The Curious Case of Jeff Green

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There is probably no other player on the roster for whom fans had such high hopes as Jeff. To this point, those hopes have largely been unmet. Fans seem to be about evenly divided now between those who claim he is a bust and those who think he just needs more time and maybe even start. His play has been mercurial, as has the team's. This begs a first question; is the team up and down because of Jeff or is he up and down because of the team? The likely answer is some of both.

This leads to another question; has Jeff (and Bass/ Lee) inadvertently been set up to fail? As Jeff Clark pointed out in a post last week, Doc is still adjusting the lineups and he should. Consider these statistics from 82games (as of Dec. 28); the most commonly used lineup Rondo- Terry- Pierce- Bass- Garnett logged 204.6 minutes over the course of 16 games and produced 1.08 ppp on offense and allowed .99 ppp on defense for a differential of plus .09 and a plus/ minus of +38. Take KG out and put Wilcox in (second most frequently used - 77.9 min. 14 games) and the numbers go 1.03 off. - 1.01 def - plus .02 diff. - and +6. Not as good, but still positive.

Now you are probably saying, what does this have to do with Jeff Green? Well, the lineup of Rondo- Lee- Green- Sullinger- Garnett was only used for 19.9 minutes over the course of four games, but the numbers read 1.34 offense- .68 defense- for a differential of plus .66 and +21. A dramatic difference to be sure and the most effective by far. For contrast, if we look at the same lineup except again, Wilcox for KG, (22.9 min. seven games) we get a minus .40 or the worst combination used. (Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that Wilcox is the problem, there are other combinations with him that are quite favorable. There just isn't room to cover them here.) If we go back to the best lineup at the beginning of this paragraph and instead of taking KG out, we take out Rondo and replace him with Terry (36.3 min. six games), we get 1.25 off.- .76 def.- plus .49 diff.- and +49. Again a drop off, but still the second most effective lineup put on the floor.

Some will wonder how I can say that a +21 is more effective than the +38 of the most commonly used lineup. The +38 is the cumulative total of points over 205 minutes whereas the +21 is in only 20 minutes. Tommy Heinsohn noted during one of the recent games that he hates +/- because it doesn't tell you anything. I partially disagree. It does tell you something, just not what most people think it does. That is why the differential is a more accurate indicator. It does not have to be time adjusted.

To be fair, there are several caveats that I need to address. One is that stats are backward looking. You can't have a stat until something has happened. Doc and his staff must make changes and tweaks on the fly in real time based on what they think they are seeing. Another caveat is that these numbers do not tell us which games they occurred in or who the match ups were. True, but they do tell us that some of our players do not work well as a lineup (internal match up) and should never be on the floor together. Others though should get more burn time and maybe be substituted in pairs or threes rather than individually.

The real point of all of this is that hopefully it sheds some light on why some of the guys, Jeff Green in particular in this case, have not performed up to our expectations. It could well be he and some of the others have just not been put in the right situation to succeed. I have said several times recently that I think Jeff is a good player trapped, not in a bad system, but one that does not favor his style of play. It tends to make him a square peg. Jeff or others not doing well for us doesn't make them a bust. They might just caught in the wrong combination.

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