The offseason is here for the Boston Celtics, and in just a couple of months, they will begin the process of putting next year’s team together. We will take a look at the current Celtics and try to figure out what to do with each of them. We continue today with Jeff Green.
His contract was called “the worst of the summer” last July. When Danny Ainge committed $36 million dollars to a player fresh off of heart surgery, and in the midst of a young career that had provided little evidence of justifying such a deal, eyes squinted and heads cocked in his direction.
Ainge either knew something most people didn’t, or he was making a grave mistake.
Now, with a full season of Jeff Green finally tucked under our shamrock festooned belts, we are starting to see some of why the Celtics made such a commitment.
This is not to say the assessment of Green is easy. It not, actually. He found himself at the wrong end of Doc’s patience enough to raise a concern. He still lacks the consistency you’d hope for out of one of your main options. Dimensions still need to be added to his game.
The question for the Celtics now is this: After a full season, albeit one freshly removed from having his chest cracked open, is Jeff Green on a path to becoming the player you thought he could be, or is he who “they” thought he was? What the Celtics do with Green depends on their honest assessment and answer to that question.
With about $28 million over three years left on his deal, waiving him or buying him out aren’t really options. That means there are really only two:
If the Celtics don’t believe Green is on an All Star path, then they’ll shop him this summer. They have in him a fairly valuable trade asset. He’s still only 26. He’s playing NBA basketball at a time when most people would be happy to just be jogging again. He’s amassed a ton of highlights. And he’s come up with some big games against some good teams.
Under the guise of “well, we love him, but I’m under orders to rebuild,” Ainge could put Green on the block and see what’s out there. Tack on Courtney Lee, and now the Celtics have a trade package that includes two guys in their physical prime at a combined $15 million dollars. Even if they remain taxpayers, they can take back 125% + $100,000, or $18,718,750. Throw in the un-guaranteed contract of DJ White, and now you can go to the Lakers and say “you need depth, we need a #2 guy with size… let’s talk Pau Gasol.”
Of course, that’s just an example of what they could do. And to reiterate, this is under a very specific scenario in which the Celtics feel they’ve seen the peak of Green’s career. Green has proven the $8,965,000 he’s due this coming season isn’t outrageous, and should the Celtics decide they want to move in a different direction, it’s a move-able deal, especially if you add the right sweeteners.
With at least two more years on the deal (the third is a player option at $9,445,000), the Celtics have a solid two-year partnership with Rajon Rondo as an athletic, up-tempo, duo. Both of their contracts, if Green opts out, are up at the same time, giving the Celtics an opportunity to press forward with the partnership, or give up on it if it’s not working.
If the Celtics foresee Rondo and Green as their stars of the future, they’ve got them locked up for a combined $21 and $22.5 million over the next two years. That’s a great number if they turn into your top two options. The Celtics have a couple of cap-friendly years under these guys to figure out if that’s truly the way to go.
So to recap…
- Trade him if you think he’s hit his peak, and maybe package him with some other players to a team looking to add depth.
- Keep him if you think he’s only going to get better, and hope he and Rondo (and Sullinger and Bradley, for that matter) can form the nucleus of a contender.
I like a lot of what I saw out of Green late in the season. I also think his contract will be seen as, at worst, reasonable… a far cry from “worst deal of the summer.” It’s been reported that doctors told him he wouldn’t be back at 100% until two years after the surgery, so it’s very possible that many of his down moments earlier this past season won’t recur. Considering the league’s current financial climate, the payroll, and what exists on this roster moving forward, a slasher who can hit the 3 (a career high, a team high, 38.5% this past season) is a nice asset to have.
One mitigating factor to the “trade him” scenario is while Green’s talent and contract certainly make him moveable, he’s not so good or so cheap that you can dump Jason Terry’s deal on someone in a trade. Other teams that could give up some value for Green won’t be so desperate to do so that they’d take on a bad deal. So there’s that, which I think is important. If you could attach mad money to good, the Celtics might have been more enticed to move Green. Since that’s not really possible, the possibility of a trade is somewhat diminished.
You might look at his points per game and see it was only at 12.8 this year, but that doesn’t tell the whole story because his minutes were down. His per-36 numbers put him at 16.6… which is a career best. In fact, Green hit career highs in not just that and 3-point percentage, but overall field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, block percentage, PER, and assist percentage.
The bottom line here is that Jeff Green improved a lot over his overall career numbers this past season, and he did it while recovering from heart surgery. I’m keeping this guy.
Part of keeping him should also probably include the old Larry Bird trick of tying his right hand behind his back so he could work on his left hand. Green is a right-hand dominant player that can do pretty well because of his athleticism. But developing that left hand will make him all that more dangerous.
Another part of keeping him should involve whatever tactics necessary to draw emotion out of him during games. Angry Jeff Green is a good Jeff Green.
And just to show you how intertwined these decisions are….
Part of why Green succeeded where he has this year is because he was pushed by Doc Rivers and by Kevin Garnett. In making a decision about Paul Pierce that could have a ripple effect on the those other two, the Celtics need to figure out the critical juncture of the development of guys like Green. When the Celtics weigh pros and cons of how their money is spent, the way the veterans impact players like Green is a big deal. If the Celtics view him as a pivotal part of their future, there may be a willingness to spend money for one more season to make sure they get the most out of him down the road.
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