One of the hardest tasks for a general manager is determining if a player is more valuable as a building block for the future or as a trade chip. Now, Jeff Green is forcing Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge to do just that. Green is a serviceable player, and while he has been important to the Celtics’ “success” thus far, he isn’t necessarily a great fit for the new-look Celtics; his inconsistencies are a huge red flag for a player who is supposed to be the go-to-scorer. Because of this, Ainge must realize that the return Boston could get for Green would be more beneficial to the Celtics than his actual production on the court, especially for the team’s future.
First, it has to be noted that Green is not a complete misfit in Boston. While he hasn’t demonstrated the ability to play at a high level alongside Rajon Rondo yet or the ability to put together a consistent string of good games, Green’s 15.8 points per game is a team-best mark for the Celtics. While that number isn’t gaudy, it is pivotal for an offense that only averages 94.6 points a night (26th in the NBA). More importantly, when the offense becomes stagnant — a seemingly frequent occurrence — Green is often able to drive to the basket and draw a foul, or hit a tough jump shot as the shot clock expires. With his combination of athleticism, strength and three-point prowess, Green provides a unique “stretch-four” skill set. He is serviceable both starting or coming off the bench, and has the ability to play stretches of good defense, especially in isolation situations. So, why on earth wouldn’t the Celtics hang onto this guy?
The answer is simple: packaging Green could bring back younger players at positions the Celtics are lacking at, especially center. Gerald Wallace, while on the tail end of his career, is still a capable starter. Wallace provides security for the Celtics; shipping out Green wouldn’t leave the C’s completely insufficient at small forward. What it boils down to is that Green’s trade value is too high to keep him around. For proof, look no further than his conveyance to the Celtics in 2011. It certainly took a haul to get him into Boston. Snagging Green from the Oklahoma City Thunder required sending fan-favorite Kendrick Perkins — who at the time was integral to Boston’s contention — and spark plug Nate Robinson to OKC. While at this point the Celtics look like the winners of the trade (mostly due to the regression of Perkins), that should be proof enough that Green can command a high bounty while on the trade block.
Don’t believe me yet? Well, let’s look at the numbers. At the time preceding the trade, Green was averaging 15.2 points a game over 37.0 minutes a night with shooting clips of .437 and .304 from the field and three-point line, respectively. His PER was 12.9, and his true shooting percentage was .533. These stats, mind you, came while having most of the defensive attention on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. This season, with the defense most concerned about Green, he is averaging 15.8 points per game, with marks of .437 from the field and .379 from behind the arc. He has improved his PER to 14.2, and his true shooting percentage has also increased to .547. Oh, and this is all coming while playing just 33.0 minutes per game.
Green’s value has gone up, there’s no question about it. With the widespread use of advanced statistics around the league, NBA front offices are sure to recognize the improved play of the 27-year-old. The prospect of Green’s skill set, let alone his actual improvement on the court, is enough to yield some desirable assets in return. For a team that is looking to contend in the near future, Green could play an important role. GMs recognize that the Celtics don’t fall under this category, thus Green has already sparked the interest of a few teams around the NBA: namely the Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets, who both are interested in trading for the forward, even if it means surrendering a first-round draft pick or their previously-starting center. The Detroit Pistons, Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies could all be potential suitors as well.
Green is unarguably a special talent. With that being said, if this truly is a rebuilding season for Boston, they need to find young players who have shown signs of consistency. Uncle Jeff doesn’t fit that mold. The sooner Ainge recognizes that reality, the better.