BOSTON – Every NBA player has his strengths. Some of those strengths garner more attention than others.
If you watch Rajon Rondo, you marvel at his passing. Maybe you don’t pay as much attention to his defense as you should.
Rondo, like the rest of the Celtics, possesses skills that are oftentimes underrated and/or overlooked. This story is our attempt at changing that.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the most underrated skills on this Celtics team and elaborated on them below. You may be surprised at first by the company these players hold in each category, but by the time Boston opens its season on Oct. 29, you’ll be expecting these skills to shine through.
Kelly Olynyk’s Passing
Kelly Olynyk was one of the top centers in the league last season despite being a rookie.
Christian Petersen/NBAE/Getty Images
In the company of: Kevin Garnett, DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, Kevin Love, Joakim Noah
Kelly Olynyk averaged 16.6 points per game during April and shot 42.6 percent from 3-point range after the All-Star break. His scoring and shooting prowess garnered much attention, but his passing flew under the radar.
He’s giving Joakim Noah, considered by many to be the league’s top passing center, a run for his money. This is despite the fact that Noah already has seven years of seasoning in the NBA and Olynyk was just a rookie last season.
The NBA classifies Olynyk as a center and he ranked fourth in the league last season at that position in assists per 48 minutes (3.7), according to NBA.com/stats. The only players to rank ahead of him were Noah (7.3), Marc Gasol (5.2) and DeMarcus Cousins (4.3). Among centers who played at least 40 games, Olynyk ranked 11th in assist percentage (12.3 percent), which calculates the percentage of teammates’ field goals that a player assisted. That number falls just behind Kevin Garnett, who showcased his elite passing skills for six seasons in Boston.
The fact that Olynyk ranked so high on these lists as a rookie says a lot about his vision and passing skills. They are top-flight.
Jeff Green’s Free-Throw Rate
In the company of: Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce
Celtics fans want Jeff Green to attack the basket every time he touches the ball. They get frustrated when he doesn’t, but they need to understand that he’s one of the better small forwards in the game when it comes to putting the defense on its heels.
Green attempted 356 free throws during the 2013-14 season, which ranked first on the Celtics by a landslide. The next-highest number came from Brandon Bass, who attempted 239 freebies.
Green’s propensity for getting to the line doesn’t only rank high on the Celtics; it ranks high in the league as a whole. His 356 free throw attempts ranked sixth among small forwards and 30th in the entire NBA, according to ESPN. So the next time you have the urge to complain about Green not taking the ball to the rack, take his underrated ability to get to the stripe into consideration.
Jared Sullinger’s Ability To Take Charges
In the company of: Noah, Luis Scola, Damian Lillard, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins
Jared Sullinger underwent surgery in February of 2013 but that procedure didn’t prevent him from sacrificing his body this past season. He allowed fans to yell “CHARGEEEE!” more than any other Celtic not named Olynyk.
Sullinger and Olynyk tied for the team high in charges taken last season with nine apiece. That total ranked fourth among NBA centers and 14th in the league, according to hoopsmanifesto.com. Most of the players ranked ahead of Sullinger play on the perimeter, with the exception of Cousins, who led the league with 36 charges taken.
Brandon Bass’ Midrange Jumper
In the company of: Stephen Curry, Jordan Crawford, Joe Johnson, Ray Allen, Channing Frye
We know what you’re thinking: “Brandon Bass’ midrange jumper isn’t underrated! He’s really good from there!”
You’re not wrong in thinking that. You’re just selling him short. By a lot.
Bass isn’t just really good at making midrange jumpers. Heck, he isn’t even just great. He’s the best among NBA big men, and the second best in the entire league, according to NBA.com/stats.
Boston’s power forward splashed home an incredible 52.6 percent of his jump shots from eight to 16 feet last season. That number ranked second in the league among players who attempted at least 50 such shots. Stephen Curry, who may one day be considered to be the best shooter of all time, was the only player in the league who made a higher percentage of those shots than Bass (53.4 percent).
Avery Bradley’s 3-Point Shooting
In the company of: Danny Green, Mike Miller, Kyle Korver, Marco Belinelli
Remember when analysts used to rave about Avery Bradley’s knack for hitting corner 3s? Well, they can now extend their rave reviews to the rest of 3-point range as well.
Bradley was outstanding last season at nailing 3-pointers from above the break. He made 44.6 percent (33-of-74) of his attempts from that area, which ranked fifth among all NBA players who attempted at least 15 3s from above the break. Curry is in Bradley’s rearview mirror in that category. So are Kyle Korver, Bradley Beal, Klay Thompson, and pretty much every other great shooter in the NBA.