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The Jeff Green Conundrum


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.

  • Kricky

    Couldn't agree with you more Ryan. Sign him to a one year and let him prove himself. If he wants more let him walk.

    I'm surprised to see those numbers for his D. I remember his Defense being really bad in the playoffs, whether he was guarding 4s or 3. In any case he was an absolute non-factor on both sides of the ball.

    • Batman

      I remember him scoring 6 straight points that one game lol
      i was so excited

      But yeah sign him for a year, if not S&T that man

  • ElRoz

    Give Green some time to play…he has a chance to begin a season with Boston instead of suddenly be traded to Boston 60% into the season. The guy can play 30 minutes easily…and so Boston ought to sign him for some reasonable sum and let him play; the 2011-2012 Green is likely to be much better given the training camp and pre-season with Boston.

  • Morpheus

    Bah, that's just his agent talking, of course that's what he'd say.

    If i recall correctly, i said HELL NO to signing Jeff Green to anything above $4-$5 million. That 1 year QO makes sense, if he wants more show him the door, not the money. His D was pretty solid in the playoffs, but signing him to a 4-5 year contract on anything more than $6 million would be one of Danny's biggest F ups in history. 1 year QO, take it or leave it.

  • Jay

    Jeff Green is alot better player than we saw last year…I dont want to give up on him now, last years trade would really be worthless. We need to sign Jeff for at least this year, & let him perform. Then we talk about multiple years..dont count him out tho, hes more than a back up

  • ripsonics

    Let's not forget that everyone we've traded for at the deadline has had a subpar end of the season. Nate rob won a game for us in the playoffs, which is more than we can say for JG, but I think the more time he has to learn our complex system, the better.

    Go C's

  • skeeds

    I'm with Morpheus on this one. It's just his agent trying to sell him the best way possible. Jeff Green might develop into a very good starter and indeed push the Celtics out of the rebuilding process faster, but not yet. He has proven nothing. If for example that Perkins deal landed Harden in Boston, we wouldn't be having any conversation right now.

    I find comfort in the fact that his last season was so mediocre, that I can't see any serious contender offering him a "starter" contract to come off the bench, and I can't see a team in rebuilding mode investing seriously in him the way his agent suggests.

  • redcon

    i would give a 2 year deal worth16 million that way if it doesn`t work out his contract becomes a plus for the C`s in a eventual trade and you don`t risk losing him for nothing

  • -JP

    Green is still really young and has a lot to learn, he can be a pretty decent player, but not really someone to build around. Who knows? The fact there isnt a full season and a shorter camp will hurt him if he does sign here though.

  • I_Love_Green

    I have mixed feelings about Greenie. I really really want to re sign him because I truly feel he has the potential to be a solid starter for us for years to come. However, I really really do not want to re sign him for more than 1 year, or more than what he's really worth.

  • http://www.batkins.net Ben

    I saw what I needed to see out of Green last year in the playoffs to tell me that he isn't clutch and doesn't have the ability or the starpower to be a star or building block in this league. That being said he could be a decent 6th man. But if we're going to sign him we should pay him as such. 1-2 year deal, no more than 6 million a year.

    IMHO he single handedly lost the elimination game we had against the heat in last year's playoffs. If you'll remember we were up by 15 with about 2-3 minutes left. Green turned the ball over twice and took some very poor shots during that period to the point where we couldn't recover. I was at that game. I remember being furious at him and wishing we had never dealt Perk.

  • Sean

    He's a long, athletic swingman who is entering his… 3rd? 4th? season in the league. No, he won't be a superstar. But I can certainly see him as a solid starter. In fact, I would push Ainge to try him as a starter over Ray Allen for a spell to change things up. He isn't a ball handler, but neither is Ray, and Pierce can run the offense when Rondo doesn't. I'm sorry, but I don't see too many other players within our reach this season that would be an upgrade over Green, especially considering that he will VERY LIKELY have a significantly better season than last year.

    Chemistry matters, as Boston fans we all should know this. Young players who come here midseason take time to understand the complexities of Boston's schemes. Yes, he missed plays on defense last year because he essentially had to learn to do the opposite things he did in OKC in some cases. Give him a chance, he will be good.

    I hope.

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