The evidence currently available to help gauge how well Jeff Green will fit into Brad Stevens’ shiny new expressway offense is tiny, but one blowout win’s worth.
But what we saw in the preseason, combined with Green’s established individual style of play (code for monstrous athleticism), should be enough to safely say that if he stays healthy and the system stays loyal to uptempo basketball, he’ll be better this year than last.
The Celtics are now one of the younger teams in the league. They have plenty of ball-handlers and sneaky, good spot-up three-point shooting. Their coach has wisely recognized that these ingredients are more than enough to turn his team’s season into a track meet. During Wednesday night’s win over the Brooklyn Nets, Boston’s pace was 102.78, which currently stands as second-fastest in the league.
They went 8-for-16 from the three-point line through the game’s first three quarters, before easing things up near the end, due to the lopsided scoreboard.
The lone box score from Green's 2014-15 season eerily mirrors his per-game averages from a year ago: 17 points, 40 percent shooting from the floor, six rebounds. That more or less lines up with last season’s production, when the Celtics were forced to miscast him as a leading man.
His instincts have always leaned toward attacking the rim, and in Boston’s first game of the year that’s what he did, attempting nine free-throws—twice his average last season. Some of this came seconds after an opponent made his shot. It was offense in its simplest form: take the ball out of bounds and rush the other team's hoop.
But solely judging a player from his raw-number production can be dangerous. Green accounted for only three of Boston's threes and attempted 10 shots overall, but Boston's pace was 103.11 with him on the floor.
He was wildly efficient, too, posting a 60.9 True Shooting percentage and a PER that was 6.8 higher than what was registered last season.
Green tallied three assists, displaying a gifted play-making ability he’s yet to show in Celtics uniform. The team was also quicker with its half-court offense. Players were always moving, cutting, screening. The ball didn't stick, resulting in eventual breakdowns with the defense.
Here’s Brad Stevens talking about where Green fits into Boston’s rotation (via MassLive.com’s Jay King):
Jeff’s going to play most of his minutes—or maybe just over half of his minutes—at the 3, but he’ll also play some 4. I like Jeff at the 3 a lot, but I like Jeff at the 4. You create different advantages at each. He’s going to have to (work with one of the big men). We’re going to be small. It is what it is. At that point, your guards have to be great rebounders.
Playing as a stretch power forward, Green will be able to blow past most guys trying to stick with him on the perimeter. This collapses the defense and should create more drive-and-kick opportunities as the season goes on.
This specific example comes against Joe Johnson, a traditional wing, and doesn't result in an outside shot. But it's essentially still the type of play we should see Green make more this season.
Green is notorious for drifting in and out of the action throughout his career, dropping 35 on an unsuspecting opponent less than 48 hours after sleepily disengaging himself from the game plan in a 2-for-7 stinker.
But in Boston's new system that’s committed to putting the hurt on back-pedaling defenders— sprinting up the floor after corralling a defensive rebound and looking for the first open shot in transition—Green should prosper. The numbers in this article are all extracted from a tiny sample size, but within them are grains of verification.
The new offense fits Green's game like a glove, should make him more efficient than ever before and utilize all the areas of his skill set that have yet to come together on a consistent basis. Not to sell the point short, it could very well turn him into the player we (meaning talent evaluators and Celtics fans) all believe he's capable of becoming.