When you ask yourself what the Celtics have with Jeff Green, you may have to take a step back and begin with a deep, philosophical question - what is "value," anyway?
Danny Ainge dismantled a borderline title contender at the trade deadline in 2011 to acquire Green in a trade for Kendrick Perkins. Was he worth it?
One summer later, Ainge shelled out $36 million to retain the still-unproven Green for four years. He'll be around, and paid handsomely, until 2016. Is that wise?
Fans have been endlessly debating these questions for the last 31 months. It's been great fodder for bloggers, tweeps and talk-radio callers all around Boston. One problem, though: I'm not even sure we've defined the parameters needed to answer the question.
Jeff Green shot 46.7 percent last year and averaged 12.8 points per game, plus 3.9 rebounds - not too shabby for a guy who mostly played a secondary role off the bench, hiding in Paul Pierce's shadow, but certainly not amazing. His PER was 15.01, placing him the tiniest hair above "average." That figure was a career high at 26. When a lottery pick puts up four subpar seasons to start his career, that's not a good sign. When he's still statistically mediocre after signing a huge contract, that's also a little worrisome.
Then again, Green also had moments where he was absolutely explosive, including one epic 43-point night against the Heat on national TV that none of us are likely to forget anytime soon.
But what are we talking about here, really? Points, percentages, PERs ... come on now. This is Boston, and we measure success in banners. What are the Celtics getting out of Green, truly?
Obviously not a championship anytime soon. But my point is that for Green's tenure in Boston to be a success, he needs to do more than just put up respectable numbers. Green might score 16 points a game next season or he might score 18, and the difference might be the difference between 30 Boston wins and 32. But I'm not sure if that's good enough. Shouldn't we expect more?
Not necessarily statistically, but Green needs to do more to make the Celtics a better overall team. It will take a lot of work in terms of overall development for Green to emerge as the second-best player on a non-laughingstock. He needs to get in the gym and put up a thousand jumpers every day. He needs to get bigger, stronger and faster. Offensively, he needs to consistently post up smaller players, and defensively, he needs to become the lockdown wing guy the Celtics haven't had since Tony Allen left town.
Green is capable of doing all these things. He's a solid athlete who's still (somewhat) young and brimming with potential. According to his draft position and all those zeroes on his paycheck, he should be a star. And if you look at the Celtics' roster sans Pierce and Kevin Garnett, you understand why expectations for Green must be higher.
Green has gone on record that any talk of Boston tanking this season is absurd, and he's itching to prove it wrong. He said this summer that the Celtics "can still be a dominant force" if everyone steps up and does the jobs asked of them.
That's got to start with Green himself. He's the one Celtic with the biggest achievement gap - his results to date just haven't matched his potential.
If you saw the 43-point hurting he put on Miami back on March 18, you know how good Green can be. But you're probably also familiar with his knack for fading into the background for weeks at a time.
With Pierce around, that was understandable, if not totally acceptable. But Green has no security blanket anymore - no excuse not to show up every night and perform.
The last six years were the Garnett era, and during that time, we measured success in rings. We're about to enter the Green era, if you can call it that, and our standards have changed, to be sure. But we should still examine our players holistically, for the effect they have on the team overall, and Green is no exception to that.
Can Jeff Green help make the Celtics respectable again? If he can, he'll have earned every penny of that $9 million.