Can Jeff Green handle his newly acquired role?


May 3, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics power forward Jeff Green (8) reacts after a play against he New York Knicks in game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. The New York Knicks defeated the Celtics 88-80. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

With the departure of Paul Pierce and, what one would assume to be, the late return of Rondo this season many roles are left open. One major role left undefined is that of the primary scorer/playmaker. Now of all the talent this roster has the only player who seems to even be slightly equipped to handle such a role is Jeff Green. Can Jeff take 15-18 shots a night and continue to be an efficient scorer? Can he distribute the ball and play like a point forward? Can he improve his ability to create off the dribble? Can he continue his dynamic spot up shooting with almost no spacing on the roster?

Continuing on with the 1st question, Jeff was already taking 12.9 shots per 36 minutes and was averaging a very reasonable and above average TS% of .561 last year. The caveat to that is last year his usage was only about 22% which is only slightly above average mark for small forwards playing 30+ minutes and below average for power forwards under the same criteria. For someone in Jeff’s position we’ll probably see a bump in usage to about 26-29%.

Here’s a list of the only players who had a TS% of 55 or higher with a Usage of 26% or higher: Pierce, Parker, Duncan, Kobe, Harden, Kyrie, Lebron, Durant, Carmelo, Wade, Stephen Curry and Brook Lopez. That’s quite a list. While it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that Jeff could conceivably leap into the upper echelon of scorers, it’s not very likely. For Jeff he’s likely going to drop down a bit in terms of efficiency while he adjusts to the overall burden of having to be the #1 guy for a majority of the season.

Besides shooting the ball at a higher rate, Jeff could also be counted on to pass the ball at a higher rate than ever before. This is overly optimistic of me to bring up this question since quite frankly the answer is no. He’s never been a good passer in his career and it’s quite foolish to think that anything will change this year–especially while playing with a sub-par team.

To give you a bit of perspective Hoopdata has the league average Assist Rate at about 16.4. Here are the list of Jeff’s year by year Assist Rates: 11.76, 11.27, 10.29, 11.50, 7.52 and 11.21. Now if we take those into to context we should also realize that Jeff has always played on a team with at least two primary facilitators and has never been counted on to dish out dimes at a high rate. Even with that bit of info it’s unfair to suggest that he’ll be able to make that leap so effortlessly. For the most part of his career he’s been able to keep his Turnover rate at a respectable position but with the bump in usage might also see a increase in that department as well.

As Jeff continues to develop as a player one thing that may be useful to him is developing his ball handling ability. For a perimeter guy that has been in the league for a bit his dribbling is pretty sub-standard. At this point in time you’d assume he’d be able to finish with his left hand but that isn’t the case. His moves are predictable and limited. So far his best bet as a scorer has been spot up shooting but for now, at the very least, he needs to be able to get to the rim consistently and mix up what he’s going to do when he gets there. If you go right 9/10 times, teams will catch on to that very quickly–especially in an age where teams can track your movements on the court very effectively.

Take a look at some late game footage from a game I’m sure you all remember.

Boston is down 2 needing a basket to tie up the game and to give them a shot at ending Miami’s historical win streak. Jeff gets the ball and drives to the right but Shane Battier being one of the more cerebral players in the league was able to block the shot. Here’s what Battier had to say about that play: “I knew if he had an ISO up top he was probably going to go to his right because that’s his power move, and I’m very fortunate I got my hand in there.”

Battier knew Jeff was going right and everyone watching probably did, too. Now I’m not saying Jeff needs to be ambidextrous by the time the season rolls around but he needs to diversify his moves, catch defenses off guard and not be so predictable.

Jeff’s most valuable trait as a scorer remains his spot up shooting as he shot 46% on spot up 3s per SynergySports, but was that shooting a factor of defenses paying more attention to Pierce & Garnett while paying less attention to him? Let’s take a look

In this video you can skip to about 3-4 seconds in. You’ll see Paul get the ball in the left corner and as he advances into the paint pause the video at about 7 seconds. At this point basically all of the Knick defenders are focusing in on Paul. A couple of Knick defenders are sinking in from the three point line to give help and Carmelo Anthony, Jeff’s man, has diverted his complete attention away from him allowing him to to be completely open in Jeff’s favorite spot on the court. Paul spots this immediately and Jeff sinks the corner three.

Now say we replace Paul with Gerald Wallace in that same situation. The defense is probably not sinking in that much on a Gerald Wallace drive and it’s difficult to think that Wallace is able to make that same play.

In this video it starts out with a routine pick-and-roll between Jason Terry and Kevin Garnett with Felton/Chandler defending it. Garnett set a screen, Felton gets caught in it which leaves Tyson guarding Terry. Terry gets around Chandler forcing Anthony to help from the strongside corner. Terry sees Jeff again, in his favorite spot, and Jeff knocks down the open 3.

This one is more of a factor of a defensive breakdown than it is talent but just take a look at the court. The spacing in this lineup is excellent, this is something Jeff will likely see less and less of this season.

This clip presents Jeff benefiting from the fruits of ball movement. Skip to about 7 seconds when Paul gets the ball at the top right of the 3pt line. As Pierce moves toward the low block with Martin defending him, Iman Shumpert moves toward to initiate a double. Paul being the smart basketball player swings it out to Bass who then swings it to a wide open Jeff at the top of the three point line.

The likelihood of Jeff being the beneficiary of a double team will decrease immensely this season as he is likely to be in Paul’s position this year. No longer does he have benefit of having Pierce and KG to take the pressure off of him.

Here’s one more clip of that occurring:

This is a pretty notable clip as it’s Jeff’s game winner against Indiana. The only reason Doc was able to draw this brilliant play up was because he knew defenses would expect the ball to go Paul. Having Paul fake the post up only to pick off Jeff’s man and have Kevin make the great pass to Jeff under the basket was a great play design but it’s increasingly hard to see that go Jeff’s way again this year.

This post wasn’t meant to bash Jeff and say that he won’t be able to do any of the things I went over. Instead, it’s merely to temper our expectations for a guy that I know we all expect to excel in this new role. It’s something that in the short term he could succeed in but long term he’s probably best suited being a stretch four who isn’t called upon to handle the ball at a high rate. Could he prove me wrong? Absolutely but the chances are stacked against him and it will be extremely difficult to repeat his efficiency numbers from last year. Be that as it may, I’m obviously rooting for his success.