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Celtics Midseason Report Card: Grading The Guards

BOSTON (CBS) - We are more than halfway through the NBA season, but with an extended All-Star break in place this year for the first time, it's a great time to hand out grades to the Boston Celtics for their first half performances following a 20-31 start to the season. Before we get going, here are few things to keep in mind as evaluations are handed out.

1) Grade scales are based upon player expectations. In essence, an A grade for Phil Pressey (who only sees spot minutes off the bench) is different from an A for Avery Bradley (a starter and fifth-year player). Keep that in mind while reviewing these marks.

2) I will only be handing out grades to current Celtics. Sorry to Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and the long list of other players who now don other uniforms

We'll start with the guards in this edition, before covering the frontcourt later this week:

Avery Bradley – Fresh off a new four-year contract following his restricted free agency, Boston's starting shooting guard has not progressed the way most Celtics fans would have hoped in the first few months of the 2014-15 season. Most of Bradley's offensive numbers have taken a bit of a dip from last year, particularly his 3-point shooting (down to a mediocre 35 percent after shooting 39 percent in 2013-14).

He's second on the team in scoring, posting 13.4 points per game, but his offense still relies far too heavily on mid-range jumpers and not enough on attacking the rim (just 1.3 free throw attempts per game). Bradley's defense is still a highlight most nights, but it pales in comparison to his fellow backcourt partner in crime (Marcus Smart). Here's to a stronger second half.

Grade: C+

Avery Bradley
Celtics guard Avery Bradley drives against the Denver Nuggets. (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Marcus Smart – The newest member of Brad Stevens' starting lineup shook off an ugly start to the season, and is now living up to his No. 6 pick potential in recent weeks. The overall numbers don't look pretty (36.8 percent shooting, 6.8 points per game), but his impact on all facets of the game continues to grow. Defensively, he's arguably Boston's biggest weapon in the backcourt, hounding opposing point guards through screens every second he's on the floor.

Offensively, he's developed stronger court vision lately, as he grown more comfortable at the point guard spot. Going into the draft, the biggest knock on Smart was his shooting and he's quieted those doubters as well (35 percent from downtown). Still plenty of potential left untapped, but Boston fans have to like what they see out of the 20-year-old rookie.

Grade: B+

(Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

Evan Turner – The fifth-year swingman has floated between point guard and the wing spot this year, but he's done an admirable job most nights. The former No. 2 pick loves to play with the ball in his hands, but outside of a pretty mid-range jumper, he has trouble creating offense for himself. His biggest assets this season has been his ability to contribute across the box score with his rebounding (4.7 boards per game) and passing (4.8 assists per game). Defensively, Turner has struggled to keep up with athletic, crafty guards, but he plays hard every night and came up with a couple clutch buzzer beaters in the past month, including on Wednesday night against the Hawks. For a low-cost signing this offseason, he's been a decent gamble for Boston's front office.

Grade: B-

Evan Turner
Evan Turner #11 of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images)

Marcus Thornton – Minutes have been hard to come by for the 27-year-old veteran guard with an expiring contract, but offense has not been. He was handed an inflated contract four years ago by New Orleans thanks to his shooting ability, and he's showing it off in Beantown during the first half of this season. So far, Thornton is actually shooting better from 3-point range (41.9 percent) than from the field (41.6 percent), while averaging a hefty 8.9 points in 16.9 minutes per game. For a team that's been desperate for consistent scoring off the bench, Thornton has done his job while healthy. The defense is another story, but that's never been a expected facet of his game.

Grade: B

Marcus Thornton
Marcus Thornton #4 of the Boston Celtics prepares to shoot a free throw against the Milwaukee Bucks on February 7, 2015. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

Phil Pressey – The third-string point guard still breathes some life into the Celtics lineup during his bench stints, but his shooting (35.6 percent from the field) remains a limiting flaw. Offenses hang off him while he's in the game, which bogs down the team's floor spacing as a whole. Until he can make some strides there, he should be considered lucky to still be in the league right now.

Grade: C-

Former Boston Celtics point guard Phil Pressey. (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Coming up later this week, we grade the Celtics wings and big men.

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