The season’s over, the tests complete. Now it’s time for the report card.
Celtics writer Adam Himmelsbach offers up his final grades for the 2020-21 Celtics roster, from non-rotation players to everyday starters. Read his analysis, and tell us what you think in the comments.
Jayson Tatum: A
Tatum took another step toward superstardom, and the fact that his five-year contract extension does not start until next year is the primary reason Boston’s future remains bright despite recent turbulence.
Tatum received more attention from defenses than ever, and his numbers improved across the board despite all of the traps and double teams. He has also emerged as one of Boston’s better defenders.
But he is most lethal as a scorer, and he saved his best for last. Read more here.
Kemba Walker: B
Walker had mostly made it through this season in good health, allaying at least some concerns about his troublesome left knee. But it was unclear whether this was a result of a strong recovery, or the fact that the Celtics continued to tread carefully with him.
Walker, who turned 31 last month, remains a bit of a defensive liability, but that is nothing new. He averaged 19.3 points and 4.9 assists per game, fine numbers for a clear third option behind Tatum and Brown. The problem is that he is not being paid as a third option. Read more here.
Jaylen Brown: A-minus
Brown was a deserving first-time All-Star this season, and while Tatum remains the superior of the two, Brown probably showed more growth on offense.
He made a career-high 39.7 percent of his 3-pointers, including a blistering 52.6 percent from the left corners. After Brown suffered a season-ending wrist injury, the Celtics missed his defensive physicality mightily in the playoffs.
Brown and Tatum should now work on playing more effectively off of each other rather than taking turns in isolation. They have a chance to be one of the NBA’s most potent duos for years to come. Read more here.
Marcus Smart: B
Smart is most known for his defense, but he is one of the more underrated playmakers and floor generals in the NBA, too. This year he led the Celtics with a career-high 5.7 assists per game. At both ends of the court he constantly points at and instructs his teammates to ensure everyone is in the right spots.
But the two-time first-team All-Defense performer can’t be pleased with Boston’s slippage in that area this year. Read more here.
Robert Williams: B
It could be argued that the potential Williams flashed this season was actually the most promising development for the Celtics.
He averaged 3.3 blocks per 36 minutes, tied for the second most in the NBA among players who appeared in at least 50 games. The third-year big man has evolved into one of Boston’s better passers, too, even if his decision-making could still use some work.
Still, those bursts of promise were overshadowed by another injury-marred campaign. Read more here.
Key bench players and occasional starters
Evan Fournier: B-plus
Fournier had a challenging few months with the Celtics. He went 0 for 10 in his Boston debut and was diagnosed with COVID-19 less than a week later.
Those issues eventually subsided, and when Fournier was on the court and feeling fine, he played pretty well.
He seemed to develop good chemistry with Kemba Walker in particular and was a good outlet when the stars faced extra attention. Read more here.
Romeo Langford: Incomplete
Langford’s first two NBA seasons have been defined more by what has kept him off the court than what he has done on it. He missed the first half of this year after undergoing offseason wrist surgery. Then when he was cleared to return in March, he contracted COVID-19, extending his absence.
Still, Langford is just 21 years old, and the Celtics remain hopeful that he can be impactful, especially if he is able to remain healthy for an entire season. Read more here.
Payton Pritchard: B
The 26th overall pick in last year’s draft was clearly unfazed by the transition from college, as evidenced by his penchant for spotting up for jumpers from well behind the 3-point arc.
Pritchard may have caught the rest of the NBA off guard, but defenses adjusted as the season progressed. His shooting and assist numbers both dipped after the All-Star break.
Aaron Nesmith: B
But the speed of the NBA game seemed to overwhelm Nesmith at the start, and his confidence in his shot suffered, too. All along, Celtics coaches and executives praised Nesmith’s work ethic, and his determination paid off as he seized an important role in the second half of the season. Read more here.
Tristan Thompson: C
Thompson’s fit with this group appeared wobbly at times but he added much-needed toughness, and his ability to battle for offensive rebounds was unmatched on this roster. Read more here.
Grant Williams: C
Williams had a solid season but never really established a consistent role.
He is a strong, sturdy defender who had a good grasp of the Celtics’ scheme, and some of Williams’s finest moments came when he was used as a small-ball center. But the presence of Robert Williams, Thompson, and Theis limited his opportunities in the post. Read more here.
Two-way contract and non-rotation players
Semi Ojeleye: C
When defenses swarmed Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Ojeleye benefited the most, frequently spotting up in the corner with plenty of space and time to operate. But his 3-point shooting dipped slightly to 36.7 percent, and his overall progress seems to have stalled.
Ojeleye was a bargain at $1.7 million this season, but it appears unlikely that he will be back for a fifth year. Read more here.
Carsen Edwards: C-minus
When the Celtics drafted Edwards two seasons ago, they hoped he would become a potent scorer capable of coming off the bench and drilling 3-pointers in bunches. It just hasn’t worked out. Read more here.
Luke Kornet: C
Kornet had a few productive games while Tristan Thompson was sidelined, and when the Celtics did need a roster spot to sign Jabari Parker, they waived Moe Wagner instead of him.
Kornet was used sparingly after that, although his per-36-minute stats were respectable. Read more here.
Jabari Parker: C-plus
In addition to Parker’s physical limitations, there were moments when it was startlingly obvious that he did not have a grasp of Boston’s system. Read more here.
Tacko Fall: B-minus
The 7-5, two-way-contract player remains a favorite of the crowd as well as his own teammates, and he unquestionably has made strides since the start of last year.
Still, it’s clear he remains a project, and when he was on the court, opponents took advantage of his mobility issues. Read more here.
Tremont Waters: C
Waters has plenty of confidence, and his passes have plenty of sizzle. But the 5-10 point guard needs to show that he can truly run a team and defend more physical, athletic opponents. Read more here.