Adversity and injuries are two things the Celtics had seen very little of in the past two months, but that changed in a hurry over the past week. Injuries to Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko forced Celtics head coach Brad Stevens to go deep into his team’s young bench for reinforcements. So far, the rest of the roster has failed to step up to the challenge, producing a season-high, four-game losing streak.
The winless week dropped Boston all the way down to the No. 6 spot in the East and has left Stevens searching for answers as he tries to piece together a consistent rotation. What players are making a case for more playing time? Who isn’t carrying his weight?
We took a closer look at the team’s struggles in this week’s edition of the Celtics player power rankings.
Not ranked: Jae Crowder. A high ankle sprain is expected to keep the small forward sidelined for at least another week. Without him, Boston has been outscored by an average of 11 points in its last four games.
14. Coty Clarke: The Arkansas product signed his second 10-day contract with the team on Friday. He’s only seen six minutes of action thus far, but his size and rebounding ability as a wing could give him an opportunity with Jerebko and Crowder hobbled.
13. James Young: Opportunity has come knocking for the youngsters at the bottom of the depth chart, but Young did little with his extended chance on Wednesday. He went scoreless in 22 minutes against the Thunder, missing all three of his 3-point attempts. For a team that’s desperate for outside shooting, Young has not proven to be a reliable option.
12. Jordan Mickey: Despite playing a measly 3.6 minutes per game this season, Mickey’s still managing to average nearly a block per appearance (0.8). The rim protection is encouraging, but he hasn’t been enough of an offensive threat yet to break into the rotation ahead of Tyler Zeller.
11. R.J. Hunter: The shooting guard posted eight points on Friday night against the Raptors, the most he’s scored in a game since Dec. 18. Unfortunately, he also had a pair of unforced turnovers in the fourth quarter that sparked a 14-2 Toronto run. Stevens needs Hunter’s shooting, but he also has to be able to count on him to be stronger against ball pressure.
10. Terry Rozier: One of the few positives that came out of Friday’s loss against the Raptors was Rozier putting together arguably his best all-around game in a Celtics uniform, notching seven points, three rebounds and five assists in just 10 minutes. The 22-year-old guard has been the most consistent rookie on the roster over the past week, and that should earn him more floor time as Stevens attempts to settle on a rotation.
9. Jonas Jerebko: Jerebko’s 40.9 percent 3-point shooting is needed now more than ever with Crowder sidelined. But he suffered an ankle injury following a season-high 17 points in a loss to Indiana on Tuesday night. The team is hoping he will be able to return to the lineup Monday against the Magic.
8. Kelly Olynyk: The seven-footer returned to the floor after a 12-game absence (separated shoulder) on Wednesday night. But the rust from his layoff has been painfully evident: He’s shooting just 3 of 14 from the floor in Boston’s past two games.
7. Tyler Zeller: The free-agent-to-be has held onto his bench minutes despite Olynyk’s return, but that may change when Jerebko returns to full health. In the meantime, he’s taking advantage of opposing defenses giving him plenty of open looks. His 15.1 field-goal attempts per 36 minutes is the third highest total on the Celtics’ roster.
6. Marcus Smart: A return to the starting lineup at the small forward spot only lasted two games for Smart, as he struggles through one of the worst shooting slumps of his career. The 6-foot-4 guard is shooting 31.7 percent from the field in his last 10 games and a paltry 20 percent from beyond the arc.
5. Amir Johnson: Playing time has been shrinking for the veteran big man throughout the past two months, but that has changed drastically since the Crowder injury: Johnson has played more than 20 minutes in three straight games for the first time since January and has averaged nine rebounds in those contests.
4. Evan Turner: Without Crowder’s offensive firepower in the lineup, Turner has picked a bad time to go into a mini slump. He’s shot just 32 percent from the field in his last four games and is posting just 6.7 points in those games, more than three points below his season average.
3. Avery Bradley: Smart isn’t the only Celtics guard struggling from long distance: Bradley is just 1 of 13 from deep during Boston’s four-game losing streak. The shooting guard is still helping on the offensive end by scoring in double-digits in six of eight games this month, but he hasn’t been doing it efficiently, hitting just 40 percent of his field-goal attempts.
2. Jared Sullinger: You know things are going wrong for Boston when Sullinger isn’t up to his usual rebounding tricks. After delivering six double-doubles in eight games, the power forward has only managed to grab eight boards total in his past two games. Still, he’s been one of the most consistent Celtics in the month of March, averaging 14 points and 8.9 rebounds a night.
1. Isaiah Thomas: While the rest of his teammates have been slumping, Thomas has stepped up his game in a big way. The All-Star has scored 20 points or more in every game during the month of March, averaging 26.4 points per contest and 46.2 percent shooting from 3-point range over that tremendous stretch.