Should Boston Celtics Strike Now on a Jeff Green Trade?

Michael PinaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2014

Orlando Magic forward Maurice Harkless (21) and Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green (8) chase a loose ball in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in Boston. The Celtics won 96-89. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Steven Senne/Associated Press

The trade deadline is only a couple weeks away and if things go according to Danny Ainge’s plan, the Boston Celtics will look very different the moment it passes.

One of the team’s most attractive players is Jeff Green, a 27-year-old with impressive strengths and lingering weaknesses. He’ll never be an all-star, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have his fair share of suitors heading up to the Feb. 20 trade deadline.

Should the Celtics move him for a younger piece or more draft picks? (Could they get that even if they tried?) Or should they hold on to him, knowing he can be a big help should they rise to prominence sooner than later? 

Elise Amendola/Associated Press


What Jeff Green Does

A good salesman will say Green leads the Celtics in scoring. This statement is true but misleading in a dozen different ways. (A couple: he’s shooting 41.6 percent from the floor and Boston's offense is abominable.) 

A principled salesman will say Green leads the Celtics in scoring, but averages only 1.6 more points per game than Avery Bradley. This statement is also accurate yet fair.

Few players confine their talent like Green, whose range of production is wide enough to fit inside its own spectrum. Every night his ceiling rests near the blast radius of a 35-point explosion. His basement causes people to ask whether he attempted one shot or two.

Charles Krupa/Associated Press


What He Costs

The four-year, $36 million contract Green signed in 2012 is widely viewed somewhere between unfortunate and extraneous. Looking back it feels like the Celtics outbid themselves despite reports leaning the opposite way.

Nearly two years in, Green’s deal is shorter and cheaper—the chance he opts out of a $9.2 million player option in 2015-16 to sign a longer deal is probable (the same season Rajon Rondo will enter unrestricted free agency).

This works both ways: whether Boston keeps Green or ships him off, that contract is no longer a deal breaker. Few teams, if any, will balk at the dollar amount because it'll be up in the blink of an eye. The question instead is: Can Green's overall impact be positive? 


What He Isn't

After more than 15,000 career minutes (regular season and playoffs), nothing about his game should be surprising.

Green is incredible and boring, with athleticism that’s helped make whoever invented DVR very wealthy and unpredictable game-to-game production that’s more about who he is than what he’s incapable of becoming.

Alan Diaz/Associated Press

Usage of this statistic is a personal first, but according to SportVU’s cameras, Green’s average running speed is 3.9 miles per hour. For reference, Vitor Faverani, Kris Humphries and Kelly Olynyk are all clocked at a higher speed. 

Boston is better offensively when he sits. (They only score more than 100 points per 100 possessions when two players aren't on the floor: Brandon Bass and Green.)

Green’s player efficiency rating is lower than last year despite his usage rate staying about the same. That said, Ainge won’t trade Green just to trade him. His contract isn’t mutilating Boston’s cap sheet, and he’s still a capable athlete in his prime. He’s an average three-point shooter who’s super comfortable launching from the corners, and he can score in the post and create mismatches.

Here's his shot chart.


What He Can Be (for Someone Else)

Green isn't a bad player. He's solid offensively and can still thrive as the third or fourth option on a more talented team. This eliminates nearly half the league as a logical partner, but there are still a few options that make sense. (The Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards are all possible destinations.)

Ainge's goal is to bring in younger prospects and/or draft picks. It's possible Green is dealt for an expiring contract, though that's not as likely as the previous scenario. Green's too young and too productive to be unloaded for a financial reason. 

Still, there isn't a better time than now for Boston to move him. Why? Green's hypothetical value will never be higher. An interested team looking to add Green for a playoff run won't need him for that reason when the year's over. And any deal struck next season will be for a player who's essentially on an expiring contract, so the package that's given up won't be as meaty.

When the Celtics traded for Green, they were competing for a title. Today, obviously, they are not, and the timing of their relationship feels off. Boston is rebuilding while Green is nearing the second half of his career.

It makes sense for both sides if Green is wearing a different colored jersey on Feb. 21. 


Michael Pina has bylines at Bleacher Report, Red94, CelticsHub, The Classical, Sports On Earth and Boston Magazine. Follow him here.