offensive rebounds, but he did a good job of crashing the glass and using his strength to carve out position down low.
Jared Sullinger and Kris Humphries cannot be the sole rebounders for Boston, and since Bass is so valuable offensively, he will likely see more consistent minutes than Humphries. That means he needs to hold his own on the glass better than he has in the past two years with the Celts.
Bass probably did not play himself out of trade rumors because of the nature of his contract and the glut of players at the 4, but he made the statement in Week 3 that he is likely the most reliable big in the C’s frontcourt rotation.
Loser: Jeff Green
Week 3 Stats: 12.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 1.5 TOPG, 29.4 FG%, 14.3 3P%
Green’s ghastly shooting splits earn him a spot in the “loser” column automatically, but he actually did a nice job of drawing fouls and getting to the charity stripe this week.
He spent the first two weeks of the preseason jacking up threes and mid-range jumpers instead of attacking off the bounce. While he still has not found his rhythm from the perimeter, he at least proved more willing to drive and absorb contact.
He converted all eight of his attempts from the charity stripe against the Nets and 5-of-7 against the Timberwolves.
Unfortunately, there is not much to like about his offensive production beyond those numbers.
He made just one of seven three-pointers, misfired on plenty of jump shots and continued to look ill-equipped to be Boston’s first option until Rondo returns.
By slotting Green at the 2 and Wallace at the 3, the C’s found an unexpectedly effective pairing, but while the 6’9” Green is quick enough to play some shooting guard, it is not a permanent solution to his offensive woes.
At the 2, he has the opportunity to use his post game against smaller players, but he will not be able to take advantage of his ball-handling skills or his outside shooting as much as he would against taller, slower players.
Green also has not done a great job as a playmaker in the preseason, which is troubling since Boston expected to play him as a point forward to make up for Rondo’s absence. If Green cannot set up his teammates, this offense will become even more reliant on isolation plays until the star guard returns.
By now everyone recognizes Green’s talent, and he still figures to be the main scorer when the season tips off against Toronto, but with Wallace playing well and Green struggling, he will be facing major pressure to perform in 2013-14.
Winner: Vitor Faverani
Week 3 Stats: 11.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.0 SPG, 3.0 BPG, 2.0 TOPG, 60.0 FG%, 16.7 3P%
Move over, Kelly Olynyk—Boston has another rookie big man in town, and this one can actually play defense.
Faverani looked good in very limited minutes early on in the preseason, but he broke out as the starter against Brooklyn, tallying 15 points, seven rebounds and six monstrous blocks in 28 minutes of work.
The 6’11” Faverani anchored Boston’s defense and made it tough for any of the Nets to get a clean look at the rim. His presence on the interior was a major reason for Brooklyn shooting just 41.6 percent from the floor.
The Boston roster lacks any dominant shot-blockers, but if Faverani can prove this performance was not a fluke and he can be this effective of a help defender during the regular season, he should find himself with a legitimate spot in the rotation.
He launched a few too many threes, connecting on just one of his six attempts from long distance, but he was aggressive offensively and opened up space for his team by launching those deep balls.
His jumper needs work, but Olynyk has not been doing a significantly better job from beyond the arc. In actuality, Faverani’s rugged, physical style of play should mesh well with Olynyk, and the two could form an imposing 4-5 tandem.
Faverani needs to hone his post game, but he’s proved he can finish at the rim and is a more polished offensive player than many project big men are as rookies.
Avoiding foul trouble will be an issue going forward, and he did have his career night against Brooklyn’s B-team, but he looked like a player brimming with potential.
At just 25 years old and without a single regular-season NBA minute under his belt, the future is bright for Faverani in Boston.
Loser: The Point Guard Position
The Celtics were always going to have to use a patchwork approach to cope with Rondo’s absence, but the guards on their roster have looked inept handling the ball.
Avery Bradley has tallied just 20 assists in 199 minutes, which equates to just 3.6 per 36 minutes. Crawford has 18 in more than 155 minutes of playing time, which is a marginally better 4.2 dimes per 36, but there is no way that Boston plays him for anywhere near that long.
The sample size for Brooks is too small to judge, and while Phil Pressey has posted an impressive 7.6 assists per 36 minutes, he is still learning the ropes of the NBA and is not ready to play that much on the defensive end of the floor.
In Week 3, the Celtics had 32 assists against 28 turnovers for a horrible 1.1 assist-to-turnover ratio. For comparison, the 2011-12 Celtics posted a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio during the regular season.
Boston has gotten playmaking assistance from Wallace, Olynyk and Lee, but not enough to assuage concerns about this stagnant offense.
There is no isolation player like Pierce on the roster capable of consistently creating quality looks, meaning that they must move the ball in order to get good shots.
After the preseason, fans are left to wondering if they will even be able to do that on a consistent basis.
Bradley looked decent as a scorer in Week 3 but still seems like he won’t be able to initiate the offense, while Crawford and Lee did not look any better handling the ball.
Rondo did not give reporters a clear timeline when he spoke after the Brooklyn game, per ESPN Boston’s Chris Forsberg, which means that Boston fans could in for some rough offensive games until No. 9 returns.