Boston Celtics: 2016-17 Regular Season Player Awards
Who do you think deserves a 2016-17 regular season award on the Boston Celtics?
The 2016-17 regular season wrapped up nicely for the Boston Celtics, who managed to swipe the first seed in the Eastern Conference away from LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The season was the Celtics’ most successful on since 2010-11.
The Celtics’ success was a culmination of immediate impact from free agent signee Al Horford, relatively good health (minus Avery Bradley), fantastic coaching by Brad Stevens and overall dominance by Isaiah Thomas.
As they prepare to battle the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs on Sunday, let’s take a look back at the regular season and dole out a few awards for a couple players who went above and beyond this past season.
Best Two-Way Player: Al Horford
After signing a four-year, $113 million contract with Boston this past summer, Al Horford has proven his worth as the Celtics’ biggest two-way threat. While Thomas is undoubtedly the go-to guy on offense, and Smart is a lockdown perimeter defender, Horford brings high level production from both sides of the ball to the Celtics.
Horford is one of two Celtics players to post a positive Offensive and Defensive Box Plus/Minus (Jae Crowder is the other and he posted a +0.1 DBPM). Only nine other players exceeded Horford’s offensive and defensive box plus/minus numbers of 1.0 and 2.1: Rudy Gobert, Russell Westbrook, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol and DeMarcus Cousins. Not bad company at all.
Horford has been able to contribute on both sides of the ball, whether that means he’s posting up, blocking shots, launching threes or distributing, and he is a big reason the Celtics had so much success in the regular season. While his contract can be a tough pill to swallow on paper, he has proved his worth this season and will look to propel the Celtics deep into the playoffs.
Best Prospect: Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown is a part of what is shaping up to be a very weak rookie class. However, he was able to show flashes of potential during his 17 minutes per game — enough to give Celtics faithful a lot of confidence is his eventual development into a solid NBA player.
Brown needs to improve his perimeter shooting, since 34 percent won’t cut it in today’s NBA. His assist percentage is also a little low, but Brown’s athleticism will allow him to be a two-way player and that’s a valuable commodity in itself in the NBA.
Celtics fans should be very pleased with the progress Brown showed this season, and he is looking to be one of the best players in this weak draft class. While he was not able to thrust himself into the Rookie of the Year conversation, he is certainly among the top rookies.
Oh, he can also do things like this.
Brown may not be the best prospect on the team next year, with Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson or Lonzo Ball possibly heading to Bean Town, but for now he is showing solid potential.
Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Smart
We are now at the point where we can say that Marcus Smart has surpassed Avery Bradley as a defender. Bradley — long considered by many to be one of the stingiest perimeter defenders in the league — took a step back this season on the less glamorous end of the floor; and while his missed time due to injury may have contributed to this, Smart stepped up as the Celtics’ No. 1 perimeter stalwart.
The numbers don’t lie: Smart’s 2.7 defensive win shares are tied with Al Horford as the most on the team. Smart’s defensive box plus/minus, 0.8 is significantly higher than Bradley’s of -0.3. Smart also blocked and stole the ball more effectively than Bradley.
Whether you think Bradley or Smart is the superior defender, the Celtics are lucky to have two elite perimeter defenders on their roster who are both capable of taking the toughest assignment on any given night.
While Smart’s offensive game still needs a lot of work, the 220-pound bruiser has found his place in the NBA as a defensive stopper.
Most Valuable Player: Isaiah Thomas
Undoubtedly the easiest award to give out, Isaiah Thomas has had the best season of his career and has cemented himself as a top-five MVP candidate alongside Russell Westbrook, James Harden, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard. Thomas finished the season averaging 28.9 points and 5.9 assists per game.
Yes, Thomas is not even a league-average defender and never will be, but he joins a group of three players to have over 10 offensive win shares this season — James Harden, Jimmy Butler and Thomas. Thomas’ dominance on the offensive side of the ball propelled the Celtics to the first seed in the Eastern Conference, and without the diminutive guard, they would not have reached the heights they did this season.
His ability to get to the basket is among the best in the league, and his versatile offensive game has allowed him to carve up opposing defenses night in and night out.
Thomas has established himself as an elite point guard in the NBA, and will now have the task of leading the Celtics in the playoffs and continuing to prove his haters wrong.
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