Here are the Boston Celtics’ sixth-man, defensive player of the year, most improved, and most valuable player.

The regular season is over and despite not going the way we all hoped, the Celtics are in the playoffs. Before their series against the Indiana Pacers kicks off we’re going to take this opportunity to congratulate some of the team’s top performers from the 2019 season.

Sixth-Man: Jaylen Brown

Many people forget exactly who Jaylen was when the Celtics drafted him, he was a raw, explosive, and freakishly athletic shooting guard out of California. He had the power to slash his way to the basket and the tenacity on defense to fit right in with this Celtics franchise. However, he lacked almost all offensive polish; while he drove to the rim with purpose, it just so happened to be his only purpose. Jaylen went to the basket with no backup plan for when he was unable to get where he was going. Also, he had a shooting motion which straddled the line of broken, and was conspicuously lacking in ball handling skills which lead to a lot of unnecessary turnovers.

After hearing that list of negatives, you might be asking yourself why the Celtics drafted him and why I have him winning a regular season honor if I am just going to sit here and point out his flaws? Well, now that we’re a few years removed from his draft day, we can see exactly why the team took him with the third pick in the draft – Jaylen Brown has emerged as one of the most important players on this team, especially given Marcus Morris Sr.’s production has dropped off the face of the planet. Jaylen is also first in line to take the injured Marcus Smart’s role on the defensive end.

Jaylen Brown plays with a level of intensity and pace the Celtics desperately need in the second unit while simultaneously providing the versatility to compliment starters. Having a player like Jaylen Brown allows Brad Stevens the creative freedom to mix and match different lineups to form nightmares for any opponent. Here’s a breakdown of some of Jaylen’s key 2019 post All-Star break stats:

  • 41.3% from three
  • 50.2% from the field
  • Career-high 24.3 points per one-hundred possessions (for the season)

Most Improved Player: Marcus Smart

Even though he may have done it, it’s hard to make the argument Marcus Smart has gotten significantly better on defense over the course of one season considering how amazing he’s always been. However, he wins this award because of what he has been able to do on the other side of the court. In the past, fans would be okay with him shooting the ball every once in a while because he deserved it, after all he was probably the one who got us the extra possession anyway. This year is a completely different story; Marcus Smart forces defenses to respect his three-point shooting, something I never thought I would say. Marcus has always been a decent play-maker and ball handler, but he was never intimidating from distance. Marcus’ offensive numbers took a huge jump in the right direction this year, here are some of the increases he saw compared to his career averages:

  • Effective-field-goal percentage: 8.2% above career average
  • Free-throw percentage: 4.2% above career average
  • Three-point percentage: 5.4% above career average

These might seem impressive, and they are but when we dive a little deeper to his advanced metrics, he is posting numbers on the offensive end that tower over his career highs:

  • VORP: 2.1 (previous high: 1.4*)
  • Win Shares: 5.3 – 2.2 offense and 3.1 defense both career highs (previous high: 3.2)
  • Player Efficiency Rating: 13.1 (previous high: 12.0)
  • Offensive Box Score +/-: 0.6 (previous high: -0.1*)

Not only is he improving at an exponential rate he is doing so in the first season after signing an extension, a time when many other players would have become complacent, but I guess that’s who Marcus Smart is. Losing a player like Smart hurts, especially going into the playoffs but hopefully the Celtics can survive long enough to see the new version of Marcus when it matters most.

Defensive Player of the Year: Aron Baynes

I know this may come as a surprise to some but Aron Baynes makes arguably the biggest defensive impact on the Celtics. Choosing between defenders such as Aron Baynes, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford is splitting hairs, but the team takes a big step back when Baynes is not out there:

  • 106.9 Defensive Rating with him off the court
  • 101.4 Defensive Rating with him on the court (best on the team among significant players)

In addition to him having the ability to turn the team’s defense into the high elite, Baynes compliments his teammates very well – Al Horford was quoted saying “Aron, I know that, defensively, if I make mistakes, he’ll cover my back out there.”. Al Horford isn’t the only player to find success with Aron Baynes on the floor; the trio of Baynes, Irving, and Tatum are a plus – 19.8 in 258 minutes together, that’s 4th in the NBA (excluding the Warriors – 11th with them). Finally, when both Baynes and Smart are on the floor together they hold opponents to just 92 points per 100 possessions.

Most Valuable Player: Kyrie Irving

Last but not least, Kyrie Irving is our Team MVP. I know this doesn’t come as much of a surprise but the man was amazing all season. He ranked first on the team in:

  • Offensive efficiency – 112.8
  • Player Impact Estimate – 15.7
  • Loose Balls Recovered Per Game – 1.8
  • Points in the Clutch – 4.3 on 49.6% shooting

Kyrie also happens to be the first Celtic to average at least 23 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists since Larry Bird. On top of it all, he set career highs in over ten different categories.

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