Since arriving in Boston in February 2011, Jeff Green has been one of the most divisive figures ever to wear a Celtics uniform. The small forward has been a victim of high expectations throughout his tenure in Boston, largely created by Danny Ainge who signed him to an exorbitant four-year contract worth just over $35.2 million dollars in the summer of 2012.
For a player who didn’t see the floor for even a minute during the 2011-12 season due to heart surgery, the contract seemed like an overpay at the time. The truth is that it was a necessary move for Ainge that summer, as the Celtics’ president of basketball operations knew he needed a young player with upside. Bringing back Green would seemingly help take the onus off veterans like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and assist in keeping Boston in contention.
Nearly two years later, Boston’s championship aspirations are long gone, as are Pierce and Garnett. Green is one of the few links remaining from that era, and he entered this season as a potential building block for the team as the franchise started its makeover under new head coach Brad Stevens.
With Rajon Rondo sidelined for the first half of the season, and Boston’s other veterans dealt away, this year was an opportunity for Green. The chance was there for him to prove he could be a top offensive weapon and prove he could be a team leader and a piece worth keeping as the franchise built for the future.
Green’s performance through the first 53 games of the 2013-14 season has been largely underwhelming, though. The 27-year-old should be entering the prime years of his career, but he has showed little progression in his game despite being handed a larger role in Boston’s offense.
Here’s a closer look at Green’s numbers:
|Career (7 seasons)||15.4||5.7||1.8||.445||.348||13.3||.076|
Upon close inspection of the numbers, the concerning issues for a team focused on the future are fairly evident. Green has remained equal or regressed in nearly every statistical category across the board. That’s not the type of progression a rebuilding franchise wants to see from an expensive seven-year NBA veteran.
The fact is that Green has been consistently inconsistent for much of the season. The points per game have been there, but Green’s efficiency has not. For every 36-point outburst the small forward puts together, there are three or four games in which Green goes 4-of-12 from the field and fails to make a major impact in any other facet of the game.
Therein lies the heart of the issue for a player like Green. On the nights he isn’t shooting well, he has not demonstrated the ability to help his Celtics teammates consistently in other ways. He’s still a below-average rebounder for a small forward, is not known as a strong passer, and regularly gets stuck on picks on the defensive end, which causes unnecessary switches for his teammates.
This kind of play has led to Stevens benching Green during the fourth quarter of multiple close games this season. Boston can’t afford to commit over 9 million dollars a season to a player when his coach doesn’t even seem to have a lot faith in his ability to help the team in games when his shot is off.
With all that said, Green is not a bad player. He can be a valuable asset in the right situation, a useful weapon for a playoff team looking for an additional offensive supporting piece.
For that reason, the Celtics will not just give away Green purely in order to get his contract off the books. However, it’s unclear just how much longer Green will have any kind of value on the market, given his up-and-down play. Thus, the time is now for Ainge to cash his chips in and trade away Green while he has the chance to receive a decent return on him.
Boston will be looking for assets in exchange for their top scorer, whether it is in the form of draft picks or young inexpensive players with upside.
Ainge will surely ask for a first-round pick or a young player with promise as a starting point in any deal for the small forward (along with some short-term salary filler to make the salaries match). It’s unlikely any playoff team will sacrifice a first-rounder in this year’s draft for an expensive piece like Green, who has two more years on his contract, if you include the player option.
There is some middle ground to be found, though. If a contender was willing to send a conditional first-round pick or a young player on a rookie deal Boston’s way for Green, they almost certainly would want Boston to take back a bad contract containing multiple years in the deal.
The Celtics made a move similar to this last month, absorbing Joel Anthony’s contract from the Heat in the Jordan Crawford/MarShon Brooks deal. As a reward, the Celtics received a conditional first-round pick, which could also roll into two second-round picks.
A similar deal could come to fruition for Green with potentially more favorable terms for Boston, since the small forward is a much more valuable chip than Crawford was.
Now more than ever, Boston should be looking to the future. Green hasn’t shown enough this season to prove that the Celtics should commit to him to be a part of it. With Ainge not looking to move up the standings anymore, the time is now to move on from Green and end his lackluster tenure in Boston.