Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe wonders “What does Boston see in Jeff Green?”:
Green has ranked as a horrific defender for most of his career, at least by the numbers. The Thunder and Celtics were consistently worse on both ends of the court with Green on the floor versus on the bench, but the damage was usually more dramatic on defense — and especially when Green played power forward. His rebounding numbers are in the dreaded Andrea Bargnani/Hedo Turkoglu range for big men, opposing players bullied him in the post to the tune of just about 50 percent shooting over 2009-10 and 2010-11 combined (per the stat-tracking service Synergy Sports) and he generally failed most of the “guarding the perimeter” duties that came with his job.
Overall, Synergy ranked Green 429th in 2010-11 among all NBA players in points allowed per possession on defense — an attempt at a catch-all metric that considers every play in which a guy is directly involved. It’s not perfect; Synergy sometimes blames the wrong player for a spot-up basket, and few easy baskets have only one individual culprit in a complex five-man game.
As most of you know, I’m not all-in on these new era stats. There are too many intangibles in the game to have player assessments be so black-and-white. But these numbers are tough to dispute.
Lowe isn’t entirely down on Green. There are some positives:
Green’s feet are pretty nimble, and he generally stays in a nice crouch that allows him to slide side-to-side with his man. He keeps his feet on pump fakes. He has a good sense of his size advantage — the knowledge that if Manu Ginobili gets a step on him, he can still ride Ginobili’s hip and contest a floater from just a bit behind him.
Boston has one of the half-dozen greatest defensive anchors in league history in Garnett, a savant and talker extraordinaire, and Green presumably won’t be guarding as many stretch power forwards in Boston, anyway.
We heard similar defensive criticism of Ray Allen in 2007 and Brandon Bass in 2012 and they turned out all right (thanks to Doc Rivers and KG).
If a guy with Jeff Green’s athleticism wants to play defense (and in Boston he will have no choice), I guarantee he will be better next season.
Green’s true value to the Celtics will be on offense. He must (and will) bring scoring off the bench.