For starters, I’€™m not saying Celtics coach Brad Stevens will or even should win the NBA’€™s Coach of the Year honor. Mike Budenholzer and Steve Kerr are the heavy favorites, and rightfully so, considering their Hawks and Warriors respectively perch atop the East and West.

Rather, this is the argument one could make for Stevens should anyone choose to do so.

There has been much discussion about the difficulty in evaluating a perceived increase in coaching influence around the league, but there are certain truths about a coach’€™s role we hold self-evident ‘€” their ability to effect wins and losses, design effective offenses and defenses, and manage ebbs and flows of rosters often altered by trades and injuries.

With those in mind, let’€™s examine eight statistical measures as they relate to all 30 teams: 1) win percentage, 2) point differential, 3) offensive rating, 4) defensive rating, 5) net rating, 6) pace of play, 7) roster turnover and 8) total games missed by its members. The first five are objectively obvious, and the final three allow for subjective interpretation.

For example, no team slowed its pace more than the Lakers since last season, if only because of new coach Byron Scott’€™s grinding approach, no team turned over its roster more than the Cavaliers, as a result of King James and his court, and no team missed fewer man games during the 2013-14 regular season than the Thunder ‘€” a stark contrast to this year’€™s edition.

So, let’€™s first look at how significantly each team changed from 2013-14 to 2014-15.

COY YTY

While Stevens belongs in the NBA’€™s upper echelon of coaches based solely on these measurements, he still doesn’€™t stand a chance against a crop of Coach of the Year candidates that includes Budenholzer, Kerr and most impressively Bucks coach Jason Kidd.

While it is difficult to evaluate Cavs coach David Blatt’€™s influence, since much of Cleveland’€™s turnaround can be credited to the additions of a four-time MVP and three-time All-Star to the roster, Kidd’€™s ability to transform a team that finished with the league’€™s worst record last season into an Eastern Conference playoff seed by picking up the tempo and dramatically improving the defense is undeniable, particularly with a roster that remained relatively unchanged at its core until Milwaukee swapped Brandon Knight for Michael Carter-Williams.

Meanwhile, Kerr took an already talented team to a completely different level both offensively and defensively, while Budenholzer benefited from a mostly unchanged ‘€” albeit healthier ‘€” group of players who have improved on both ends in their second season in his system. Both deserve tremendous credit for constructing a pair of squads that may each win 60 games.

But season-to-season adjustments aren’€™t their only responsibilities. Coach of the Year should also take into account how their teams have progressed within that particular campaign. As such, let’€™s take a look at how significantly each team developed, using the 2015 All-Star break (coinciding with the trade deadline) as a jumping off point to evaluate each team’€™s evolution.

COY 14-15

Admittedly, it was impossible for the Warriors and Hawks to dramatically improve their win percentage over the past month, since they owned remarkable records at the All-Star break, so any examination of these numbers must recognize it’€™s easier for teams that started the season horribly to demonstrate improvement. Just look to the Lakers, Timberwolves and 76ers.

But simply dismissing the success of the Jazz, Celtics and Thunder since mid-February would be ignoring Stevens’€™ process-oriented coaching philosophy aimed at improving possession to possession, game to game, and ultimately playing your best basketball at season’€™s end.

While Utah’€™s defensive growth can in part be explained by the organization’€™s decision to deal Enes Kanter, handing the rim protection reins to Rudy Gobert’€™s eight-foot wingspan, and OKC’€™s resurgence can largely be credited to a transcendent stretch of basketball from Russell Westbrook (and the arrival of Kanter?), to what do we credit Boston’€™s renaissance?

With all due respect to Quin Snyder and Scott Brooks, Stevens has been thrown to the sharks and asked to swim upstream against a tidal wave of upheaval. Only one team’€™s 15-man roster has missed more man games this season, and that’€™s the Minnesota Timberwolves, owners of the second-worst record in the NBA. Just four teams have seen as many roster changes: the Heat, who added Goran Dragic’€™s Third Team All-NBA skills to the mix, the 17-win 76ers and a pair of lottery-bound clubs (Suns and Pistons) that have regressed since the All-Star break.

Meanwhile, the C’€™s lost their leading scorer (Jeff Green), playmaker (Rajon Rondo) and rebounder (Jared Sullinger) to two trades and a season-ending injury, replacing them with Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko, Gigi Datome and Isaiah Thomas, who promptly missed two weeks with a back injury. There is no other explanation for their current status as the Eastern Conference’€™s eighth seed outside of these try-hard Celtics buying into Stevens’€™ system.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the case for Brad Stevens as the NBA’€™s Coach of the Year. He won’€™t win the Red Auerbach Trophy, of course, and probably doesn’€™t deserve to over Budenholzer and Kerr, but he certainly deserves consideration on everybody’€™s ballot.

(h/t to NBA.com/stats and mangameslost.com for all statistics used in the graphics.)

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach
Brow Buff's Sam Packard and Ben Kichen break down Marcus Smart's unfortunate ball tap, debate leadership in the Celtics locker room, and rehash the great Kevin Love to Boston rumors.

[0:01:31] ... taking. They could take him to a seven games I feel like Isiah Thomas could steal a game. I home court advantage you win the two games at home or Isaiah steals one on the road. ...
[0:04:37] ... ball Hitler. Absolutely especially that part is Smart out because he punched Matt Bonner balls more ball talk more. You know what let's. But go right there so last week whispers markets mark clearly. Cleaners date punched. Matt Bonner in the ball in the middle play. This is absolutely indefensible it made him look like a complete ticket. Is this why ...
[0:06:19] ... they're two completely different situations. One's in game frustration with regards to Matt Bonner the other one is a potentially racist sand just. Spewing some vial vitriol that you so. But it does still raise some ...
[0:07:36] ... becomes a bit of a bigger story than it actually should be. Gerald Wallace came out and kind of ripped him afterwards. Pretty much saying grow up dude. And he's absolutely right it's actually nice to see Gerald Wallace contributing. As a cause I member of the coaching staff here that's when he is a mentor to these young guy Tulsa. Everyone in Gerald Wallace's basically just totally. Embraced his role as OG on the team and just like this is how you play in the NBA ...






If the NBA and NHL playoffs were to start today, then the Celtics would be off to Atlanta for a first-round series while the Bruins cleaned out their lockers. Not many people in Boston saw this being the case on March 24.

Of course, the 31-39 Celtics still have 12 games to play, and while they currently sit in the East’s eighth seed, they are by no means a lock to make the playoffs. According to John Hollinger’s playoff odds on ESPN.com the C’s hold a 48.6 percent chance of landing in the postseason. If you want to see what the remainder of the regular season entails for all the teams competing for the final spots in the East, Ben Rohrbach gave us a pretty good look last week.

But let’s have some fun here. If the Celtics do make the playoffs, what’s their ceiling? We can all likely agree that if the Celts draw LeBron JamesCavaliers in the first-round that they stand no chance. Maybe they steal a game, but LeBron would prove to be too much. Boston could probably give the Hawks a good run and make it a series, but likely still fall in five or six games despite making Atlanta sweat.

What’s changed in the East over the past month is the fact that the Bucks are no longer locked into the sixth seed as they seemingly were just a month ago. Going into the All-Star break, Milwaukee had withstood Jabari Parker’s ACL tear and compiled a 30-23 record — becoming the first team to double their previous season’s win total (15) by the All-Star break in the following season. Since then? Frankly trading away Brandon Knight completely crippled them. Despite still holding onto the sixth seed by the skin of their teeth, the Bucks are just 4-13 since the break. Their 34-36 record means they are just three games ahead of the Celtics and a game and a half ahead of the Heat (who sit in control of the seven spot).

In their final 12 games, the C’s face seven opponents with losing records and five with winning records. If they can win seven or eight of those games (including two huge must-wins over the Bucks and games against the Heat and Pacers), the sixth seed is in sight. To further help Boston’s cause, Isaiah Thomas is expected to return on Wednesday for the important matchup against Miami, and ideally the rest of the playoff push.

The C’s clearly wouldn’t own home court, but would a matchup against the third seeded Raptors, or potentially Derrick Rose-less Bulls be something these resilient Celtics couldn’t overcome? Personally, I’d like their chances.

The Raptors have lost 11 of their last 16 games, and look like they’ll be limping into the playoffs. They are also coming off a season in which they were upset on their home floor in game 7 of the first-round by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett‘s Brooklyn squad. The Bulls may be a tougher opponent than Toronto, but with Rose’s future as uncertain as any player in the league, the feisty Celtics would surely have a shot at an upset here if Chicago were to climb into the third seed.

I don’t want to take the fun out of Brad Stevens‘ first playoff race by raising expectations. Like I said, we never expected this to be the case from the beginning.  So for now, enjoy these final 12 games. But if the C’s can get hot for this home stretch — with some help from Miami and Milwaukee — we could be watching a Celtics team that gets hot at just the right time go from making a little more noise than we thought this season to a whole lot more noise in the postseason.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

With their grip on a playoff spot slipping, the Celtics snapped a three-game losing streak in convincing fashion, defeating the fellow Eastern Conference postseason contending Nets 110-91 in Brooklyn on the second night of a back-to-back.

With their grip on a playoff spot slipping, the Celtics snapped a three-game losing streak in convincing fashion, defeating the fellow Eastern Conference postseason contending Nets 110-91 in Brooklyn on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Celtics won on the back end of a back-to-back for the eighth time in nine tries and improved to 31-39, which combined with a loss by the Pacers (30-40) vaults them back into the East’s eighth seed. The Nets dropped to 29-40, and while they remain only a half-game back of the C’s, Boston’s victory gives them a 3-1 head-to-head tiebreaker for the season.

Avery Bradly led all Celtics with 20 points, and Evan Turner submitted a triple-double (19 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds). Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller each added 18 points, Brandon Bass netted 12 and Jonas Jerebko finished with 10. Seven different Celtics grabbed at least five rebounds.

For a complete box score, click here.

SECOND HELPING

The Celtics submitted a ridiculously efficient second quarter, scoring 31 points on 65 percent shooting, while holding the Nets to a 35 percent clip on the other end. Brandon Bass (3-3 FG), Evan Turner (4-5 FG) and Jonas Jerebko (4-7 FG) each scored eight points in the frame, as the C’s outscored Brooklyn 31-21 and flipped a five-point, first-quarter deficit into a 54-49 advantage entering halftime.

SECOND CHANCES

Given the numbers, the Celtics should have been running the Nets out of the Barclays Center by the break. Boston shot better than 50 percent while holding Brooklyn to 18-for-52 shooting in the opening 24 minutes — including 1-for-8 from 3-point range — and the C’s committed six turnovers leading to just four Nets points in that span. So, how were the visitors only leading by five? Brooklyn grabbed 14 offensive rebounds to Boston’s three, outscoring the Celtics 16-0 in second-chance points. The Celtics made huge strides in that regard in the second half, holding the Nets to four second-chance points on two offensive boards in the final 24 minutes.

TURNING HEADS

Evan Turner had a February to forget in the shooting department, making just 30 percent of 102 attempts in the month. Outside the restricted area, he converted only 19-of-75 shots for a dismal 25.3 percent in those 11 games. But he’s bounced back to respectability in March, entering Monday night’s game having made 43 percent of his attempts this month. He improved upon that mark against the Nets, converting 9-of-13 shots for 19 points to go along with his 12 assists (against two turnovers) and 10 rebounds. The triple-double was just the second of his career, and the other came on Feb. 25.

OH, CANADA

As bad as Turner had been, Kelly Olynyk might’ve been worse. He entered the game shooting just 30 percent from the field, 26 percent on three 3-pointers per game and an underwhelming 54 percent from the line since missing 19 straight games with an ankle injury at midseason. In 17 minutes off the bench against the Nets, he exploded for his most well-rounded performance in months, scoring 18 points on 12 shots, including 3-of-5 shooting from distance. Olynyk added five rebounds, a couple assists and some occasionally solid defense — one aspect of his game the C’s maintain has been much improved this season.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BROOK LOPEZ

Since the emergence of Mason Plumlee over the summer and for the first half of the season, the Nets nearly parted ways with their 7-foot center for little in return, so it stands to reason his $16.7 million expiring contract could be had this summer. His emergence has coincided with Brooklyn’s resurgence, and he submitted his second 30-point night in three games. On the other hand, Monday also saw the other side of the 2013 NBA All-Star, as seven different Celtics out-rebounded Lopez on the night, raising questions about whether he would be worth any asking price in the offseason.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Brad Stevens is obviously a historian of buzzer-beaters.

His Butler Bulldogs almost pulled out the most dramatic last-second shot in NCAA tournament history when Gordon Hayward’s bank shot from half-court went off the front rim and out in the 2010 NCAA tournament final.

More recently, he’s seen Evan Turner do the trick for and against his team many times. There was the game-winner against his Celtics for the Sixers last season at TD Garden in a 95-94 Philly win. Later that season, Turner did it again against the Nets. That late-game magic may have been one of the reasons Danny Ainge wanted to bring Turner to Boston this season.

It’s worked pretty well. Three times this season, he’s beaten the buzzer at the end of regulation. Twice it won games, and once it sent the game into overtime. Against two of the top teams in the NBA, it provided the winning margin, as the Celtics beat the Trail Blazers and Hawks this season.

So naturally, with Sunday’s game against the Pistons tied, 88-88, at the end of regulation, Stevens looked to ET for another otherworldly end to a game.

“We just wanted to do a little misdirection for Evan to drive and let him create space,” Stevens said. “I thought if he gets that shot off, that’€™s his shot. I felt good about it to be honest, it didn’€™t end well because it got knocked out of his hand or maybe it even slipped out of his hand; I haven’€™t seen the replay. I thought he had separation and I thought he was going to get a good look and when the clock was winding down I felt pretty good about our chances.”

As it turned out, fate was not on Boston’s side Sunday night. Turner couldn’t get a clean shot off because he could never get a grip.

“Part of the ball just slipped out of my hand and I knew Reggie [Jackson] was going to try and contest it. I tried to put a little arc on my shot. When I came up with it, it just slipped. He drew up a good play. Kelly did what he was supposed to do down there. I felt confident but the ball slipped. I felt confident going to the right baseline and doing a pull-up. I’ve done that shot a million times but unfortunately the ball slipped and we couldn’t [regroup].”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Marcus Smart may insist that his shot to the groin of Matt Bonner Friday night was an accident. But the NBA didn’t see it that way. His coach didn’t see it that way and, as it turns out, his teammates didn’t exactly see it that way.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Gerald Wallace played just 12 minutes and scored just two points in Boston’s dreadful 105-97 overtime loss Sunday night to the Pistons at TD Garden.

But what he told the team afterward could prove to be his most important contribution. The Celtics were coming off two losses in Oklahoma City and San Antonio but appeared back on track when they went up 10 points twice in the third quarter.

But the Pistons got hot in the fourth quarter to tie the game and the Celtics went ice cold in overtime. The result the Celtics fell to 30-39 and out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics are now tied with the Pacers in the East, each team a half game behind the 30-38 Charlotte Hornets for the eighth and final spot.

It was time for the 32-year-old Wallace to speak to his teammates.

“I told the guys that we have to more serious because giving away games like this or losing games like this, we don’t have the length of the schedule [remaining] to kind of make up games,” Wallace said. “Every game counts right now. We have to take it one game at a time and take care of those games.”

What was the reaction to Wallace’s message?

“I think everybody understood by the way everybody felt,” Wallace said. “They kind of felt this loss. They know that we weren’t supposed to lose this game. We already had two tough games on the road. Coming home, with the way our schedule is, this was a game we had to win, we needed to win. I think they understand we gave this game away and we have to take advantage of them.

“We have [13] games left. Probably out of those 13 games, nine or 10 of those games are [against] playoff teams or teams that are fighting us for that playoff position. They’re competing and they’re fighting just as hard as we are. We’ve got to understand that we just can’t anticipate just showing up and expecting to win the ballgame.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

At the trade deadline, the Celtics received the hidden gems of Luigi Datome and Jonas Jerebko from Detroit. Sunday night, the C’s returned the favor, giving away the game to the Pistons.