Boston Celtics: An Early Look at End-of-Season Awards
Boston Celtics: Handing Out Player-Awards
It's been a long season for the Boston Celtics, but with just 20 games remaining and virtually no shot at a playoff spot, it is time to wind down and reflect on the past four painful months.
The team has shown some encouraging signs under first-year head coach Brad Stevens, especially on the defensive end. Although they lack a true rim protector, the Celtics are still the owners of a top-10 defense as far as points allowed per game, and are 13th in opponent field goal percentage. Stevens has instilled a tough, grind-it-out philosophy into his young group of players, and in turn, has seen those players develop much faster than many people anticipated.
Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley are all having their best seasons to date. Jordan Crawford looked like a quality NBA player for the first time in his career before he was traded to the Golden State Warriors, and even Jerryd Bayless has shone bright over the past couple of weeks.
The end-of-season NBA awards are always an exciting race, especially during the final stretch of the campaign. This year, the buzz seems to be centered around LeBron James and Kevin Durant battling for the MVP crown. Joakim Noah and Roy Hibbert are neck-and-neck in contention for the Defensive Player of the Year award, and Goran Dragic and Lance Stephenson are equally valid options for Most Improved Player.
But, in congruence with the Celtics' lackluster season, it doesn't appear that any of the team's personnel are in the runnings for any of the major awards. I hate to see anyone left out of the fun, though, so here are the awards on a team-basis for the Cs.
Rookie of the Year: Kelly Olynyk
Sorry, Vitor Faverani, but your 4.4 points and 3.5 rebounds aren't gonna cut it. The Celtics' best rookie has easily been Kelly Olynyk. The long-haired Canadian is averaging 7.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in 19.0 minutes per game, but has looked fantastic in his last three games, posting 17.7 points, 6.7 boards, and 2.3 assists while shooting 56.3 percent from the field in just 24.0 minutes a night. If he can keep up this level of play for the last six weeks of the season, he may end up with a solid chance to win the actual Rookie of the Year award. (But probably not.)
Most Improved Player: Jared Sullinger
Has any Celtic taken bigger strides this year than has Sullinger? The burly forward-center showed solid upside in the half-season he played last year and has capitalized on his jump in floor time in 2013-14. He has more than doubled his scoring output from last season in only seven extra minutes of playing time each game, and has increased his rebounding average by 2.3 per game, 1.3 of them offensive. Sully takes this honor by a landslide.
Sixth Man of the Year: Kris Humphries
Maybe, just maybe, Kris Humphries is more than an expiring contract for Boston. Predicting Humphries as the Celtics' best bench player might've seemed crazy in the beginning of the season, especially after he racked up five DNPs (coach's decision) in Boston's first nine games, but 62 games into the campaign, Hump has looked very solid. The veteran big is averaging 7.9 points 5.6 boards and 0.9 blocks per game, and is turning into one of Rajon Rondo's favorite targets. His his strong play may warrant him a new deal -- albeit a much cheaper one -- this summer.
Defensive Player of the Year: Avery Bradley
Remember the last time Avery Bradley suited up for Boston? No? Me neither. Unfortunately, AB has been sidelined with a variety of ankle injuries for quite some time now, only appearing in three games since Jan. 22. With that being said, when he has been healthy, the 6-foot-2 combo guard has been his usual pesky self on the defensive end, harassing opposing ones and twos night in and night out. The full-court pressure hasn't been as prevalent as in years past, but cutting it back was a conscious decision by Bradley before the season started. He is second in steals per game with 1.0, trailing only Rondo (1.4), but is without question the best wing defender on the team -- maybe even in the NBA.
Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens
OK, so Stevens doesn't have much competition here. As mentioned before, the former Butler coach has done a fantastic job developing his players this season, and has created a reliable defensive set. Don't let the 21-41 record speak for Stevens' basketball savvy. With a talent-upgrade, Stevens will get the recognition he deserves.
Most Valuable Player: Jared Sullinger
I wanted to give this one to Rajon Rondo, I really did. Individually, Rondo is putting together one heck of a comeback, especially over his last eight games, in which he is averaging 15.8 points, 9.1 dimes and 4.6 rebounds. Unfortunately, his impact has not been felt, at least not record-wise. Besides the 4-13 record with him in the lineup, Rondo has a -8.3 net rating -- the worst out of every player on the team aside from Faverani and Joel Anthony.
Sullinger, on the other hand, is one of just five players with a positive net rating, and is second on the team with a mark of +8.8. He trails only Chris Johnson (+15.5). Sure, Sully has had his share of inconsistencies, but he has also had a handful of monster games, including a 31-point, 16-rebound game against the Sacramento Kings, a 25 and 20 effort in a win over the Toronto Raptors and a 24 and 17 game versus the Philidelphia 76ers. He has eclipsed the 20-point mark 11 times this season, and leads the team in rebounding and double-doubles. Its tough to deny the facts: Sully is the Celtics' MVP.
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