Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Is This the Year of Jeff Green?

The Boston Celtics are 3-3 on the season, and are coming off of back-to-back wins at the Garden and in Chicago this past weekend. The team is currently second in the NBA in points per game at 106.3 behind first place Toronto at 107.4 points. Plus they are currently top-five in field-goals made, shooting over 47 percent. If you're wondering why all these numbers are being thrown at you, it's because the C's are surprising the league by scoring at a rapid rate.

The man behind this new Celtics offense is none other than Jeff Green.

Sure you can point to the fact that Rajon Rondo is back healthier than he was last season, leading the league in assists at 11.2 per contest. But the most consistent in Brad Stevens' fast-paced offense in the first six games has arguably been 'Uncle Jeff.' Green has recorded at least 17 points or more in four straight games, while already hitting the 35-point mark seven days ago in a near-upset against the Mavericks. After the Celtics were down 31, the forward went 14-of-28 in the midst of a comeback to get within one, before the team lost, 118-113. The biggest highlight from Boston that evening was the fact that Green was in the zone from the game's first bucket (a fierce dunk) that he scored until the clock read double-zero.

"He wants to be consistent," said the Celtics coach of Green. "He wants to play well. He's pretty locked in right now. I don't see any reason why he won't continue to play well. If he doesn't we'll have to pick it up from somewhere else. But I'm not concerned about that with him. I feel he is in a really good place." [BleacherReport.com]

Green right now leads the Celtics in minutes played at 34.3 and points per game at nearly 20 (19.7) A much better average than a season ago of 16.9 points per contest. He's hitting field-goals at a much higher rate from 41.2 to 45.4 percent this season. His 3-point percentage has gone from 34.1 to 37.5 percent. Green is even hitting more free-throws at 83.3 percent compared to his 79.5 percent last year. The hybrid forward is currently averaging one full rebound (5.3) and assist (2.5) more from last season. Based on these results so far, it's fair to say Green is adapting to the new system very quickly.

Veteran Gerald Wallace, who last month told reporters he would 'make Green an all-star this year,' agrees that in this offensive system the more opportunities in transitions will only help his teammate as the season wears on. 

"I think it suits him well," Wallace said of Green. "He can be one of the top open court-court players in the league right now. He can finish strong at the rim, he has the ability to pull up on the break and knock down shots." [Bleacher Report]

The Celtics were 26th last season in points per-game at 96.2, in a slow, half-court offense. With injuries to Avery Bradley, Rondo, and even Jared Sullinger, Brad Stevens found it difficult to preach consistency in the locker room, especially when it came to Green finding the right rhythm offensively on a nightly basis. In six games so far this year not only are players healthy, but with the new additions of Marcus Smart, Evan Turner, Tyler Zeller and the emergence of Kelly Olynyk, Stevens can finally push the ball in an uptempo offense that makes everyone very comfortable to play in.

"I think [the fast-paced offense] plays to everyone's strengths, not just mine," Green said. "I think Coach [Stevens] is putting us in a great position to succeed." [Bleacher Report]

It was only two-years ago that Danny Ainge signed Green to a four-year, $36-million deal, 18-months after the young vet had open heart surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm that not only could have ended his playing career but become life-threatening as well. There were high expectations for the 26-year old at the time. Especially since he was suppose to lead the offense after Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were long gone. But it hasn't been all sunshine and lollipops for Green, who at times has struggled to find his identity in a sports market like Boston.

"It's not fair, because you have to think about it, " said Wallace. "The man had a life-changing experience [with heart surgery]. He missed basketball for a year. He was out and came back...He was on a learning curve, and then all of sudden you handed a franchise and are told, 'Take us to the promise land. With Rondo out, we are putting everything on your back.' That's a lot of pressure on a guy who is so young and is still trying to find his self and his rhythm in the NBA." [Bleacher Report]

Despite a strained hamstring that cut his preseason to only three-games last month, Green has been pretty durable since the 2012-13 season. Up to this point in 2014-15 there hasn't been many if any criticism of the Celtics forward. A far cry from what fans, the media and even members of the team's staff have long waited to see from their most athletic player in years.

"People on my staff would question Green," said Ainge during his weekly appearance on a Boston's sports radio station. "Jeff will get a dribble hand-off, turn the corner and drive all the way in for a thundering dunk. And people will say to me, 'Why doesn't he do that every time?' [CBS Sports]

The difference I see in Green's game this season besides him being aggressive and consistent, is there are more options and balance on offense for the Celtics. Opponents are not just focusing on stopping Green like in the past. The game-plan is much broader because Stevens can experiment with different lineups that might have Green at the four instead of the three spot, and that allows the C's to spread the floor and Green can show-off his versatility.

"I don't care what position I'm at," Green said. "I'm on the floor, I'm playing, I'm thankful for that, so whatever coach tells me to do, I'm going to do." [Bleacher Report]    

I've always been an advocate of Jeff Green and his game. He is not the loudest player, but he will let his play do the talking, and it isn't always loud enough that everyone can hear. But with the small sample size of this season so far, and with Green having a $9.2 million player option in his back pocket for next year. I'm going out on a limb in saying that he will be a part of the future here in Boston. Players of his caliber don't come along very often. Whether he opts out next summer or cashes in his option to wait and become a free agent in 2016 (where the Celtics will have even more cap space regardless), Green is good piece to the puzzle.

If he continues to  ball-up the way he's been the first two weeks of the season, Stevens and Green's relationship could be long-term.

Joel Pavón

No comments:

Post a Comment