With the Celtics trying to catch up to the Miami Heat, once again, they’ll be looking to play a lot more small ball.
The Heat are going to be a team that will spread the floor with their collection of shooters and ball handlers. They’ve got the two best penetrators in the NBA and one of them–LeBron James–will see a lot of time at the power forward spot.
James and Chris Bosh will move up on the position chart to the four and five respectively. They won their championship by playing small while still being faster and overpowering. No one was able to match up with LeBron on the perimeter because he was playing against power forwards.
Chris Bosh has accepted the role of playing the center spot because of how he performed at the end of the Boston series and in the NBA Finals. He was able to stretch the floor and open up the paint for Wade and James along with their other space eaters.
Removing the power forward there helped add another slot for another shooter–whether that was Shane Battier, James Jones, MIke Miller, etc. There was more space.
The Celtics must defend against that this season.
The Celtics came as close as anyone to stopping the freight train that was the Miami Heat in the playoffs. That’s because they were playing small and were able to guard on the perimeter with Brandon bass, Mikeal Pietrus, and Paul Pierce playing the four position.
Kevin Garnett was at the five and with Chris Bosh out he didn’t need to worry about being out of the paint. He was able to float around and protect the rim.
The most important thing that the C’s have to worry about is guarding LeBron James. They’ll need to micromanage the line-ups when guarding James.
A key part to this plan is Jeff Green. They’ll need him to step up and maybe even start at the power forward spot. The question is if can he do it or not.
Green is being paid 40 million dollars over the next four years to be a scoring threat at both forward positions–and to provide some defensive versatility–for the Celtics. The question is if he’s going to be able to do that for this team.
I don’t think that he will be able to and there are numbers that support this.
Trusting Green at either forward position is something that’s a questionable move. Especially given the salary that he’s on. Green’s best year as an NBA player was his sophomore season in which he scored 16.5 points per game and shot 44% from the field.
Defensively, Green was under par. In 2008, according to 82games.com, Green allowed his opponents to post a 16.5 PER over the season while playing the small forward position and an 18.0 PER when playing against power forwards. This was while only posting a 15.5 PER at each position himself.
In 2010, in his stint with Boston, Green had improved somewhat defensively. He only allowed a 7.8 PER for small forwards as a Celtic and held power forwards to 15.9.
While these numbers show that Green did improve, they are skewed because of how short of a stint he played in Boston and because of how few minutes he actually was on the floor. He only played 15% of the available minutes.
Looking at his Oklahoma City statistics from that year may be a more accurate sampling. Those numbers indicate that Green was far worse than his Celtic numbers indicate.
Green posted a 9.8 PER himself at the small forward position. While at the power forward position Green posted a 13.6. Both are below the average of 15.00.
While performing under usual levels offensively he did the same on the other end of the floor. Green guarded small forwards well and allowed a 12.2 PER but allowed power forwards to garner a 21.6 PER which indicates All-Star levels.
The question is should Green start at power forward. On the surface, it looks as if he gives an advantage on both sides of the floor. Green should have the footwork to be able to stay with most small forwards and the length to bother power forwards.
He has the build and the skill to be a problem for both positions on offense. The problem is that on both ends of the floor he has failed to live up to that expectation.
So the answer here would be no–Green should not start at power forward nor should he be in consideration to start at any position on this team. What Bass gives at the four position is what Green is expected to give. There would be absolutely no point in switching their roles.
Bass was able to stretch the floor from 16-23 feet this season. He shot 48% from that range according to hoopdata.com. There is no reason that he shouldn’t be able to keep his starting job when he does it better than anyone on the Celtics team.
It would be a grave mistake for the Celtics to put Green in the starting lineup in any capacity.