While few Boston Celtics fans are predicting a playoff series for the home team and thoughts of hoisting an 18th banner far above the jumbo-tron are long gone, the idea of tanking is almost universally rejected, and for good reason.
The Celtics aren’t quite bad enough to want to lose on purpose in hopes of winning the draft lottery, especially with loss-intolerant, residential-head case Rajon Rondo running the show. However, to avoid becoming the next Charlotte Bobcats, the Celtics are going to need to embrace one of their biggest weaknesses from last season.
I don’t believe we will see a Boston team overly concerned with defense. Despite the major roster shakeup, defensive studs like Jeff Green, Rondo and, of course, Avery Bradley still remain in green. The ever-present rebounding issue will be settled with the addition of Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace. That leaves the problem of scoring.
Many believe most of the scoring load will fall heavily on the shoulder of Rondo, however, it is Green who needs to step up the most.
In his limited playing time last season, Rondo averaged 13 points per game. Even with the moody guard out of the lineup, his proponents pointed to his ability to score when he has to, best highlighted in Game 2 of the Celtics’ series against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. While seeing flashes of scoring brilliance on occasion are nice, Rondo cannot be the offensive player Boston needs.
Now that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have changed uniforms, the young guard is left with few options. Bradley’s backdoor cuts will prove useful, as will the post moves of sophomore Jared Sullinger. But can an entire offense be built around a couple of concepts displayed by young players?
The Celtics need a scorer that they can occasionally, in the immortal words of Garnett, “get the ball to and get out of the way.” Thank goodness for Green.
Once absentmindedly thought of as the Celtics’ future, the athletic Green suddenly seems to be a very important piece in the Celtics puzzle now that the future is here. In almost any other situation in the NBA, Green would have started last season. However, when the guy in front of you is Pierce, it is understandable why you are riding pine for the first few minutes of a game.
Last season, Green averaged 12 PPG. However, he is like Rondo in that once the playoffs started, he increased his scoring, jumping up to 20 PPG. This scoring jump took place while still coming off of the bench.
The beauty of Green’s game lies in how he makes the most of each possession. This is a player who scores about as much as Rondo did before his injury, all while getting far fewer minutes. And if Green continues to score at his .467 clip while playing upwards of 30 minutes per game, he could really be a consistently solid performer for the Celtics.
His versatility as a player will come in handy too. During his tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Green was mostly held as the power forward. Should Brad Stevens try to play small ball, Green can stick to the 4. If he wants to out-muscle opponents, Green can drop down to the three.
However, the best part of Green’s offensive potential is that it has only begun.
Green is only 26, and hasn’t yet reached his prime. The good folks at basketball-reference.com predict Green goes for 16 points every night in 2013-2014. If he and Rondo mesh together half as well as they have the potential to, Green can far exceed 16 points. It might not be great that the Celtics have so few scoring options, but let’s just be glad their biggest one is Green.