State of the Celtics: Can Jeff Green be a top two player on a contending team?

Does Green have star potential or is he just a very good role playing starter? - Jared Wickerham

Our team of writers discuss the State of the Celtics after one quarter of the regular season.

Finally a full-time starter, Jeff Green is arguably having the best season of his career, averaging 16.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 34 minutes per game. Before the year many fans weren't sure of what to expect from Green. They wondered, "Does he have star potential or is he already as good as he'll ever be?"

I asked our team of writers if they think Jeff Green has done anything this season to prove himself as a top two player on a contender for the second part of "State of the Celtics."

Kevin O'Connor:

Look, Jeff Green is a nice player, I enjoy watching him, I love his effort, and he hits big shots, too. But a top two player on a contending team? Not quite, in my opinion. Green is far too inconsistent as a scorer to be thrust into that category, and I don't believe he makes enough of an impact defensively or as a rebounder to make up for it.

Though he has definitely improved this year with his larger role, I don't think he is much better of a player than he was three years ago when he was averaging 15.2 points with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Green could be a number three on a contending team, but not a number two.

wjsy:

Enough with this "#2" talk. As fans and bloggers, we get so caught up in labeling things and trying to fit players into neat little boxes. I don't want to go all Matrix on everybody, but THERE IS NO BOX, especially with how Stevens is coaching this team. Would his style change if he had a LeBron or Kobe on the roster? Maybe, but for now, the team is sharing the ball and there isn't a discernible #1 or #2 or whatever.

Numbers will look inconsistent because inconsistency is the consistency. Some nights, Green is going to get more shots. On other nights, he'll have to put in more effort on the defensive end or he'll draw more attention on offense and have to pass out of coverage. Nonetheless, he's still a very good player. People will harp on his aggressiveness, but he's playing within the system and he'll only get better when Rondo returns. He's more a finisher than he is a playmaker and if that makes him more a "#2," so be it.

Jeff Clark:

I disagree with the "there is no box" concept. You need great players to in championships. History has taught us time after time that you need one of the best players in the game and 1 or 2 other legit stars to win the whole thing (with very few exceptions). You can "compete" with less than that, but winning is another thing.

I've said it before, the difference between good and great is consistency. 80% of the players in the league are capable of stringing together a few 20 point games but only handful can average 20 over any long period. I don't care what system you run; you need consistent contributions from your best players to be a consistent team.

So all of that is foundation to my point. I think you need a solid, consistent first option or 1A and 1B options. After that, you can certainly fill in with guys like Jeff Green that could swing the game in our favor on many nights and not hurt us too much on the days when he's not feeling it.

Put more bluntly, he's much more of a Chris Bosh or Ray Allen than he is a James, Wade, Pierce, or Garnett. Bosh and Allen were critical pieces and they achieved great success on non-contending teams. But they didn't win the title till they found a role as a star-role-player.

wjsy:

With all due respect, Jeff, that's purely anecdotal. Look at the Spurs. We can say that Duncan is a #1, Parker is their #2, and Ginobili, Green, and Leonard are #3's, but they run a system similar to Boston's and they're winning with it because it really doesn't matter who scores for them. Look at any of their game logs besides maybe Parker. They're the picture of "inconsistency is consistency." After what Pop said about Stevens, there's no doubt in my mind that that's what Brad is trying to build in Boston.

Jeff Clark:

Hey, if Green can be Ginobili and Rondo can be Parker, then all we need is a Tim Duncan and it all makes perfect sense to me! I don't want to get too wrapped around comparisons. Each of these players is obviously unique. If Green is lucky, someday he might be a Ginobili/Bosh level guy and I think Ray Allen is a big stretch (even in his diminished role in Boston). I was just trying to paint a picture of the roles players fill on title teams.

Perhaps you are right and the labeling is going too far here, but even the Spurs follow the 3 stars and fill in with role players model. Rondo can be one of those stars. Can Jeff Green or anyone else on the roster fill out the upper tier? Green has the talent, and maybe he'll get there someday, but right now I think we'd need a 1A and a 1B in addition to him.

wjsy:

Purely tangential, but man for man, you could make the argument that the Celtics have an equal, if not better, roster than the Spurs:

Rondo vs. Parker
Bradley vs. Green
Green vs. Leonard
Sullinger vs. Duncan
Olynyk vs. Splitter
Crawford vs. Mills
Lee vs. Ginobili
Wallace vs. Belinelli
Bass vs. Bonner
Faverani vs. Diaw

Honestly tell me that that doesn't give you a little pause.

Kevin O'Connor:

Not even a little bit. Comparisons are silly anyway. Fact is, all Jeff Green has done so far this year is solidified the fact that he is a very good NBA player. A star? No. A dud? No. He's a good player, but probably not an All Star, and therefore never a number two on a true contending team. He's really not much better now than he was his last season with Oklahoma City, back then he was a number 3 (or 4), and he still is now.

I believe he's a bit better scoring off the dribble from mid-range, but he still has bad footwork driving to the basket, which makes him forces shots, and he's still a very good, but not great, three-point shooter. Good all-around player, but not a guy you'll be able to rely on every night like you should be able to. And that's not a knock against him. That's just who he is so far this season, and like Jeff Clark said, you need guys like that.

Jack Jemsek:

Most top 5 picks that are worth their salt if they are culled from the pack and traded during their rookie contract - Jeff Green fortunately did get traded, and Celtics fans can be grateful for that, because Kendrick Perkins is playing like he is 39 instead of 29 years old, while Jeff Green is becoming what we hoped he would be.

Has he reached his potential yet? Absolutely not after his complicated path to full health. But he a formidable talent and is a young 27 - not quite a five-tool player because of his ball-handling, but he's in the select crowd of players that can hit the 3-point, score inside, steal the ball, block shots, and rebound. That's the kind of stuff teams need from their top players.

His fatal flaw has been his deference to his teammates, and he's played with some mighty good ones on his two NBA teams. His coming of age was having to step up when Paul Pierce was hurting and become the Celtics top scorer in the Celtics short-lived play-off run last year. Doc asked Green to be more and Green responded as the No. 1 option. Now he's got a coach in Brad Stephens that seems to promote more of the selfless play that Jeff Green plays to a fault. One final note, how many players who aren't top tier talents have the chutzpah to hit a game-winner 3 pointer with LeBron in their face?

wjsy:

Let's track the conversation back a bit. What do you guys think are the defining qualities of a #2? For that matter, what's the job of a #3?

Kevin O'Connor:

Other than being a great basketball player, the only defining quality I look for is reliability. I don't think Green is great or reliable. He's just a very good player, who sometimes is great, but he's also average more often than he should be. In other words, he's not consistent, and he's not reliable.

And in response to what Jack said about Green not reaching his potential yet, I disagree. Thunder fans used to say the same thing, yet he has only marginally improved since then. Put on any Thunder game from 2009 or 2010 and you'll see an identical player. Fans are tricked into thinking that he has drastically improved only because he was so badly integrated into the rotation when he was first traded to Boston in 2011.

Jeff Clark:

That's a good summary Kevin. I think you need to be able to count on your number 2 guy to there night in and night out. I think it helps when he was already a number 1 option somewhere else but has enough unselfishness in his game to be able to share the limelight. Kevin Garnett was a perfect number 2 guy because he practiced and preached team-first all the way.

Jack Jemsek:

A No. 2 has to be able to make big shots when called upon, and he's proven that quite handily. He's also shown a lot of improvement in his offense this year, because that's what this team needs that from him. He had his best PER of his career last year and he's improving on that this year. His increased aggressiveness is born out by the fact that he's taken the most FTAs in his career this year, at 5 per game . . . a small number I know, but the uptick can't be discounted. You have to be patient with a guy like Green, and you will be rewarded handsomely . . .

So, who's right? Are Jack and wjsy correct with their assessment that Green can be a top two player on a contender? Or are Jeff and I right in that Green is a good but not great player?

State of the Celtics: The Quarter Mark

Part 1: Too talented for a top pick?
Part 2: How good is Jeff Green?

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