Used the right way, Green can be a great asset.
In an odd twist of fate, one of my best friends (and the best man in my wedding) became a contributing blogger for Welcome To Loud City - the SBN blog covering the OKC Thunder. (He goes by the handle "Dogburt") So at least I can say we leave young Kendrick in good blogging hands. Of course he was the first one I thought of when it came time to get a scouting report on Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. (I'll return the favor very soon - and I'll even try to not be overly sappy and sentimental, but no promises.) Here's what he delivered.
Since Mr. Clark is now the newest and latest Thunder fan, he asked me to give Celtics fans a mix of hope and reality when considering the Celtics' two newest teammates.
First, an aside: I can't remember any trade in recent memory in any sport where both organizations were so passionate about what the trade meant to the franchise and the players. In both cases, both management and players have openly lamented the loss of their teammate. In today's jaded world of pro sports, to witness an actual connection between teammates that goes beyond the court is enough to make you think that there are guys out there (and more than we'd think) who really care about things that matter.
"Jeff Green is like my son. I love that kid...This is by far the toughest decision I've ever had to make since I started this job." - Thunder GM Sam Presti
"[Perkins is] taking it pretty hard because he's been here eight years...He was very emotional, crying." - Nate Robinson on Kendrick Perkins' post-trade emotions
My best hope is that each team recognizes that they receiving the exact same quality of player they gave up - one who is dedicated, caring, and wants to be part of something bigger than themselves. Also, I hope that each respective team embraces these players and when the time comes, all are ready to lock up their phalanx to do battle together.
Prima Facie: Green is a natural small forward who brings two great assets:
- He's a tremendous teammate who has never complained about minutes, shots, or money. He's a wonderful complement to any organization that is on the right track.
- Offensively, he has two good skills - he can serve as an offensive focal point for stretches because he makes good decisions, and was probably the Thunder's best back-to-the-basket post up player and can finish with either hand.
On the surface, this trade looks like it is purely an exchange of offense for defense, and on that level it does appear imbalanced. Perkins is a better defensive player than Green is an offensive player.
If you dig deeper though, I think that this deal was really about Paul Pierce. If you consider the Celtics' current line-up and play the game of replacement cost, you can see that the Celtics' small forward position has the least amount of fortification. Pierce, the warrior that he is, is also 32 years old, has gone deep in the playoffs the last three years, and will more than likely have to deal with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, and then possibly Kobe Bryant in the Finals. With that kind of defensive responsibility, Pierce's offense will be curtailed. The Celtics are going to need additional 12-15 points off the bench to make up the difference when his offense isn't there, and the team momentarily lost it when Marquis Daniels went down. This is where Jeff Green comes into play.
Green is very good at spelling offensive players for a short time period. In OKC, he was always at his best when he played with the team's second unit and became the high post facilitator of the offense. In other words, Green's best role on the team was as Kevin Durant's understudy. When called upon for that responsibility, Green responded well. It is true that his 3-point percentage has dropped, but I tend to think that this is more a function of his not playing to the strengths of his game and instead settling for the long distance shot too often.
I hope that this secondary role is the place that Doc Rivers has in mind for Green when the playoffs roll around, because this is a role in which Green can really excel. I think Green's career path is thus - either as a decent scorer on a bad/mediocre team (a latter version of a guy like Gerald Wallace) or he can be a great scorer for short spells on a good team. I hope the Celtics embrace Green's talents in this latter way.
Ultimately what prevented Green from being the Pippen to Durant's Jordan was that he simply did not possess the skill set to do all the other large and small things besides scoring. Green isn't a lock-down defender (not yet anyway, but give him time in Celtic green), he doesn't crash the boards hard (or sometimes at all), he isn't a great point-forward, etc. His game simply did not compliment Durant's.
Here are the three ways in which Green has been a disappointment this year, and so the Celtics would do well to avoid putting him in these situations:
- Play him 40 minutes a night and expecting his bursts of offense to extrapolate evenly;
- Play him at the power forward spot and expect him to be able to rebound and guard bigger and stronger guys. If he has to match up against a guy like Joakim Noah or Carlos Boozer in the playoffs, you will be in serious trouble;
- Use him as a spot up 3-point specialist. Green is a gamer and can knock it down when the pressure is on, but if that is all you ask of him, he isn't going to fit the bill.
Prima Facie: Krstic is a power forward/center who is best at running pick and pop plays. He is an accurate shooter out to about 18 feet. He is a better defender and rebounder than most give him credit, but he relies mostly on positioning and doesn't possess a lot of natural ability. Injuries have plagued him throughout his season.
Why I think the Celtics traded for Krstic:
Aside from the contract matching equation, I think the Celtics think Krstic can be the kind of player that will make some of the bigger and slower centers in the East work hard. If you look at his stats for the season, you can see that two of his best games were against Orlando and Chicago when he was battling Dwight Howard and Joakim Noah, respectively. Granted, he got eaten alive on the defensive end, but his value in those games was in hitting his jump shot in order to pull the big guys away from the rim. Since both Howard and Noah will be looming in the latter rounds of the playoffs, Krstic could pose intriguing matchup problems for short periods of time against those types of players.
Krstic is a defensive liability against dominant post players. For example, while his offensive play against Howard was admirable, he also gave up 39 points to the big man. Krstic will need a lot of protection if he is required to defend guys who are stronger and quicker. He can make a valuable impact as a center as long as he is inserted into the right types of situations.