As the Celtics clawed back Monday night from their twenty point deficit against the powerhouse Rockets, one might expect the Celtics’ best pure scorer to have a huge impact as the lead was cut to ten. Last night, as the C’s finally won their first game of 2014, that same dominating scorer once again struggled. At 6’9 with unparalleled athleticism and a knock-down corner three, Jeff Green has all the makings for a team cornerstone.
In the spring, the hype and potential was beginning to be realized, with a 43 point performance over the champions from Miami. Coming into 2014, Bostonians fully expected those results and talents to be sustained as the Celtics fought to survive until the return of star Rajon Rondo.
Green opened the season with a 25 point, 5 rebound performance and provided a mirage of what fans should come to expect from Green. Green scored over 20 points six times before the midway point of December, including a 31 point game in a win over Cleveland and a 29 point performance in a loss to the Clippers. So where has that player gone?!
Since that December 11th game in LA, Green has scored over twenty points just one time. His hardships have included a 4-13 shooting performance in the big collapse against the Wizards on Dec. 21, Monday night’s 2-10 game in the spanking from Houston, and last night’s 4-16 performance in the win over the Raptors. In 2014, his shooting percentage, free throw percentage, and three-point percentage are way below his career averages while he is averaging a half turnover per game more than his career average. Green failed to get to the free throw line a single time on Monday, highly startling for a player who is considered one of the teams best finishers and certainly their most athletic.
Arguably the most alarming part of this season has been Green’s mentality. When asked about his fourth quarter benching on Monday, Green replied nonchalantly that he understood and wouldn’t have been able to produce much, citing a shoulder injury (which Stevens made no mention of). The Celtics understood when they traded for Green in 2010 that they weren’t receiving a thoroughbred leader. Playing behind superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, Green put up his best stats of his career, averaging 16.5 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game. Four seasons later, Green hasn’t been able to come close to those numbers despite the fact that he is averaging nearly the same amount of shots per game and more three pointers attempted per game.
While the Rondo excuse (saying so-and-so will improve when Rondo returns) may be applicable for just about every player on Boston, I don’t think this reasoning fits Green. Green’s offense flourished last spring after Rondo’s injury as he played more freely. Part of that could be because of Doc Rivers’ coaching style, but I think it points to his confidence. After Rondo went down, Green took the bulk of the scoring load and played with an impressive swagger, especially in that 43 point performance against Miami. This season? That swagger and confidence are gone. After missing a bucket or an open look, Green often looks defeated and is considerably less confident and efficient in the offensive sets. When Rondo returns, Green will spend much more time playing off the ball, where he has proven to be less efficient (unless it’s on catch and shoots).
To truly judge a player’s value, I love to examine the on court/off court stats. With Green off the court, the Celtics have actually scored 3.9 more points per 100 possessions. While there are a plethora of reasons for why that could be, it isn’t overly far-fetched whatsoever to assume that your team will score better with it’s leading scorer on the court. That stat is not one bit promising for a player considered the team’s go to scorer, especially now with Jordan Crawford traded to Golden State.
So what do I think the Celtics should do? I say trade Green before his stock drops any more. Just a month ago, the trade of Omer Asik for Jeff Green seemed outlandish. Now? Doesn’t seem so bad. I don’t think a trade for the Turkish big man or another strong contributor would be necessary (this team is clearly tanking following the Crawford trade) but if the Celtics can manage to turn Green into a lottery pick, I’d say we were highly successful.
It will be interesting to see if Green’s production can spike again with the return of Rondo, I certainly hope it does. A red-hot Jeff Green is one of the most exciting and unstoppable scorers in this league. In a perfect world, Green’s production would return to that of the spring and would form a solid cornerstone along with Rondo. But if his play of late stays the same, a move may need to be made sooner than later.
What do you think? Am I crazy to jump off the Green ship so fast? Do you think Green’s production could spike again with the return of Rondo? Let me know in the comment section below!