I'm a couple days late on this but I have great excuses. A) I'm in preseason form (or perhaps I'm just getting old like our stars) and B) Zach Lowe is in a new location and not all my RSS feeds have been updated accordingly. You see, if you haven't been following the meteoric career arc of our friend Mr. Lowe you are missing out. He was once a humble blogger for the ESPN TrueHoop blog for the Celtics. Then SI smartly made him the lead blogger for their basketball site. Now Bill Simmons and crew have snatched him up to write for Grantland. Pretty neat.
Anyway, Zach approaches the game as more of a scout and statistician, and his analysis is highly respected. So I'll happily defer to him on subjects like these. What subject you say? We haven't even talked about the subject yet. Yay blogging. Sorry, I'm in an odd mood this morning. Not enough sleep, though that's nothing new. Sleep is overrated.
Anyway part II: The thought here is that Jeff Green might have some real value as a defender. We know he's a versatile player, capable of doing lots of things well, but folks like Zach have always pointed out that teams were better defensively with Green on the bench than they were with him on the court. Part of that can be explained away with the fact that he largely played as an undersized power forward in OKC. But Lowe goes a step further in his analysis here.
Paul Pierce will of course defend LeBron in crunch time, though I’m convinced a big part of the reason Boston overpaid for Jeff Green is the possibility he may fare much better than expected as a part-time LeBron defender. I recently watched several hours of film of Green’s defense at both forward positions, and after awhile, it became obvious Green’s ideal defensive matchup would be a small forward with a shaky jump shot.
Green will always be a tweener, and as such, he has to concede something to both forward types. He’s at a size disadvantage in the post against power forwards and a quickness disadvantage on the perimeter against wings. He makes up for the latter by taking a step or two back and surrendering the jump shot — a losing strategy against an ace jump-shooter. LeBron is not yet an ace jump-shooter, though he’s closer than he was two or three years ago.
Green won’t always be able to contain James off the dribble, but he’s smart about how he moves his feet in one-on-one situations, and he’ll have Boston’s help defenders backing him up. He’s strong enough to deal with LeBron in the post. To be clear: Green has never been a plus defender, and he’s not going to be Boston’s best option — or even (as we’ll see below) a part of Boston’s likely closing lineups against Miami. But if he can hold the fort well enough to spare Pierce some LeBron time, that’s good enough.
Much and more has been said about Green's contract and projecting him forward for this year (in summary: yes, we overpaid, but a lot of folks in the NBA are overpaid and we kind of had to bring Green back - and I have high hopes that he can live up to most of his contract and if not he's a tradable chip). But this defensive angle is a great point.
The Celtics have a knack for making average defenders fit in nicely into the system. If the team still ranks at the top of the league in defense, that's all that matters. But how you get to that macro goal is in the details. Details that guys like Danny Ainge and Mike Zarren are analyzing long before contracts are negotiated. Details that Doc Rivers has the guys working on in practice and experimenting with in preseason games - which might lead to preseason losses but should lead to consistent improvement throughout the year.
On a side note: It sounds silly, but I'm excited that the team will have more chances to practice between games than they did last year. As a veteran team trying to rest the stars, they don't always use that time - preferring to rest instead. But this year they've got some younger legs and some new guys that need to learn the system so that might change - at least initially.
The hope here is that Jeff Green, who has looked aggressive and sharp so far in the preseason, can use that time to integrate himself into Doc's systems on both offense and defense because he could be a huge, huge asset for us.
The first step is getting to a point where we can play against the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals again. The next step is beating them. And you know what the next step after that is. Jeff Green can help us with those steps. And if he does, well, he'll be a bargain at any price.