The Celtics will be hitting the regular season midseason checkpoint in the upcoming week amid a surprising 26-11 start to the year. Let’s examine the good, bad and ugly of the first three months of the 2019-20 campaign by handing out some midseason awards and looking forward to what lies ahead in the second half.
Most improved player: Jaylen Brown
Analysis: Brown has gone from the second unit to putting himself in the conversation for Celtics MVP, which has arguably been the biggest development for the franchise from a long-term perspective. The fourth-year swingman is putting up career-highs across the board, standing out as an incredibly efficient third scoring option on most nights while posting a stellar shooting line of 49/39/76. He’s embraced playing bigger on defense as well by turning into a force on the glass (6.8 rebounds per game) a 50 percent jump from last season. With positive steps forward with his passing and defensive IQ as well, the Celtics can feel better than ever about his four-year extension inked back in October.
Runner-up: Jayson Tatum
Defensive player of the year: Marcus Smart
Analysis: Injuries and illness have slowed Smart down for a good chunk of the season but he is still this team’s best defender on most nights thanks to his versatility and ball pressure. He has turned the second unit into a defensive force at times as the captain of that unit and has been instrumental in turning an overhauled roster into a top-5 unit. His place among the top-four defensive guards in the league remains intact.
Sixth man: Enes Kanter
Analysis: The big man is having a career-year on the glass when you factor in his limited playing time. He’s posting 16.9 rebounds per 36 minutes, the best number of his career. The fact he’s nearly averaging a double-double (9 points, 8 rebounds) in just 18.3 minutes per game has helped catapult the Celtics into an above-average rebounding team by itself. Kanter is still a liability on the defensive end as well but he has held up fairly well (thanks to help from the supporting cast) to turn into a net positive for the C’s almost every night he is on the floor. How well that will translate to tougher competition in the postseason remains to be seen but for now, Kanter is giving this team the best bang for its buck out of any contract signed this offseason.
Runner-ups: Wanamaker, Smart
Biggest surprise: A top-5 defense
Analysis: There were all sorts of questions about where the strength of this team would lie after an offseason