Jeff Green’s agent David Falk has been making the case for his client in the media. He told Peter May of ESPN Boston:
“The reality of the situation is that over the next two years, the Big Three are going to retire,” Falk said Friday. “To maintain a competitive, playoff team, if they keep Jeff Green and [Rajon] Rondo, they have two strong pieces on which to build. If they only have one, they’re going to have to blow it up and start all over again.
“They already have Rondo. Jeff represents a very important part of the future of this team. He’s like the swing vote in a Supreme Court decision,” Falk said.
Let’s unpack that a little bit.
First of all, with or without Green, the Celtics are going to be going through a major transition next summer. His presence or absence means barely a whit in terms of the future for one very specific reason: Jeff Green is not the kind of player you build around.
Green is a complimentary player, with serious limitations, and one whose mediocre play last season likely reduced his market value. He is — at least based on what we’ve seen from him in Celtic green — replaceable by a number of players around the league.
Last May, after the C’s were bounced from the playoffs, I wrote this about Green:
On the eve of a more restrictive CBA, there’s more danger than ever in signing supporting players to big contracts. The order of operations is ideally: find elite players first, then fill in around them. But if elite players aren’t easily obtainable, it’s crucial not to sabotage your ability to afford them by signing role players to untradeable, cap-killing contracts. How excited are you at paying Green something like 5 years, $40M? Can you move that deal in a hard-cap environment if he turns out to be a bad fit? How about 5 years, $45M?
This next week is going to be bonkers as teams lavish the kind of contracts on guys that will make you wonder if anything at all has changed as a result of the dark, preposterous months of October and November 2011. Boston can’t get caught up in that. The C’s worst possible outcome is making an expensive long-term commitment to Green simply to have pieces for next year’s roster, or because Danny Ainge feels the need to double-down on the Kendrick Perkins deal.
The ideal situation for the Celtics might be that Green accepts a one-year-deal for the qualifying offer (about $6M) and attempts to enhance his value that way. This may also be the best move for Green. If his struggles last season were a function of acclimating to a new team, which was itself burdened by a still-mysterious second-half ennui, there may yet be more to him than we’ve seen. He could turn into a reliable defender of elite wings, which would support his claims of being a starting-caliber small forward and give the Celtics a weapon to deploy against LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
There is some evidence to suggest this is possible, although disentangling individual defensive performance from the C’s impressive team defense is challenging. From John Hollinger’s scouting reports on ESPN (insider):
According to 82games.com, opposing small forwards mustered only a 7.9 PER against Green with Boston and a 12.2 PER against him with Oklahoma City; the problem was that opposing power forwards shredded him for a 21.6 mark. Similarly, Green’s Synergy stats with Boston were strong, whereas with the Thunder they were awful. All of which points to the fact that Green is much better at guarding 3s than 4s.
Falk has said he won’t put the Celtics in the position of having to match an offer sheet from another team. So, beyond the qualifying offer, Boston could sign-and-trade Green this week or he could sign a long-term contract.
If it’s the latter, the important things to watch are average-annual-value and years. It’s crucial Green remains a movable asset, because he’s far from a sure thing.