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Will Brandon Bass return next season, or look to cash in on a solid year?Over the three weeks leading up to start of the new league year on July 1, we'll take a player-by-player look at the Celtics' 2011-12 roster and how each player's season unfolded, assigning a grade for their overall performance. This is the second in the series of report cards:
Player: Brandon Bass
2011-12 averages: 12.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 0.9 apg, 31.7 mpg
2011-12 salary: $4.25 million
Season in a paragraph: The Celtics pulled off a rather shrewd move acquiring the low-maintenance Bass as part of a sign-and-trade deal with Orlando for Glen Davis and Von Wafer. Bass proved to be Davis without the constant headaches (Davis averaged 11.7 points and 5.4 rebounds over 29.5 minutes per game in his final season with the Celtics). Bass seemed to struggle early on settling into Boston's help defense system -- something the Big Four were not shy about calling him out on -- but his 1-on-1 defense was always solid, his offense was consistent behind his mid-range jumper and ability to finish near the rim (something Davis always struggled with), and Bass' move to the starting lineup helped fuel the second-half resurgence.
Season highlight: Bass entered the postseason with a reputation for going a bit quiet on the big stage. With Boston forced to utilize smaller lineups for much of the playoffs, his minutes and production dipped early on. But Bass finished strong. In a pivotal Game 5 against Philadelphia, he exploded in the third quarter en route to scoring a playoff-high 27 points in a 101-85 triumph (which landed him at the postgame podium). With Kevin Garnett in early foul trouble in Game 7 against Miami, Bass erupted for 14 first-half points, staking Boston to an early lead, but couldn't get it going again in the second half as the Heat raced away with the win.
Season lowlight: Bass was remarkably consistent this season. In fact, that might have been hammered home by how much Boston struggled late in the first half of the season when he battled a knee injury that forced him to miss the final six games of the first half (Boston went 1-5 in that stretch). Outside of injury, the only real difficult stretch Bass endured was the start of April, where he seemed to lose a little confidence in his shot (highlighted by an 0-for-6 performance in a win in Indiana on April 7). The next night he was 8-for-10 against Philadelphia and rebuilt his confidence over the final month of the season.
Final grade: A-
Teacher's notes: It's really hard to nitpick with Bass' season. In fact only two areas stick out: A year after shooting a career-best 51.5 percent with Orlando, Bass dropped to 47.9 percent and he left some points at the free-throw line (shooting 81 percent there, below his career average). Also, his overall rebound rate fell from 12.5 percent last season to 11.5 this year (which shouldn't happen when you go from competing with Dwight Howard for boards to a weak-rebounding Celtics squad). Otherwise, it was a rather phenomenal year. Heck, for a guy nicknamed "No-Pass Bass," he averaged a career best with nearly one per game. But here's the thing that really stands out: Bass came in with a reputation as a consistent scorer, but his defensive numbers were somewhat suspect. Playing alongside Kevin Garnett aided him in allowing a mere 0.673 points per play this season, ranking in the 95th percentile among all NBA players, according to Synergy Sports data. In the most important game of the season, coach Doc Rivers had the confidence in Bass to put him on LeBron James. That speaks volumes to Bass' defensive play.
What's next?: Bass holds a $4.25 million player option for the 2012-13 season. While he's expressed a strong desire to return to Boston, he'd be a bit foolish not to test unrestricted free agency, where a thin free-agent crop would only drive his value higher. Bass clearly recognizes the value in playing alongside Boston's core and will reap the benefits of that if he decides to cash in this summer. [Update: On Thursday afternoon, Bass' agent confirmed his client plans to opt out.]
Honor roll: Click HERE to read past report cards.
Don't agree with teacher? Just want to sound off on Bass' 2011-12 season? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.