More than halfway through the year, most Boston Celtics fans would classify the 2012-2013 season as a disappointment. After what most thought was an excellent offseason, the Celtics battled major inconsistency throughout the first half of the year, and then they got bitten viciously by the injury bug, losing Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger, and Leandro Barbosa to season ending injuries within a three week span. Perhaps the biggest disappointment this year has been the play of forward Brandon Bass. Not a lot has gone according to plan for Boston this year, and it is completely unfair to point at Bass as the sole reason for Boston's struggles. But coming off a career year in 2012 the 27-year old forward has seemingly regressed in every single aspect of his game, leaving many to question why he has remained in the Celtics' starting lineup for so long.
Just as recently as last season, Bass set career highs in minutes, points, rebounds, and assists per game. He then wisely opted out of the last year of his contract, and Boston quickly signed him to a reported three year $20 million on July 14th. Most fans were fairly happy with the move, as the expectation was that, with a full year in Boston, the quiet and hard working Bass would continue to improve in the coming years. This simply has not happened. In 56 games this year and 44 starts, as opposed to 58 and 39 in 2012, Bass has regressed in every single significant statistic. His points are down, his field goal percentage is down, and his rebounds are down. Only his assists have managed to break even while his defense has been average at the best of times, and downright horrible at others.
The statistic that is really impossible to explain is Bass' awful rebounding rate, particularly on the defensive boards. Bass pulled down a respectable 4.6 defensive boards per game last year. This year he is managing a mere 3.4. What they need from Bass is rebounding; however for the most part this season, he simply hasn't been committed to be an effective presence near the glass. Half the time he makes no effort at all on the defensive glass, and on the rare occasions where he has position he still rarely comes up with the ball.
It was probably only a matter of time before Celtics coach Doc Rivers benched Bass in favor of Jared Sullinger, but then Sullinger went down with a season ending back injury, and Bass has remained in the starting lineup ever since. However it's not like the Celtics don't have any other options at power forward, even with Sullinger on the shelf. In his lone start of the year against the Pheonix Suns on February 22nd reserve forward Jeff Green exploded for 31 points while adding 7 rebounds, 5 blocked shots, and 4 assists. That is more points than Bass has managed in his past four games combined. He has also pulled down more than 7 rebounds only once in that time frame and hasn't blocked a shot since February 13th. The idea behind continuing to start Bass is that the Celtics need him in there for rebounding and low post defense. But he has been horrendous is both areas all year long, so what exactly is the argument behind keeping in the starting lineup? Green will likely struggle to bang in the low post, and isn't a fantastic rebounder either. However he can hardly be any worse than Bass has been, and clearly offers more in other areas, so keeping him on the bench really makes no sense.
The only argument that remains is, if Green starts, then there is no one to come off the bench when Paul Pierce needs a breather. Green is the only other true three on the roster, however there is a simple solution to this – start Green at the four, then when Pierce needs a breather bring in Bass and move Green to the three. Rest is precious to Pierce at this stage in his career, but Green is only 26 and fully capable of playing 40 minutes per game. In the brief times when he does need a rest the Celtics can simply have to go small, with some combination of Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford and Terrence Williams manning the wings. They go small for about eight minutes every game anyway, so there really is no reason to keep Green on the bench.
Tags: Basketball, Boston, Boston Celtics, NBA