Each Saturday during the season, we'll take a look at three players (or player groupings) that are trending in different directions based on recent play. Sounds off with your thoughts on who's up and who's down in the comment section:
This week's stats (per game): 12 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 23 minutes
The skinny: Whenever the conversation shifts to which member of the Big Three is most important for Boston, Kevin Garnett gets an awful lot of the chatter and rightfully so. But the numbers continue to suggest that its Pierce that the Celtics simply can't sustain without. Boston dropped its first three games of the season without Pierce -- making them 9-10 in the Big Three era without him. Even without KG (48-27) and Ray Allen (12-4), the Celtics still own a .robust 659 winning percentage. No surprise that Boston got its first win with Pierce back on the court and he looked like vintage Pierce, slashing to the basket for acrobatic layups and jawing at the Detroit bench after big 3-pointers.
This week's stats: 15.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 0.8 blocks, 26.5 minutes
The skinny: Toss out one lackluster night in New Orleans (odd given that it's his home turf) and Bass has been downright brilliant. He's exactly what the second unit has craved: A no-conscious shooter who puts points on the board in bulk. As Doc Rivers noted after Friday's win over Detroit: "I don’t think Brandon has a problem scoring. I mean, really, when he gets it, he’s probably going to shoot it. And that's a good thing." Here's a little secret for you, too: Bass came with a reputation of being a rung below Glen Davis in terms of defense, but through three games, Bass ranked as Boston's top defender -- and by a landslide -- allowing a mere .371 points per play (13 points in 35 plays, according to Synergy Sports data). By comparison, Garnett was allowing 1.11 ponts per play (40 points in 36 plays). His gritty style and lack of "hey look at me!" demeanor makes Boston the early winner in that Magic swap.
This week's stats: 20 points, 3.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 34.3 minutes
The skinny: Ho hum, just another phenomenal start for 36-year-old Allen. If Pierce is the most valuable of the Big Three, Allen is the most overlooked. We all just takes his production for granted. But through the first week, he leads the team in scoring and it seems like all he did during the lockout was practice that off-balance, fading-into-the-corner 3-pointer. Allen needs to pick up his defense -- the entire team does -- but he continues to be Mr. Consistency for the Celtics.
This week's stats: 100.8 opponents points per game
The skinny: Let's not sugarcoat it: Outside of a gimmicky switch to a zone against Miami and a solid third quarter against the Pistons, the Celtics' defense has been downright atrocious. It's seemingly still on a beach somewhere sipping fruity drinks with tiny umbrellas in them, blissfully unaware the lockout has ended. You don't even have to dig deep here to break it down: Over the past four seasons, the Celtics have never ranked worse than fifth in the league in points allowed per game. Before Friday's win over the Pistons, they ranked 28th in the league and were allowing 16 more points per game than in the 2007-08 championship campaign. That number is already dropping after Friday's win, but there's plenty of work to be done.
This week's stats: 0.0 points, 0.5 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 5.5 minutes
The skinny: Let's start with the good: Bradley has been excellent defensively on the floor and you can easily see the talent there. Alas, he's really struggling to get going offensively and Rivers suggested in New Orleans that rookie E'Twaun Moore might bite into Bradley's minutes at the backup guard spots. That's a difficult proposition for Bradley, who even Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has stressed simply needs floor time to flourish. The encouraging part is that Bradley doesn't seem to be hesitant to shoot when he's on the floor and that absolutely needs to continue because shots will eventually fall and his confidence will only grow.
This week's stats: 2 points, 0.5 rebounds, 3.5 minutes
The skinny: Dubbing Johnson as "down" isn't exactly fair -- he hasn't gotten much of a chance to showcase his skills, sitting out the first two games of the season in New York and Miami before logging three-minute stints versus New Orleans and Detroit. The trouble Johnson, Boston's first-round pick, is encountering is the success of those drafted around him. The Celtics originally selected Marshon Brooks at No. 25 before swapping with the Nets to add Johnson. Brooks is averaging 15.3 points in 21.3 minutes per game (living up to his reputation as a scorer). Meanwhile, Norris Cole, the point guard selected by Miami one spot after Johnson, is off to a monster start, including hitting some clutch late-game shots against the Celtics during Tuesday's loss to the Heat.