What If the OKC Thunder Had Never Traded Away Jeff Green to the Boston Celtics?
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A shade over two years ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Jeff Green to the Boston Celtics in a package that landed them Kendrick Perkins. Other players were involved, as well, with Nenad Krstic going to Boston and Nate Robinson heading to Oklahoma City, but let's be honest: This was about Green and Perkins.
When the deal first went down, Celtics fans were irate. How could general manager Danny Ainge essentially trade away the C's' shot at a title by letting go of Perkins? How could he rely on Shaquille O'Neal to remain healthy? It wasn't just the fans, either. Boston players, specifically Kevin Garnett, were devastated.
Of course, O'Neal didn't remain healthy, Green was never really able to get integrated into Boston's system, and the Celtics were ousted by the Miami Heat in the second round of the 2011 playoffs.
Would the C's have beaten the Heat had they never traded Perkins? We'll never know for sure, but what we do know is that Boston never lost a playoff series with that starting five (Perkins, Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo) healthy, so it's certainly debatable.
For the Thunder, they were getting a big man with a championship pedigree in Perk. He was supposed to be the guy who toughened up Oklahoma City, the guy who was supposed to comprise a nasty defensive frontcourt with Serge Ibaka.
What many neglected to realize was that Perkins was still recovering from the torn ACL he had suffered in Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Finals (another reason why you can't just say that Ainge cost the Celtics an 18th banner by sending him packing). He had undergone surgery and had just returned to the court that February, and it showed in his performance.
Oklahoma City ended up losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals, and Perk was a non-factor.
Now it's 2013.
Perkins is still lumbering around, not even resembling the mean, elite interior defender he once was in Boston. Maybe it's not just the ACL injury. Perhaps Garnett made Perk look a lot better than he actually was? Whatever the reason may be, many OKC fans have been clamoring for the Thunder to amnesty the center.
Green, however, has taken a rather big leap.
After undergoing heart surgery, one of the most traumatic experiences a person can imagine, before the 2011-12 campaign, Green looks to be a star in the making.
The forward had a breakout year with the Celtics in 2012-13, culminating his great season by averaging 20.3 points per game in the playoffs.
Oklahoma City sure could have used that this year, couldn't it?
Of course, keeping Green would have left the Thunder with a couple of extremely tough decisions.
There is no way OKC would have been able to afford keeping Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Green and Ibaka. Heck, it couldn't even hold on to Harden without Green on the roster. So, somewhere along the line, someone likely would have been dealt, and it likely would have been Green.
That being said, you have to wonder when that eventual trade would have taken place and what exactly the Thunder would have gotten in return.
Would GM Sam Presti have been able to find another deal for Green elsewhere at the 2011 deadline or over that summer? Would he have stuck with him and then seen his value plummet when the heart complications arose prior to the following season?
Regardless, it now seems safe to say that the C's won this trade. They now have a player in Green who could very well be one of the cornerstones to a new era of Boston basketball.
As a matter of fact, the same KG who was so solemn when Boston dealt Perkins for No. 8 now thinks Green is the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Green has improved by leaps and bounds since his days with Oklahoma City, becoming more efficient and, quite simply, more of a threat from all over the floor. Just take a look at Jeff's 2012-13 shot chart in comparison to his shot chart from 2009-10, his last full season with the Thunder.
There seems to be a lot more green than there was a couple of years ago, huh?
OKC, meanwhile, is stuck with an overpaid, immobile big man whose best years are clearly behind him. Had it been more cautious with whom it traded Green for, perhaps it would be in much better shape than it is at the current time.
While you can certainly understand the decision-making process on the part of Presti, it doesn't seem like he thoroughly examined all of the potential ramifications.
Presti is extensively praised for his successes, so it's only right that we criticize him for his failures.
It doesn't take much hindsight to see that giving a one-dimensional player coming off of ACL surgery a four-year deal with $36 million guaranteed was a risky move. It wasn't like Perkins possessed any sort of offensive game to speak of, so giving him that much even if he were healthy would probably be overkill.
Instead of acquiring Perk, Presti should have sought a player who can actually score in the low post, the one area that continues to plague Oklahoma City. But, Presti chose to go a different route, and the result of said route looks awfully different at the present time than many likely expected.
Now, the Thunder, as good as they may be, are looking over to Boston and thinking, "What did we do?"
The issue isn't that they traded Jeff Green. Again, they probably would have had to anyway given the salary cap restrictions. This is the same team that dealt Harden just to avoid paying the luxury tax.
The issue is what they received in return.
So, what we really should be wondering is, what if OKC traded Green for an offensive-minded big man? Would it have had enough to beat the Heat last June? Would it have had enough to get back to the finals this year even with an injured Westbrook?
These are all questions that we will never know the answer to.
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