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Jeff Green’s 2012-13 Final Grade

 

Unless we’re discussing the eight or nine best players in the world, it’s impossible to separate a contract’s price from a player’s expectations, value, and overall performance.

Jeff Green is the manifestation of this theory. In August he was guaranteed $36 million over four years, even though he didn’t play a single game during the previous season after undergoing open heart surgery. The money was too much. The years were too many.

And so, just like that, as he prepared to enter his athletic prime, the book on Green was written before he had the opportunity to prove people wrong. But after showcasing a basic skill-set that allowed him to completely take over quarters, hit two game-winning shots, and hold his own against the best players at his position for extended stretches, it might be safe to say that Green did just that.

We’ll start by looking at how he performed in 17 games as a starter: 20.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.1 blocks per game, 52.3% from the floor, 51.9% on 3-pointers, and 79.8% from the line. The odds of Green extrapolating those numbers over the course of an entire season aren’t promising—mostly because nobody’s ever been that efficient while scoring that many points—but it still represents an incredibly positive development.

Green’s contract isn’t a bargain. You aren’t getting eight Big Macs for a dollar here. But he’s proven to be a very, very good player. There was the time he scored 43 points in 40 minutes against the Miami Heat, or the 11-of-14 massacring he conducted in Phoenix. And he was complete in those scoring outbursts. Green passed the 30 point mark three times this season, and in those three games he totaled 13 blocks, five steals, and 20 rebounds.

But this isn’t an argument for Green to be treated as an All-Star, because he’s not in that ball park right now. It’s a case for him to be respected as a very good piece on what could be a very competitive team. His contract has existed as a stigma but it shouldn’t anymore.

The main criticism surrounding Green is based in his inconsistent play. Local media wondered why, if he possessed all the skills everyone kept saying he had, he couldn’t take over games and score whenever he wanted. The word “aggressive” was showered upon all Jeff Green related analysis for the first few months of the season, mostly to the effect that he needed to be “that” all the time, during each and every possible minute of action. The only thing stopping Green from scoring 30 points every time he took the floor was himself, according to a few people who don’t know much about basketball.

Green definitely didn’t average 30 points a night. In 29 of 81 games, he scored less than 10 points, pushing his deficiencies to the forefront. Sometimes he entered games with a giant padlock wrapped around his shoulders and draped across his chest. Green simply couldn’t score, and he’d stop looking for his own shot if he didn’t have “it” early on. Quotations are used here because I’m not smart enough to know what “it” is.

On the defensive end he’s a versatile athlete, which is phenomenal. And he controls that athleticism in uncanny ways when it comes to protecting the rim as a weakside or trailing defender. But his pick-and-roll defense often looks like Doc Rivers repeatedly excommunicates him during the specific time in practice when Boston’s coaching staff is instructing their players on what to do. Green is a snail fighting through picks, too quick to settle on a switch when his teammate, who’s defending the roll man, has no idea he needs to step up and take the ball-handler. This turns contested jumpers into open jumpers. It’s repeated miscommunications that we’ve seen all year long, and it needs to end if Green is ever truly to be recognized as an “elite” defender.

But overall, and more specifically with the ball, he improved his play as the season went on, going toe to toe with his competition, and acting as a beast through Boston’s brief playoff run. Green’s point totals from that series go like this: 26, 10, 21, 26, 18, 21. He played over 42 minutes in every game except one, and created match-up problems galore for a Knicks team that had nobody to guard him. That the ball wasn’t in his hands enough is more a question for the coaching staff than the player, in this situation.

If you’ve ever asked “Why isn’t Jeff Green a superstar?” out loud and was legitimately crushed about him not quite ever putting it all together, I feel for you. I really do. Because Jeff Green will never be a superstar in the sense that he’s able to carry a team to the playoffs or make an All-Star team.

But understand his strengths (taking advantage of physical mismatches in the post, getting to the free-throw line, creating his own shot with a fairly consistent jumper, thriving as one of the 10 most feared in-game dunkers in the league). Just make sure you remember the unpredictable nature in which they’re ignited.

Despite starting the season on the bench, in somewhat of a confusing role, he ended the year with career-bests in PER, points per 36 minutes (16.6) and True Shooting percentage, spending long stretches of more than a handful of games swooping through defenses and putting the ball in the basket in extremely efficient ways. He made it look easy, which is one of those unquantifiable characteristics all great players share. But Green came and went. Watching him play sometimes feels like standing outside during a breeze-less 101 degree day, then getting pelted with a few water balloons. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it sounds about right if you think long enough.

Until you’re able to separate Green’s play from how much money he’s making, you might not agree with the assertion that he exceeded any and all expectations. Don’t worry about the contract. Everyone know it’ll probably remain a bit too high until it expires—Green will be 27 next season, most likely a full-time starter, and someone who’s already established what he can and cannot do in the NBA. But to cite his deal in any discussion centered around the league’s least team-friendly contracts is admitting you aren’t watching/haven’t watched him play in at least two years.

In Jeff Green’s case, separate the deal from the man and what you’ll find is a frustratingly marvelous athlete. But he’s still one hell of a basketball player.

 

CelticsHub Grade: B

  • swissflix

    there's two jeff greens. and i must say, it was nice to see the amazing version of jeff green so much in the playoffs. It was really impressive to see him push the ball, score, rebound, play through games, etc. Offensively, he is our only option right now…which is really scary.

    • NHBluesMan

      so, does this mean Jeff is Trick-or-Treat Tony 2.0?

  • swissflix

    at least he ain't Perk!

  • KB1

    I think if JG can continue to play the way he did in the playoffs, his deal is a very team friendly one. I am comparing him to a guy like Rudy Gay who I think makes around $15M. I think there overall skillsets are similar although Gay may have a more rounded offensive game. Given that JG can hold his own on any given night with the likes of Melo and Lebron on both ends, he isn't overpaid. Of course, making him a bargain would require good Jeff to be present every night and he has to have "it" all the time. I am excited to see what a full season of healthy JG and Rondo would look like. It's on Doc to utilize them together well, and not have Rondo dominate the ball so much. It'll be FUN!

    Also, the Perkins trade I think looks a lot better now, doesn't it? You would have to pay Perkins decent money for a very limited role vs having a high potential near all star forward.

    • hydrofluoric

      1. Jeff Green is flat out better than Rudy Gay in limited time now. Green has that all-important skill of shooting, while Rudy Gay makes 30% of his shots outside the paint.

      2. The Perkins trade might 'look' better, but it really isn't better at heart. We were title contenders in 2011 and we turned a paint protector (against LeBron and Wade who hadn't yet become a deadbeat) into something that didn't even move. The next year we needed neither Perk nor Jeff, just lots and lots of luck. Then we overpaid Jeff Green (yeah he looks like he's living up to the deal but we could've gotten him on the cheap) and we haven't been serious title contenders all season.

      The future might look pretty bright with Jeff, but we broke up a championship core with the Perk trade; the Thunder immediately got much better after acquiring Perk; and we don't know what would have happened if we hadn't traded Perk and then let him walk instead of signing him on for what OKC gave him.

  • Green fan

    I think Jeff will thrive next year coming into a situation that's comfortable and his role known. The first part of the season was so up and down with mins rotations and where the ball needed to go so he struggled. Once we had to depend on him more he knew what was needed and rose to the occasion (after the AS break). Everybody in the beginning of the year would scream out he needs to be aggressive but if you have limited touches and plays werent ran for him your aggressiveness is for naught. I'm sure he will work on that left hand and ball handling more to be able to not be forced one way….I think it going to really blossom next year…

  • emg

    If Pierce leaves it's going to show Green's limits as a scorer. His movement is just too long and striding and telegraphed (unlike the fast herky jerky release of Pierce, Melo, etc)- that pendular right arm motion in a playoff isolation situation seems easy to defend, and I don't think "going left" sometimes will prove to make much difference. I like Green, but I feel like his destiny is sort of as an arm for Rondo.

    • CelticsBIG3

      Pierce is definitely not the guy he used to be, but when he's gone everyone will realize how bad we really are. If we had lost PP for the season and not Rondo I'd venture the guess that we might have missed the playoffs all together.

  • elroz

    I DO NOT agree that Jeff Green will never be an All-Star. This past season was difficult for him – coming back from surgery…getting adjusted to NBA timing and the C's and Rondo. Finally, it is tough to be an all-star coming of the bench – possible, but difficult. Look at Green's post-all-star game numbers. He can do that AND better.,

    Doctors said he would not be back to his 100% until March.

  • elroz

    Jeff Green post -ALL-Star break

    FG% 3-Pt % FT% PPG REB ASSISTS BLOCKS MIN

    49.3 43.9 79.8 17.3 5 2.7 1.1 33.5

    In the more intense and difficult playoffs, he led the team in scoring and 3-pt FG% ..not Terry, not Pierce..Green.

  • IBleedGreen

    Jeff Green is awesome, he just suffered from playing with a ball dominant point guard.

    • GymRat

      He's back. And still trashing Rondo.

      Let. It. Go.

  • james patrick

    Did anyone just see Dirk is taking a paycut to lure a big name player? Hey Paul? You listening? Dirk said it's not about the money. It's about competing and winning. I hope We can keep Paul. :(

    • janos

      hi james patrick

    • okceltic

      You're misunderstanding what Dirk's saying. With his current contract set to expire after next season, he's open to taking a paycut in his NEXT contract if it means luring a big-time player or two to Dallas.

      The way NBA contracts and the cap are set up, a player can't arbitrarily take a pay cut to clear cap space. Paul couldn't reduce the amount he'd get paid next year even if he wanted to.

      • GymRat

        I actually think James Patrick is correct. It doesn't help the team (or Dirk) for him to wait until he signs his extension to lower his salary. They need to snag either Paul or Howard or at worst J-Smoove.

        Also Dirk wouldn't be saying it now if he meant for the 2014-2015 season. He's saying it now to entice top free agents, letting them know he will extend his contract early and be willing to adjust the final year of his current contract to make it possible for a star to play with him. He's gone on record that he is part of the wooing package for free agents.

        You're correct you can't arbitrarily take a pay cut, but you can alter your current contract in conjunction with signing an extension. It's the same thing D-Wade did in Miami, cutting his salary by renogotiating his next contract early and taking a pay cut.

        Paul (theoretically) could reduce his salary, but to do so he would need to do it in conjunction with signing an extension – which is the part I don't see happening.

  • http://www.twitter.com @electarosana

    jeff green has all star potential and with a rondo green and bradley combination one day the cs will b unstoppable

    • CelticsBIG3

      Ya I don't know about that.

  • GymRat

    I really like Jeff, but I think there's a misunderstanding of his potential and the impact of being a starter. If a player's performance is dependent on them being a starter that's a very bad thing. It's an indication that the player needs other great players to space the floor and can't create their own shot when they are the defensive focus.

    It's what we saw happen with Ray Allen. He's still a great shooter, but you bring him off the bench as the primary scorer like we did last season and he can't get a shot off. He's playing well in Miami because he gets to hide in the corners and wait for kickouts while LeBron, Wade and Bosh take all the focus.

    James Harden is an example of this same phenomena. He can flat-out ball so it didn't matter if he came off the bench or not. Coming off the bench should actually make it easier to score since you are typically going against the second unit which is usually weaker defensively.

    Green has a tremendous upside and is a remarkable athlete. But he has to grow a lot – most importantly in his BB IQ and develop a lot more of his game. Right now he's too easy to shut down and take out of the game. He needs to find a way to be consistent, develop a post game, and learn better footwork (ahem, learn from Pierce please – Green's athleticism with PPs crafty footwork would be deadly).

  • Renzo

    If Pierce's out, Green will have much more touches and we'll see how far he can go.

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