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Boston Celtics: What Jeff Green Must Improve to Become an All-Star

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Boston Celtics: What Jeff Green Must Improve to Become an All-Star
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Conventional wisdom suggests the Boston Celtics currently have only one franchise player on their roster, and that is Rajon Rondo.

For now, that is undeniably the case. Rondo is the only Celtic who has been an All-Star and is the last remaining vestige still remaining from the franchise's 2007-08 championship roster.

However, Jeff Green provides Boston one other hope of an elite player from their current core. 

Green's roller-coaster career has been equally frustrating and tantalizing. That was never more so the case than on March 18 of this past season with his explosive 43-point performance against the Miami Heat. The memories of Green matching LeBron James on both ends of the court had Celtics fans salivating at his newly raised ceiling.

Green finally seemed to find some offensive consistency after the All-Star break, but to become a true cornerstone of a franchise, Green still needs to demonstrate a more complete offensive and defensive arsenal while sustaining a more consistent effort for what is a young roster. 

Here are three factors Green must improve on next season, and what Celtics fans can expect from their enigmatic forward.

 

More Efficient Scoring

This effectively boils down to one factor: earning more free throws from all those drives to the basket. 

Green has never had much trouble penetrating into the paint, a byproduct of his natural athleticism.  A look at his shot distribution chart from last season shows that half his shots came in the restricted area: 

Courtesy NBA.com

Yet, Green only averaged 3.3 free throws per game, a sub-par amount compared to other players who averaged as many minutes as he did.  A player who gets such high-percentage looks as often as Green should be getting rewarded with whistles more often than he does.

So why doesn't Green draw a high number of fouls? Well, Green had 28.5 percent of his shots blocked last season, which ranked 11th among forwards.  Though part of that likely stems from his smaller frame compared to most forwards, it also indicates some passivity in his driving to the basket.  Take, for instance, this sequence in the playoffs last season:

Green had built up speed on that play and had his defender, Carmelo Anthony, backpedaling into the no-charge zone.  There was no sense in Green suddenly veering off towards the baseline and allowing Kenyon Martin enough time and room to help.

It is no coincidence that some of Green's best games came when he consciously sought to get to the line.  When Green is assertive and aggressive on offense, he becomes nearly unstoppable.  Still, Green must improve one other aspect of his offense to succeed Paul Pierce as the Celtics' "professional scorer."

 

Improve Shooting

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A good way to measure the efficiency of a team, or a player, is through the "four factors" method, as explained in Basketball-Reference.com.  It essentially measures shooting, turnovers, rebounds and free throws with different weights assigned to each based on their importance. 

Last season Green's effective field goal percentage (eFG percent, which places more weight on threes) was 51 percent, which was right around the middle for those who averaged as many minutes as he did.  That reflects an improvement on Green's three-point shooting, as his eFG percent in 2010-11 (his last full season) was 48.8 percent. 

Still, looking at his shot chart from last season, Green still did not demonstrate much consistency from beyond the arc. His 38.5 percent three-point shooting was buoyed by just 2.2 attempts per game and a hot spot in the left corner:

Courtesy NBA.com

That is not to say that Green cannot become a three-point threat like Pierce.  After all, Green shot an astounding 43.9 percent from three-point range after the All-Star Break last season for a mark that placed him among the top 15 three-point shooters in the league over the second half of the season.

Consider that Green just finished his fifth season in the NBA.  In 2002-03, Pierce's fifth season, The Truth was a horrid shooter by comparison, even if he did attempt twice as many shots.  How often new coach Brad Stevens looks to Green will be key because Green has never really been an undisputed primary scoring option in the NBA.  If he can make defenses respect him from all areas of the court, that will open the floor for both Green and the rest of the Celtics' offense.

 

More Consistent Defense and Rebounding

You could file this under the "effort" category, as Green clearly has enough athleticism to defend most wing-players. 

The Celtics wisely made this adjustment last season, as Green has generally been a disaster while defending power forwards.  Opponents shot quite poorly when Green didn't have to bang bodies with a bigger forward in the paint.

Though Green's best offensive performance came against the Heat, his best defensive game (also against Miami) was equally impressive.  Celtics fans probably remember the Sunday afternoon national broadcast when Rondo's ACL injury was announced.  For most plays that day, Green maintained good body position and showed tremendous discipline, often forcing LeBron into contested jumpers.

Alas, it wouldn't be a true Jeff Green game without a mental lapse, which occurred on LeBron's critical game-tying three-pointer at the end of regulation:

It's a bit of a bizarre play, given the chaos that ensued over the tipped rebound.  If anything, Pierce deserves as much blame for such a late rotation.  Still, Green's critical lapse allowed a routine screen to take him out of the play.  There was no need to press at nearly midcourt, and getting neutralized 35 feet from the basket is never a good play.

That kind of effort must extend to Green's rebounding, which has arguably been his weakest link.  In roughly half of his games last season, Green was either at or below the league average for rebounds, but that includes guards as well.  Among forwards who averaged as many minutes, Green had the fourth-lowest rebounding percentage.

Part of that putrid percentage stems from the Celtics' overall allergy to offensive rebounds under former coach Doc Rivers, a purposeful flaw designed to stymie transition baskets. 

Given his athleticism, Green could probably be at least an average rebounder with more effort.  It sounds simplistic, but take a look at the league's best rebounders last season and you see a list filled with many prototypical "blue-collar" players.

 

The Big Picture

These two could be the future of the Celtics (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports).

In many ways, the rebounding problems are a microcosm of Green's career thus far, as noted by Royce Young of DailyThunder.com:

He does his job for sure. He just doesn’t go above and beyond. When you block out, basically you assure that your man doesn’t get the rebound. And for the most part, Green did that. When he had a man in his area, he put a body on him and kept him off the glass. But rebounding against players like David Lee and Andris Biedrins, you have to do more than just block out. You’ve got to rebound out of your area some, and Green didn’t really do that.

That’s really my biggest gripe with Green’s game. He doesn’t want the ball. He doesn’t attack the glass. I asked this a couple days ago, but when have you seen Jeff Green sky for a rebound, grab it with both hands and pull it in strongly? When have you ever seen him go get the ball?

That criticism came over two years ago, but the problem still persists.  Yet there is a reason why Green is practically the only long-term contract not for sale right now.  He showed meaningful strides on both ends of the floor last season, and the Celtics know how valuable he could be long-term. 

Green is the only current Celtics player who can develop into an All-Star—not counting Rondo, who has already reached that level.  While Celtics fans pray for the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker in next year's NBA draft, Green is ultimately the player who could expedite the rebuilding process next season in Boston.

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