Jeff Green and Avery Bradley are two young talents opposing NBA teams never enjoy going up against. Both create mismatches, improve the Boston Celtics' versatility, hit open shots and can momentarily swing the momentum of an entire game—Green with his thunderous dunks and Bradley with his elite pressure defense.
We know they're both good because out of all Boston's two-man combinations that have shared the floor for at least 500 minutes this season, the Green and Bradley duo have a point differential of plus-6.0, third highest out of 26 pairings, according to NBA.com/Stats.
But if the Celtics are to make an unexpected run during the playoffs, both will be counted on to perform above their heads. Is one more important than the other?
Using on/off numbers to argue for either player's impact doesn't really work. Their per-possession figures are balanced across the board, with the Celtics basically performing about the same throughout the season whether either is on or off the court—and slightly worse when they're on it since the All-Star break.
(A lot of factors go into on/off numbers, such as the fact that a player like Green mostly goes up against secondary units while someone like Paul Pierce is usually facing the opposition's very best.)
But it's understandable, given Boston's inconsistent play on both ends throughout the season, that the numbers would be what they are. Both guys have obvious flaws in their respective games.
Bradley struggles to finish at the rim, routinely blowing layups that'd be automatic in a Division-III scrimmage (adding to his Tony Allen 2.0 reputation), and Jeff Green has a flimsy in-between game and an inability to create for others. He either overly commits himself with a strong drive from the perimeter (typically with his right hand) or spots up.
Green also struggles with consistency, an uphill battle that's plagued him since entering the league in 2007. But his explosive first step is capable of blowing by all but a handful of forwards in the league, and once he picks up a head of steam,
Green's long stride gives him the rare ability to glide across the court. The dynamic scoring variable he brings to the table is unlike anything any other Celtic is capable of, including Pierce.
On the other hand, we have Bradley, the 12th-best defender in basketball, and one of the 25-best against isolation sets, pick-and-roll ball-handlers and spot up shots, according to Synergy Sports.
If the Celtics were at even strength, with a puncher's chance at knocking out the Miami Heat in the playoffs, Bradley's presence on the defensive end would outweigh all that Green brings to the table.
When he picks up point guards full court and single-handedly forces an opposing team to start their half-court offense with 15 seconds on the shot clock, it's one of the league's deadliest weapons. Also, unlike a normally sure jumper that just won't fall, Bradley's pressure is something that doesn't take nights off. It might be the most consistent individual quality in basketball.
Look at what he does to New Orleans in this clip. Their entire offense can't breathe because of Bradley's maniacal harassment.
But since the Celtics aren't what many expected them to be, it's Green who the team will need. His talent ceiling is that of an All-Star even if he rarely reaches it. But just knowing he's capable of scoring over 40 points against the Miami Heat, one of the best teams of the past 20 years, is promising.
If Green can string together a month of play on par with what he provided in that game, Boston might suddenly transform into that "puncher's chance" team again. If not, they'll go into the offseason without hardly forcing a whimper.