Celtics second trimester scouting report card

We just passed the two-thirds point of the NBA regular season, the Celtics have 23 games to play, and they haven’t played in earnest since Valentine’s Day, so what better time to crank out the second trimester scouting report card? As always, all players are graded against our expectations for them.

[Dec. 7: Celtics first trimester scouting report card]

Al Horford: A-

• Plus: Horford still has no weaknesses, and he remains one of the league’s top-10 bigs over the past two months in 3-point shooting (42 percent on 3.3 attempts per game), assists (4.8 per game) and defense (opponents shoot 7.4 percent worse than their averages against him). Plus …

Minus: Whether due to injury (missing a game for concussion-like symptoms for a third time is a concern) or energy, Horford has not been as aggressive over his past 28 games, grabbing fewer rebound chances and attacking the basket less often on drives and as a roll man.

• Last trimester: A

Kyrie Irving: A-

• Plus: Irving was an offensive marvel in the second trimester, averaging 25.8 points on near 50-40-90 shooting (48.2 percent from the field, 41.3 percent from 3 and 90.6 percent from the line). The offense is operating at a top-10 level when he’s on the floor (107.3 points per 100 possessions) and a league-low level when he’s off it (97.6 points per 100 possessions). Oh, and …

• Minus: Irving hasn’t been as engaged on defense amid the monotony of the middle of the season. Likewise, he’s been forcing the action more often instead of operating in the flow of the offense, although that may just be a necessary response to his teammates’ inability to generate scoring.

• Last trimester: A-

Daniel Theis: B+

• Plus: Theis never stops working, and he’s getting more comfortable in the Celtics’ system in the process. His 12 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes put him in small company, and he’s holding opponents to 55.1 percent shooting at the rim (80th percentile). See …

• Minus: The question is whether Theis can extrapolate that production over a larger role, without getting into foul trouble. The energy is always there, but making more than a third of his 3-point attempts would open up the floor for the second unit and make him a more dangerous threat in the pick and roll.

• Last trimester: B+

Terry Rozier: B+

• Plus: Rozier’s emergence will make the decision to part ways with Marcus Smart a whole lot easier to swallow should it come to that. He’s shot 38.4 percent on 4.6 3-point attempts per game in the second trimester, and his performance in back-to-back games as a starter — a 17-11-10 triple-double and a career-high 31-point encore — were glimpses of great potential …

• Minus: He’s a gambler, both offensively and defensively, and that can lead to lost possessions in the form of too-quick really-feeling-himself jumpers on one end and blow-by drives leading to easy buckets on the other. The next step for him is to improve his playmaking and rim-finishing.

• Last trimester: B

Jayson Tatum: B

• Plus: No Celtic’s on/off net rating swing is greater than Tatum’s in the second trimester. They’re outscoring opponents by 5.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and being outscored by 7.7 points per 100 when he’s off it — an impossible-to-ignore 13.4-point pendulum. Like …

• Minus: The rookie wall. Tatum played 29 games at Duke as a freshman. He was superhumanly efficient for the Celtics over that same sample size during his rookie campaign (13.8 points on 9.1 shots per game for a 64.3 true shooting percentage). Since playing his 30th game — a span that coincides almost exactly with the second trimester — that efficiency has fallen off to mere mortal proportions (still 13.2 points, but on 11 shots for a 54.2 TS%).

• Last trimester: A-

Jaylen Brown: B

• Plus: The same could be said of Brown. The C’s are still far better with him than without him — 8.5 points per 100 possessions better, to be exact. Where Tatum has a smoothness that belies his age, Brown plays with a force far beyond his 21 years, throwing down almost a dunk a night and getting to the rim twice as often. He’s also making half his 3’s from the left corner …

• Minus: Like Tatum, there’s been a level of inconsistency to Brown’s game — to be expected from young players. His shooting is down across the board, including the 3-point line, where he’s dropped from 40 percent to league average, and the free-throw line, where he’s dipped below 60 percent. And while he’s driving more often, he’s also been more careless with the ball.

• Last trimester: A-

Shane Larkin: B

• Plus: The absence of Marcus Smart has coincided with what Celtics coach Brad Stevens called a lack of toughness during their recent rough patch, but Larkin has been notably absent, too. When healthy, he has provided a much-needed energy boost and a steady hand on the second unit. Larkin is also shooting better than 40 percent from 3 since mid-December. And …

• Minus: That “when healthy” caveat is an important one. Through no fault of his own, Larkin has missed the last nine games with right knee soreness. He may not play a major role on the C’s, but the real value of having a capable player down the depth chart comes during a stretch when ball-handlers Irving and Smart miss games. That he can’t fill that role is a bummer.

• Last trimester: C

Aron Baynes: B-

• Plus: The Celtics’ defense is never better than when Baynes is on the court. They’ve allowed 96.4 points per 100 possessions in the 1,069 minutes he’s played this season. While that number rose above 100 in the second trimester, it’s still the best mark on the team and a major factor in the C’s clinging to the NBA’s best defensive rating despite their recent struggles …

• Minus: There’s no other way to say it: Baynes was abysmal offensively in the second trimester. Teams left him wide open beyond 15 feet, where he’s shooting 31 percent from the field. What’s worse, he’s making fewer than half (49.2 percent) his shots from inside of 8 feet. Theis, for example, is shooting better than 60 percent from that range over the past two months.

• Last trimester: A-

Marcus Morris: C

• Plus: Morris has found a level of consistency since returning from his knee injury, averaging 14 points (on 40 percent 3-point shooting) and six rebounds in 27 minutes over his past 14 games. It’s tough to measure, but Morris also seems to show up when the Celtics need him most (he was among the few who played hard against the Cavaliers), which bodes well for the playoffs …

• Minus: He’s a black hole. Morris owns the team’s second-highest usage rate behind Irving, using almost a quarter of the team’s possessions when he’s on the floor, and he has the lowest assist ratio (percentage of player’s possessions that end in an assist) of any player in the C’s regular rotation. And he’s averaging three mid-range jumpers per game, mostly contested.

• Last trimester: B-

Marcus Smart: C-

• Plus: The Celtics miss Smart’s aggressiveness. There’s been a noticeable difference on the defensive end in his absence since he injured his shooting hand on Jan. 23. Looking at the NBA’s new hustle stats, Smart leads the team in deflections and charges taken per game in addition to leading the C’s guards in contested shots and box outs. The dude does dirty work …

• Minus: The reason Smart hurt his hand, of course, was because he punched a picture frame, so concerns about maturity persist. He’s also a liability on offense. He’s one of the NBA’s 10 worst shooters among players who attempt two or more shots at the rim per game, and he’s one of the league’s five worst shooters among players who take at least four 3’s a night.

• Last trimester: B

Semi Ojeleye: C-

• Plus: Ojeleye continues to play stout defense. He’s contesting 4.1 shots in 14 minutes per game — remarkable, considering his assignments are attempting just 5.4 shots per game against him. So, he’s contesting roughly 80 percent of the shots he faces, one reason opponents are shooting just 43.3 percent against him, below their season averages. He’s a brick wall …

• Minus: It’s getting tougher to watch Ojeleye shoot, especially since he was billed as a 3-and-D wing who shot 42 percent on five 3-point attempts per game at SMU. Now that NBA defenses have had a chance to see him, they’ve left him open on all but one of his 3-point attempts in the season’s second trimester, and he’s making less than a third of them.

• Last trimester: B-

Abdel Nader: C-

• Plus: Stevens has trusted Nader in some big spots, which reflects either an endorsement of the 2016 second-round pick or a lack of depth at the wing position Gordon Hayward was expected to fill. (Or both.) And Nader seems to be figuring some stuff out. He’s made 10 of his 25 3-point attempts. He can rebound and pass a bit. And this play showed me something …

• Minus: Nader still has plenty to figure out, too. The Celtics are atrocious offensively and defensively whenever he’s on the floor as part of the rotation (and not garbage time). He’s shown no ability to score when attacking the basket, and he’s collected more turnovers than assists. And he too often lets his man work free and fails to close out defensively.

• Last trimester: D

Guerschon Yabusele: D+

• Plus: There have been signs of life from Yabu over the past few months. He shot 38.5 percent from 3-point range in the second trimester, albeit on just 13 attempts, and he’s rebounding at a high rate in the few minutes he’s been trusted with, grabbing better than 20 percent of available defensive rebounds and corralling four offensive rebounds per 36 minutes. And …

• Minus: I still haven’t seen the playmaking the Celtics speak so highly of. Yabu has six assists against six turnovers in 110 minutes. And he’s looked lost on defense. The C’s have been outscored by almost 15 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor. It says all we need to know that the Celtics were willing to part with their 2016 first-round pick at the deadline.

• Last trimester: D

Greg Monroe: INC

• Plus: He’s played just 52 minutes in green, so it’s too early to cast judgment on the Monroe era. In those minutes, he’s been a beast on the boards (team-high 20.8 rebounding percentage), and he’s getting to the free-throw line, where he’s shooting 70 percent for his career. If he starts making shots at the efficiency he’s enjoyed since leaving Detroit (53.3 percent), he’ll have the around-the-basket impact the Celtics expected when they signed him …

• Minus: Those 52 minutes have done nothing to alter the reservations we had about signing Monroe. He’s a carbon copy of Baynes. The former isn’t contributing on defense, and the latter isn’t on offense. They can’t play the two together, and with only so many minutes allocated to old-school centers who only impact one end of the floor, you’d rather have the help on defense.

• Last trimester: N/A

Jabari Bird: INC

• Plus: His first name is Jabari.

• Minus: His last name isn’t Parker.

• Last trimester: INC

Gordon Hayward: INC

• Plus: He’s enjoying the All-Star break.

• Minus: He’s not an All-Star, because he fractured his ankle six minutes into the season. I’m not sure if you heard that yet. By the way, all’s quiet on that front since we last checked in with his agent, but by all accounts he’s checked every box in his rehab, and nobody’s ruling out a return … yet.

• Last trimester: INC

***

Brad Stevens: A-

• Plus: Despite their troubles since returning from London, the Celtics continue to exceed expectations after Hayward’s injury. They own the East’s second-best record, three losses behind the Raptors with 23 games to play, and they’re still the NBA’s best defensive team. This despite incorporating 11 new roster additions, including three rookies in the regular rotation.

• Minus: By his own admission, Stevens will adjust his rotation to solve the C’s offensive woes, especially on the second unit. Finding the right fit for Monroe will take tinkering, and Smart’s return unlocks more possibilities. One to think about: Bring Rozier on for Irving earlier, then bring Irving back to carry the reserves. Rozier plus the starters was the C’s most successful lineup among those that played at least 36 minutes, outscoring opponents by 33 points per 100 possessions. Also: More Irving-Rozier-Smart lineups.

• Last trimester: A+

Danny Ainge: A-

• Plus: The Monroe signing may be a bust, but he’s the best player who moved in February not named George Hill or Rodney Hood, and Ainge didn’t give up anything but money to get him. I heard some criticism that the C’s weren’t in the market for Hood, but Ainge had no asset worth dealing for a rental. There was no player available who would’ve put the C’s over the top, so give Ainge credit for holding his chips until they’ve got a winning hand.

• Minus: There are a couple of what-ifs from the deadline. First: Tyreke Evans. Ainge reportedly offered Yabu and two second-round picks for the Grizzlies guard. Reasonable, and yet not enough. If Memphis insisted on a first-rounder, good on the Celtics for drawing that line in the sand. But was there another path to a deal? Also: Marcus Smart. Ainge reportedly drew a similar line in the sand on Smart, seeking a first-round pick in return. If they don’t reach a deal in restricted free agency, we’ll wonder why the Celtics didn’t maximize the return (or the potential) of their former No. 6 pick.

• Last trimester: A

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