Isn't it incredible just how much your opinion of a topic or person can change in just one year? Sometimes we get so fixated on the moment that we lose sight of the fact that that things can change drastically in just seconds, months, or years. That's what happened to my opinion this year in regards to Boston Celtics small forward Jeff Green.
I published a CelticsBlog column in January 2014 titled, "Won't Get Fooled Again," which was about Green and his inability to reach the next level as a player. My goal was to implore Celtics fans to not get "fooled" by Green's occasional explosive games, and instead realize that he's just another guy who plays his designated role well and only sporadically show signs of his untapped potential.
But now I've had a change of heart.
The 6-foot-9 forward is having the best season of his career, averaging 19.7 points per game on a 50.8 effective field goal percentage, with team-highs in minutes per game (34.1) and usage percentage (24.5). With a clearly defined role that maximizes on his strengths, he has been able to produce a consistent scouting output, with eight games over 20 points.
Green has proven me wrong and I think it's even possible that we have yet to see the best from him this season. He won't become a legitimate star, but finally, at 28-years-old, he has taken the next step that almost everyone knew he should've taken years ago.
What's really odd is that fans aren't really talking about Green's exceptional start to the season, maybe because they've grown tired after a few years of hoping, praying, and moaning for this consistent level of production.
More on Jeff Green
More on Jeff Green
There are certainly no guarantees that Green will sustain this success, but over one quarter of the season has passed, which is a large enough sample to make me feel confident in saying he is undoubtedly an improved player.
Over on About.com, I briefly detailed a few of the improvements Green has made, including his added muscle and new ball handling skills. Here on CelticsBlog, we're going to take a more in-depth look at those advancements, as well as some of the implications statistically and financially. As a note, we will be focusing solely on Green's contributions on the offensive end of the floor.
Green's footwork has finally progressed
No one criticizes Jeff Green's footwork and ball handling more than I do, so I was ecstatic when I saw that he developed a "euro-step" this summer. He hasn't used it frequently, but adding just that move has made a difference in both transition and the half court.
As basic as this move is, it was virtually non-existent for Green last season. Instead of plowing through the defender, where Green often got called for offensive charges, he is now able to pick his spots and go around.
At practice, Green has also worn weighted gloves that are meant to make the ball feel slippery, which in turn makes the actual act of dribbling easier. Don't get me wrong, Green's footwork is still an eyesore, but he has done a far superior job of keeping the ball lower, which helps him change directions much more quickly. Predictably, his statistics have improved too:
|Year/Stat||FG% Less than 5-Feet||FG% on Drives (SportVU)|
The "less than five feet" column details Green's percentage on all shot attempts within five feet of the rim. Though we're working with a small sample size here, a 5.3 percent increase from last season is notable.
His slight increase of 4.3 percent on drives is arguably more promising. SportVU defines "drives" as, "any touch that starts at least 20 feet of the hoop and is dribbled within 10 feet of the hoop and excludes fast breaks." Of the 118 players that have attempted at least 50 drives this season, Green ranks 28th with his 52.4 percentage, and of all wings, he ranks 13th, smack in the middle of Gerald Green (53.1 percent) and LeBron James (51.0 percent).
More muscle, more production
The new Jeff Green can't be discussed without mentioning the 10 pounds of muscle that he added this summer, which was obvious when he showed up on media day; the already sculpted Green came into camp looking like a Greek God.
Green's added bulk has certainly helped him get to the free throw line, with a career-high 0.35 free throw attempts per field goal attempts.
Instead of attacking the rim and bouncing off defenders, he is driving through them, which has allowed him to get to the line at a much higher rate. The Celtics are ranked 28th in the NBA with 0.24 free throws per field goal attempts, so Green's ability to get to the line has kept them from the bottom of the barrel.
Green's size has also made him more of a threat on the low post, as he can now overpower slimmer wings or slower bigs that get matched up on him. As of late, Brad Stevens has done a fantastic job of making the offense go through Green when the mis-match is there, since putting him in spots where he can easily succeed is crucial.
But have Green's improvements really helped?
One week ago, ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg reviewed Green's performance so far this season in a fantastic feature article, "The good, the bad, and the ugly," and in the latter section, he pointed out that Celtics have performed remarkably better with Green off the court than they have with him on it.
With Green on the court, Boston has a net rating of minus-5.3, but with him off, it's plus-7.3. This would imply they are 12.6 points per 100 possessions better with Green riding the bench.
But I think that's hogwash. Green has arguably been Boston's best player this season, and is absolutely one of top three. Forsberg was correct when he pondered if this could be "some sort of statistical anomaly," which I certainly believe it is. I value offensive ratings and defensive ratings heavily, but do not place much value on the on/off differential in this particular case. I'd honestly go as far to say that it means zilch about Green and a lot more about Boston's starting lineup as a whole.
Do advanced stats support my film observations?
Let's take a look at ESPN.com's Offensive Real Plus/Minus rating (ORPM), which is a "player's estimated on-court impact on team offensive performance, measured in points scored per 100 offensive possessions."
Green had a minus-2.14 ORPM last year, but has seen that number jump to minus-0.02 this season. He's still stuck in the negatives, but the progression does show statistically.
A new statistic developed by the brilliant Daniel Myers called Box Plus/Minus was recently added to Basketball-Reference, which is a "box score-based metric for evaluating basketball players' quality and contribution to the team... BPM relies on a player's box score information and the team's overall performance to estimate a player's performance relative to league average."
Green has a plus-1.0 offensive BPM, which suggests he is slightly better than the average player per 100 possessions. This ranks him 90th of all players that have played over 100 minutes this season, so it's not like he is a shining star statistically, but it is his first year in the positives, with a previous career-high of minus-0.1.
Considering that both BPM and RPM suggest that Green has experienced an offensive surge so far this season, I do feel more confident in my film-based observations. However, both BPM and RPM consider Green as roughly an "average" offensive player, while I would consider him to be quite good.
How does Green's progression change Boston's plans?
I'll admit, that I never expected Jeff Green to take this step as a player; at 28-years-old, I thought he was who he was. At $9.2 million per over the next two seasons, Green had a contract that I was comfortable with, so in my eyes, there was nothing wrong with his production.
But despite his improvements, I still believe that he is very replaceable. I'd prefer to see the Celtics somehow land a true go-to scorer at the wing position. Considering their obvious pre-draft interest in both Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, I think they feel that way too. That's not a knock on Green, because he's a quality player, but it's more about finding a guy that can play in the mold of Paul Pierce at the end of games.
And I still wonder if the Celtics feel that way even today.
Jeff Green is playing the best basketball of his entire career, but could it be time to sell high?
That's a question I've bounced around in my head a lot this season and I don't have a definitive answer, but I'd lean towards "yes." But this assumes another team is willing to pay the price, which I'm not quite sure how to value at this point of the season.
Here's the dilemma for Boston: Green has a $9.2 million player option for 2015-16 and if he sustains his current success over the course of the season, you just have to assume that he will decline the option and go for a large contract in free agency. Green's agent, David Falk, wouldn't be doing his job properly if he told Green to do otherwise, and Falk is one of the best in the business, so that's unlikely to happen.
If he hits the market, someone will overpay, especially since versatile and talented wings will be scarce next summer. It's not out of the question for another team to give him a deal similar to Chandler Parsons (three years, $46.1 million) or Kyle Lowry (four years, $48 million).
Green might want to return to Boston, since he says he's never been happier, but would Boston really want him back? With Rajon Rondo possibly receiving close to a max contract, in addition to Boston's plans of landing another high-profile star, I'm not convinced that Green will be a part of the future.
And if that is the case, then why not unload him when the time is right? I want to resist speculating about any possible deals, but I do believe that almost all of the teams that Adrian Wojnarowski listed as active in trade talks look like solid landing spots for Green.
Jeff Green is having the best season of his career for the Boston Celtics, and fans should be very excited about his development, but if he maintains this level of success, he will most certainly be one of the hottest names on the trading market. And if someone comes calling with a strong offer, Boston might want to listen and not get caught up in the moment, because the journey towards Banner 18 is a marathon, not a sprint.