Jeff Green might be the biggest steal of Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge’s tenure.
It’s a notion that would have seemed preposterous only two years ago. In fact, the move has been highly scrutinized up until as recently as January.
Funny how much can change in three months.
On Feb. 24, 2011, the Celtics agreed to a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Boston sent out Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson in exchange for Green, Nenad Krstic, cash and a 2012 first-round pick.
While Green came in showing tremendous potential, he quickly fell short of his high expectations.
It only got worse when he was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm. Green would require surgery and missed the entire 2011-12 season.
But don’t tell that to the Celtics, who on August 23 agreed to a four-year, $36 million deal with Green. (via ESPN Boston's Greg Payne)
Initial belief was that the team was severely overpaying an unproven player. Especially when proven players with similar talent such as Danilo Gallinari (four years, $42 million), Ersan Ilyasova (five years, $40 million) and Nicolas Batum (four years, $44.6 million) were making similar figures.
Then there was Jamal Crawford who was playing on a four-year, $21.4 million dollar contract.
Was a player who averaged just 9.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in only 26 contests over two years in a Boston uniform worth this kind of money?
After what Green has accomplished this season, it's become clear that Ainge must of seen something we all missed.
The Emergence of a Superstar
Losing Rajon Rondo for the remainder of the season could have been the best thing to happen to Boston.
In 38 games since, Green has averaged 16.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 blocks over 32.8 minutes per game. He also shot 49.7 percent from the field and 43 percent from beyond the arc.
That’s a significant increase over Green’s stat line through the first 43 games of the season (9.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 42.7 FG%, 32.9 3FG%).
Gone are the days of hesitation and second-guessing. Now, Green powers it to the hole or fires it from outside. He’s a dual-threat talent that has made it look easy, while keeping defenders guessing all year long.
Green has also kept up his high level of play during the postseason.
During the Celtics’ first-round series with the New York Knicks, he’s averaged 20.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists over 43.4 minutes per game over the first four contests. Green has also shot 43.1 percent from the floor and 40 percent from downtown.
In what's been a season-long trend, Boston has been able to rely on Green when the team needs him. More often than not, he's been able to come through.
Now, compare Green’s contract to the players who he’s currently more comparable to.
Luol Deng is in the middle of a six-year, $71 million contract. Hedo Turkoglu is nearing the final year of a five-year, $52 million contract, set to make $12 million in 2013. Corey Maggette is in the last year of a five-year, $48.1 million deal.
Suddenly, the Celtics look more and more like they have a steal on their hands.
It Was Time to Let Go
There’s no doubt that Boston supporters were sad to watch Perkins leave in 2011.
However, it was a move that had to be made.
Perkins was set to become a free agent over the summer. Given the Celtics’ salary-cap limitations, the team wouldn’t have been able to give Perkins the contract he demanded.
As a result, the team chose to get something in return for the big man instead of letting him walk for free.
Besides, with Glen Davis, Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal on the roster, Boston was pretty confident in its depth at center.
In hindsight, that depth was not too much better than what the team has right now. But at the time, it made a lot of sense.
It’s not like keeping Perkins would have been any better.
Through 160 games with the Thunder over three years, Perkins averaged just 4.7 points and 6.4 rebounds over 25.6 minutes per game. He also shot 46.8 percent from the field.
How bad has Perkins been? Consider this: In three seasons with Oklahoma City, he’s only amassed 746 points. Perkins scored 791 in 78 games alone during 2009-10 with the Celtics.
Now, is that a player who is worth $22 million over four years?
Summing It All Up
Green is one of the best up-and-coming players in the league. He’s made the transition from benchwarmer to superstar look effortless.
Now, who would have used the latter in describing Green back in 2011?
Sometimes it takes time and the right utilization for a player to take that next step in his career. It took Green just over half a season to find his groove, and he doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
Tell the critics to chew on that.
All salary information courtesy via Hoopshype.com