Jeff Green Will Prove to Be the Biggest Steal of the NBA Trade Deadline

Matt JenningsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2016

Jeff Green will give the Clippers an upgrade at small forward as they approach the playoffs.
Jeff Green will give the Clippers an upgrade at small forward as they approach the playoffs.Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

This year’s NBA trade deadline came and went without much fanfare, but one of the late moves that could have the biggest impact is the trade that brought Jeff Green to the Los Angeles Clippers.

L.A. sent Lance Stephenson and a first-round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies for Green just before the deadline. The pick is lottery-protected in 2019 and 2020, according to the Los Angeles Times' Ben Bolch, becoming a second-round pick in 2022 if Memphis doesn’t get it in either of those first two drafts.

The trade is a steal for the Clippers because they get an upgrade at a major position of need while giving up nothing of value.

The pick is inconsequential, given that L.A. doesn’t really care about building through the draft. The team is in win-now mode. Only two of the team's draft picks since 2009 are even on the roster: former No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin and this year’s first-rounder, C.J. Wilcox.

Those lottery protections also ensure the Clippers will keep their picks in 2019 and 2020 if they actually need them.

L.A. also gets rid of Stephenson. The veteran forward was playing less than 16 minutes a game, though some thought before the season he would be the Clippers’ fifth starter. For whatever reason, head coach Doc Rivers didn’t think it worthwhile to have him on the floor.

Rivers won’t have any such issue with Green, whom he coached when both were with the Boston Celtics.

Green was starting at small forward for Memphis and averaging 12.2 points per game with 4.5 rebounds. Now he brings that production to an L.A. team in desperate need of consistency at that position.

Green is no Griffin but gives the Clippers a player who can get to the rim in Griffin’s absence as he recovers from a broken hand. The 6’9” forward attacks with force, as you can see in this posterization of Kevin Seraphin:

His ability to roll to the basket will fit in perfectly with the lob-heavy system L.A. runs with Chris Paul at the point.

He has a nice touch around the rim and can get past defenders to make plays in the lane. He showed his ability to get to the rim in this play from the Clippers’ blowout win over the Suns:

He can also post up against smaller guards and forwards. In this play against the Warriors, he got good positioning against Steph Curry before making a quick move to get in the lane for an easy basket:

Green should be an upgrade over Stephenson in terms of production and fit with the coaching staff. He isn’t one of the best small forwards in the game but was one of the best ones available at the deadline. And the Clippers got him for two assets they didn’t think they needed. That seems like a win for L.A.

Also, consider the price the Clippers paid for Green in comparison to other deals that happened around the league.

The Wizards gave Phoenix a first-round pick that could end up in the top 10, as well rotation player Kris Humphries, for another player who can play stretch four, Markieff Morris. That's a high price for a player shooting a career-low from the field who got into a shoving match with a teammate during a game earlier this month. 

The Green deal also fulfills a hole for the Clippers, whereas other teams simply added players that reinforced positions of strength.

The Cavaliers dealt for Channing Frye, another player the Clippers were rumored to be in the market to acquire. Cleveland got rid of Anderson Varejao's contract in the deal to save money, but Frye doesn't necessarily add anything the Cavs didn't already have.

He's a power forward with a 3-point shot, which the Cavs already have in Kevin Love. Green, meanwhile, gives L.A. something it didn't have before: a starting-caliber small forward that Rivers can give significant minutes.

To be clear, this isn’t to say Green is going to put the Clippers in a position to beat the Spurs or the Warriors in a seven-game series. Those two teams are still the class of the Western conference.

However, it makes the Clippers better at a position where they needed help. It also didn’t cost them anything significant. In a season where no blockbuster deals happened, that’s enough for L.A. to claim the title of best steal at the deadline.