Jeff Green Day: Case to start at small forward?

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Paul Pierce is the Captain.

Paul Pierce is a Hall of Famer that deserves his full respect, especially in Boston.

Paul Pierce will very likely lead the Celtics in scoring for about the 97th straight time this season.

Those things said...would the team be best served if Paul Pierce started off the game on the bench? I feel like I can make the case that Jeff Green should start without ever actually mentioning his name. Let's explore.

1) Paul Pierce will be 35 years old in 3 weeks.

2) The 5-5-5 plan seemed to be wonderful for 35 year old Kevin Garnett last year. It kept him fresh and healthy through the compressed schedule, and allowed him to have his best postseason in years.

3) Pierce is the best individual offense initiator on the team when he's fresh.

4) Over a full game against beasts like LeBron or Durant, Pierce has started showing signs of wear lately.

5) When Rajon Rondo is on the court, he is the offensive initiator almost all of the time. Pierce is an excellent finisher...but his initiation abilities are limited because he just doesn't have the ball.

The keys to the Celtics' offense have been passed to Rajon Rondo. That is essentially a fact. But the Celtics' main unit has always been defensive in nature, and with Avery Bradley/Courtney Lee as the full-time starting SG now the starting defense is poised to be even more stifling. So I envision the Celtics starting off each half punching the other team in the mouth...with the defense setting an extremely tough, physical tone for the first five minutes until KG goes to the bench. Pierce could very easily be the starting small forward on such a team...he's a very good SF defender when he locks in and burns the energy.

But this year, with the presence of Jeff Green...he shouldn't have to.

Green's bio reads that he is a jack of all trades, master of none. He's a big wing (6-9) with a reasonable shot out to 3-point range, reasonable ball-handling, and is a reasonable passer. He's a plus athlete and a willing defender. If you put him out there with Rondo, Lee, Bass, and Garnett you probably wouldn't notice Green very much. I contend that this is a good thing, because he should essentially look like his surroundings on both ends. With Rondo setting the tone on offense and Garnett as the first option finisher, Green would fit with Bass and Lee as another solid option to score if set up. And on defense, with KG anchoring and Rondo/Lee hounding the opponent's backcourt, Green would also fit in as the body to throw against LeBron or Durant or Melo or whoever to make them work and get them off to a rough start.

But why do this? Well, in addition to the 5 reasons mentioned above, there's this: when KG goes to the bench around five minutes in, you could bring a fresh Pierce and Jason Terry into the game at the same time to completely change the tone. The opponent starts the half with five minutes of defensive hell, then ends the 1st/3rd quarter with an offensive juggernaut 2nd unit featuring Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Sully, and Wilcox.

That is a scary, scary proposition for opponents. That 2nd unit would be as good as most team's first would dominate the middle of each half, routinely turning close games into blowouts before the starters return for their 2nd shifts.

This also sets it up for Rondo to be able to play fewer minutes, able to go to the bench probably around the 8 minute mark of 1st/3rd quarters instead of playing to the end of the quarter like he often has. Getting Rondo to the 34-36 minutes/game mark as opposed to 38 - 40 would be huge for keeping him fresh and able to play at full throttle.

While KG has his 5 - 5 - 5 plan... with PIerce I'd go more back-7/back-8, playing him the last seven minutes of the 1st/3rd quarters and the last 8 minutes of the 2nd/4th. He and KG both stay fresh, both maximize their contributions, the team gets different looks on extremely strong units at all times of the game. Rondo gets even more of the keys to the first unit, Pierce gets a unit of his own (as opposed to deferring to Rondo on offense and KG on defense with the starting unit), everyone gets their time and numbers, Green gets to earn his new contract...on paper, this seems like a win-win-win-win to me.

In reality, it's unlikely. Pierce is a franchise here, and we know now that Ray being asked to go to the bench caused enough hard feelings that he wanted to leave the team. If Pierce feels the same way as Ray, I doubt anyone would try to force him to it. But if all bought in, including and especially Pierce, I could see starting Green at the 3 as an excellent plan for the Cs this year.

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