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The Inbounds: The unfathomable jump Jeff Green needs

Aug 23, 2012, 10:30 AM EDT

Jeff Green Getty Images

I’ve pretty much always been on the side that thinks Jeff Green can develop into a capable NBA player. In Oklahoma City, he was “the other guy” drafted with Durant, part of the central core. His role was nebulous, falling into that generic “forward” category. It took a while for the debate to start over Green (if you consider it a debate). Once Oklahoma City became relevant, people started to actually look at the contributions of the team and that’s when the idea was planted like Di Caprio had slipped it in there using a fake Tom Berenger.

“Look at the rebound rate.”

Green couldn’t play on the wing, that was Kevin Durant‘s turf. So he was supposed to fill the traditional power forward needs, and a huge part of that is rebounding. The more minutes he played, the worse his rebound rate got.

Oh, and did I mention he’s not a great shooter? Power forwards are supposed to have high shooting percentages and yet, Green’s eFG% let alone his FG% only got above 50% once, in 2009-2010.

So he can’t shoot. He has no natural position. He doesn’t rebound.

So how could you possibly make the argument he contributed? And this is where I think the metrics are impacted by role, coaching, and development. Because i you watched a lot of those OKC games, it’s hard to argue he didn’t have an impact.

Green did things that OKC needed during his time there. He snagged the rebound and kick-started the outlet pass. He finished in transition. He pressured the ball to create steals. He nailed huge three pointers when the team needed it. He was able to run with Durant. He wasn’t a no-show on the floor, a Marvin Williams. But what haunted Green was inconsistency, minute-to-minute, quarter-to-quarter, game-to-game. He would shift from situation to situation. Was this coaching’s fault? No. He had his role. It was more Green’s body and game that necessitated a more nebulous approach. In large part, OKC, and now Boston, has to simply throw out Green and see what happens. It’s kind of hard to gameplan or adjust with your roster if you have no idea what position one of your guys is playing. But consider this:

 

Couple things.  Green regressed in 2010-2011 both before and after the trade, while Young flourished, and Young stomps him on career numbers despite being younger. This is in large part taking one of Young’s worse years against the peak of Green and going “See?’ 2. Green was a starter and Young a reserve so that kind of matters. Young still bested him in points, rebounds, assists and field goal percentage per 36 minutes. So this should not be taken for a “one year proves that Jeff Green is like Thaddeus Young.” But maybe Young is a better comparison for Green than some of the other ideas that have been thrown out there.

Green has had his moments. That gets lost in the look at the rebound rate and his shooting, and the phrase “there is nothing on the floor that Jeff Green does well” gets tossed out so much it might as well be “defense wins championships.” But that ignores context, it ignores team construct, and it ignores, for lack of a better term, what you saw when you watched the Thunder. That’s not to say that he was good. If you paid attention and then asked yourself after each quarter “How did Jeff Green do?” you would have wound up going “Oh. Not much.” Green can disappear as well as any player, and that’s where metrics are valuable, in being able to show that the player who hit that big shot at the end of the game actually did not have a good game and is having a poor season. It’s not one or the other, it’s both.

Which leads us to Boston and the present.

So, for the moment, let’s assume that none of us reading this are doctors. I’m sure some of you are and have a more educated opinion on what Green can provide after heart surgery than us. Let’s set that aside because in this situation, Green is Schroedinger’s Rebounder when it comes to his health. He is both boxing out and not boxing out at the same time. The Thaddeus Young role is actually not a terrible one for him to play. Come in off the bench, play a little 3/4, make a few plays, play defense most especially, hit a few shots.

He’s also walking on to a team that has never been a dominant rebounding team. They’ve been a top ten defensive rebounding team twice since the Big 3 was formed in 2008, but just once in the last three years and finished 20th last year. Their scheme tends to surrender on the offensive glass in favor of transition defense (it’s difficult to get back on defense and crash your own glass at the same time). So Green’s not coming in expected to be the kind of traditional big man people want him to be.

Additionally, the league is undergoing such a massive shift in terms of positional flexibility that Green’s lack of a position is fine. There’s an angst that used to come with trying to figure out where a player fit on the floor in terms of position. Now it’s more about just how he fits with his teammates.

So why hold back on Green? Why buy into the doubt about Green and the reported four-year, $36 million contract the Celtics granted him? Because he’s become polarizing. In order to make the leap in people’s minds, he needs to rebound in the double-digits in a slower-pace system, defend LeBron adequately when no human being on Earth is capable of such a feat at the moment, and shoot 40 percent from three, 50 percent from the field. Green’s not just facing having to justify his current contract, he has to make up for the last three years.

That’s a tough order.

And it’s true that the Celtics don’t care about that stuff. They just want him to make those players, hit those shots, contribute in the little ways he can. The strength of their team will carry the rest. But the expectations become higher the more the negative perception cements. Which is kind of messed up when you think about it. The worse people expect from him, the greater his performance has to be. The bar is somehow set higher by his reputation being dragged under. And the contract just throws that into hyperdrive.

(Note: Green’s overpaid. Many players are overpaid given their production, and many of those overpaid players became overpaid this summer, which was totally insane. But Green in particular when you factor not just the heart condition, but the missing year, and then the stats, and then the role, and then the age, is particularly overpaid. I can’t even tell you what would have been “adequately paid” because it’s kind of like art. You know Jeff Green is paid appropriately when you see Jeff Green paid appropriately.)

Oh, and have I mentioned he’s 26 in five days? So he has to make a substantial jump in statistical areas he’s never excelled in, in a system that isn’t conducive to such a production jump, past the age of most developmental adjustments.

It’s such a monstrous set of circumstances stacked against Green. If he exceeds expectations, it should be a fantastic story. The fact he’s back on the floor at all probably deserves a healthy heaping of credit, but let’s not shoot too high, here. If he fails, it’s yet another misstep (even as Perkins gave the Thunder more problems than he did the opponent last year).

You can’t really look at the facts and defend the idea that Green is a good player, or that he will become a good player, or that he’s underrated.

So why do I still find myself hopeful to see him back on the floor? One of those things, I guess.

  1. crustylovelips - Aug 23, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    TL/DR

  2. phaden27 - Aug 23, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    Welcome back Uncle Jeff!!!

  3. miamatt - Aug 23, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    There’s five minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

    • censoredpost - Aug 23, 2012 at 12:49 PM

      Should have just read : Green = ?.

  4. barkley4life - Aug 23, 2012 at 12:43 PM

    Yet Celtic fans love to jump and down and point to injuries and say with Bradley/Green/Terry this team can compete with Miami. With NO answer at the 3/4 defensively to handle Lebron. Only hope is that Pierce can find the fountain of youth, which more then likely is not going to happen. The most important thing for Boston is hoping that Rondo adds a consistent 12-15ft jumper to his game. That would open up the entire floor and give him even more opportunities to create and help out Boston’s lack of athleticism etc to get easy buckets. Counting on the evolution of Jeff Green for 4 yrs 36 million…HUGE MISTAKE.

    • giselleisasucubus - Aug 23, 2012 at 3:52 PM

      So Pierce, Green & Courtney Lee aren’t a good trio to help slow down Lebron? Is that what you are saying? Boston’s “lack of athleticism” was an issue in 2010 and 11, but they made it to gm7 of the ECF, and when Bradley & Rondo are on the floor together, they are dynamic. Boston didn’t have Bradley, Miami didn’t have Bosh, mostly. Miami was a little better in 2011 and they got it done, but that will have nothing to do with 2012/13. Don’t try and tell me Miami is considerably better than Boston, because you are dead wrong. Boston DID add guys that are going to give Miami problems next year. Wade struggles when Bradley covers him. Rondo has his hands full w/Chalmers, but that is an advantage for Boston, clearly. Lebron is the best in the world. Pierce, Green and Lee are the only trio in the east that can at least bother him. KG/Bosh, Terry/Ray- not a big advantage either way, pretty even. Celtics also added Sullinger, who is a LEGIT big man who is a load to deal with. Who from Miami matches up w/Sullinger? He isn’t Bass(another weapon) but he presents a problem that Miami doesn’t have an answer for.

      • bozosforall - Aug 23, 2012 at 11:18 PM

        Once again, jizzellsuckyouboys shows his delusional pipe dream mentality. Boston’s senior citizen core will collapse down the stretch, just like the Red Sox did last fall and all of this season. Boston’s little run is over.

      • barkley4life - Aug 24, 2012 at 9:59 AM

        You just brought up a rookie who hasnt played one game in the NBA is an UNDERSIZED, UNATHLETIC 4 and Brandon Bass. The same Brandon Bass who got manhandled at 4spot by Lebron in the post. A junp shooting 4 which is no threat to Miami who PREFERS small and is best in the league. Then your adding a ANOTHER jump shooting 3/4. On top of that, your banking on a 2nd year 2 guard coming off DOUBLE shoulder surgery. Oh and btw the Sixers team you went to the death against…just found a 7ft behemoth you have no answer. This isnt Nba2k…get a clue. It’s cool to be a fan but an unrealistic homer is foolish. Btw I’m not a Heat fan, just been watching basketball for 3 decades almost. I have the said the same thing to Laker fans who think Dwight Howard puts them over the Thunder. Give me a break already, biggest threat to Miami is injuries. Not Courtney Lee, Jared Sullinger, and the great Heff Green.

  5. Deathmask - Aug 23, 2012 at 1:22 PM

    Why did I have to read an entire paragraph in confusion before I realized who “Young” was referring to/

  6. Deathmask - Aug 23, 2012 at 1:22 PM

    Why did I have to read an entire paragraph in confusion before I realized who “Young” was referring to?

  7. ndrocks2 - Aug 23, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    WTF???

  8. educatedfools - Aug 23, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    These Inbounds posts are usually good. This one was nearly impossible to follow, what’s goin on?

  9. jjordannba - Aug 23, 2012 at 4:33 PM

    I actually think if anybody can guard Lebron well it’s Tony Allen. Matter of fact, he has.

  10. lakerluver - Aug 23, 2012 at 7:09 PM

    Yep, Heat fans seem to think Miami’s just gonna waltz right into the Finals next season. However, I think they’re in for a rude awakening. Miami has “one hit wonder” written all over them.

  11. aldavis4president - Aug 23, 2012 at 8:49 PM

    I don’t get why people talk about boshs injury..kg locks him down regardless..Avery iz dat young player Boston needed to offset their incredibly old team..bostons defensive midset and scheme I’d say wudve won with Bradley..Chalmers dsnt go off if Bradley plays..keyon fooling Waz loggin in big minutes for crying out loud..1ndone

  12. baaaaaaait - Aug 24, 2012 at 2:06 AM

    LEARN TO WRITE TO AT LEASTA HIGH SCHOOL STANDARD MATT MOORE

  13. paulhargis53 - Aug 24, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    Clownboy:
    Average age for 15 man roster:
    Lakers-28.1
    Celtics-27.5
    Average age starting 5:
    Lakers-32.4
    Celtics-28.8
    Average age of”core” rotation-10 deep:
    Lakers-30.2
    Celtics-27.8

    Way to once again prove your ignorance.
    Your favorite team the Lakers are older any way you slice it. How you don’t use the internet before you spout your garbage is beyond me. Congrats, you make lakersucker look bright by comparison.

    Lakersucker: No one cares about your biased opinions. You don’t have on objective bone in your body. You have no knowledge whatsoever about basketball.

    You spend your 24 hour life on here defending the Lakers. It’s ridiculous.
    You are like a small child.Nobody can say anything negative, even if its true!

    They’re your favorite team, so nothing can be bad about them?! Uff, that’s a 7 year old mentality. That you stated you are in your late 30s makes it eve. more pathetic.
    You need to grow up dude and get a life aside from sports and posting on a website.

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