Last year was supposed to be the year that Jeff Green emerged as The Man. He was finally going to be a first option on offense and the team (without Rajon Rondo for the first few months) was supposed to lean more heavily upon him. After all, without the Big 4 around, someone had to do the scoring, right?
It didn't exactly work out that way. After a promising 25 point game to start the season, he scored just 13 in the next and 7 in the 3rd. Later that month he had a 2 point (0-6) game followed by a 4 point forgettable game. Granted, he also had two games of over 39 points and several nights when he filled up the basket and the box score. But I think that only made the disappearing acts that much more frustrating.
In short, he was dominant some nights and invisible on other nights and the average was ....well, average. His 16.9 points per game was a a career high and made him the Celtics leading scorer, but that wasn't exactly saying much on a 25 win lottery team.
There was an endless debate on these pages over just whom to blame. Was it the system or the player? Was it Brad Stevens' lack of trust in Green, not giving him enough touches? Was it ball dominant players like Jordan Crawford taking too many of the shots? Or was it Jeff Green simply not being aggressive enough?
While we're working with a small sample size, this year appears to be a different story. Green has scored at least 14 points in each of the Celtics first 8 games. He has done so without losing the occasional scoring outburst(the 3rd game of the season featured 35 points from him vs. Dallas). The net effect is a raised scoring average of 18.9.
Dare I say that he's become... consistent? I suppose it is still early to declare anything (20 game rule and all that) but I think his teammates and coaches might be gaining confidence in him. And by the way, if you are into fantasy basketball, you might even be able to get him for cheap and potentially get a bargain.
So what gives? Is he being utilized more? Is he being more aggressive? Or are he and his teammates simply getting a better feel for each other? It could very well be a mixture of all 3.
I think you can give some credit to Rajon Rondo for making sure he and the rest of his teammates are getting the ball in the right places. Stevens' emphasis on ball movement and pace are also playing into Green's strengths. Plus, he does seem to be both meshing with his teammates and flat out playing with a little more focused aggression.
Interestingly, if you look back at the last month of last season (granted, it was kind of a month of garbage time with a revolving door of teammates), Green didn't dip below 13 points the whole time. So maybe this is a growing trend. It shouldn't be thrown out with the first case of single digit production either. Everyone has an off night here and there. That's normal. What isn't normal is a stretch of games scoring 27 points, 9 points, 39 points, and then 5 points as Jeff Green did between March 12th and March 17th of last year.
So has Green finally turned the corner (just as we were ready to give up waiting for him to do so)? Can he limit the lows without sacrificing the highs? Occasional scoring outbursts are nice and all, but the next step for Jeff Green is being a reliable scorer for his team night in and night out.
Oddly enough, the team is being inconsistent this year - looking like world beaters in one half and giving up big leads the next. If Jeff Green can contribute a steady 14 to 20 points a game would be huge for this squad. Can he keep it up? If so, he might just help this team find their own consistency and start surprising people. Or maybe he will increase his trade value enough to bring back some more valuable long-term assets. Either way, he's got a contract option this offseason and could be in line for a big pay increase if he has a career year.
It is still early yet, but perhaps Jeff Green has figured out how to be more consistent. Time will tell.