Is Jeff Green just a four-month rental for the Celtics?
On the back of his not-quite-epic 8-point, 7-rebound, 3-block night against the Sixers, there’s a sense that perhaps he’s turned a corner, or he’s on the verge of it. That may be true. His 3-9 shooting notwithstanding, Green put together one of his more comfortable games wearing green.
There’s no disputing that his defining moments as a Celtic will come in the playoffs. It’s impossible to pass final judgment on what has been, effectively, a two-month in-season training camp. And everyone — Green included — is focused on the need for him to become more assertive and involved in the offense.
That seems a likelihood.
But it’s still hard to see how he fits this roster long term.
SI’s Zach Lowe recently reaffirmed the common wisdom on Green. And what was true of him in Oklahoma City remains true in Boston: he’s not a power forward. Lowe pulled data from the top-10 Celtics’ lineups featuring Green (by minutes) and notes that with him on the floor, the Celtics have scored 110.5 points/100 possessions, an elite figure. But on defense, they have allowed a disastrous 108.6 points/100 possessions.
Green’s team is playing far worse, defensively, with him on the floor. The sample size is small — only about 172 minutes — but the fact that we’re seeing this same trend repeat itself in Boston is not encouraging. … With Green on the floor, Boston has defended at about the level of the Nets and Rockets, who rank 20th and 21st in points allowed per possession, respectively.
Parse the numbers a bit more, and a second trend is repeating itself, one that might temper the bad news a bit: Most of this deluge of opponent scoring is coming when Boston plays Green at power forward. Considering only these 10 lineups, opponents have scored about 123 points per 100 possessions when Green is at the “4.” That number would embarrass the Raptors. The bad news: The lineup in which Green has logged by far the most minutes features him at power forward alongside Boston’s core four of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. This group has played 46 minutes together, triple the number of minutes Green has played with any other foursome.
The good news: Seven of these 10 lineups feature Green at small forward, and those lineups have done quite well defensively — about as well as Boston’s elite season-long number.
Doc Rivers has made much of the Celtics’ winning the 2008 title on the back of a lineup with James Posey at the 4-spot, and Kevin Garnett at the 5. Of course, he rarely mentions that Posey had the ability to defend the four-spot and rebound at that same position, while Green does not.
At least not unless opposing teams are going small.
Which may cast the unflattering numbers above in a more charitable light if likely Eastern Conference playoff opponents Philly/New York, Miami and Chicago go small — or are forced to go small, assuming that’s Boston’s intention.
Plus, Green looks like he’s a strong fit as a backup to Paul Pierce, which alone might be the difference maker for the Celtics in the postseason. Green’s ability to handle long minutes might keep Pierce’s offense from flaming out like it did against Cleveland last year, like it has the potential to do again this year. You can’t overstate how important it is for Pierce to be energized enough to attack the paint and get to the line, especially for a Boston team that struggles to score. Green putting up a 3-9 shooting line against Miami would look a lot rosier if his defensive efforts led to Pierce going 12-16, or something similar.
Still, succeed or fail this spring, do you keep Green after the season knowing he’ll hurt you on defense if you play him as a combo forward? Do you keep him knowing you have Pierce locked in for three more years at his best position: the SF?
To re-up Green essentially means to stick him on the bench, and he’s almost certain to want more than reserve money come the offseason. The new CBA could sabotage his desires, of course, but GMs make a lot of bad decisions every summer. That’s not going to change. All it takes is one executive worried about his job security to push a player’s cost beyond his worth.
I wonder what Danny Ainge is thinking here. Does he have serious interest in resigning Green?
I have my doubts.
To be clear, I’m still very much on the fence on the Green acquisition. It’s all about the playoffs, and if he helps bring home a title, and then walks away for big money elsewhere, I’d have no complaints.
I can’t say I’d feel the same about committing to him for the long term at starter-level money, just to avoid losing an asset.