One of the best things I did for myself in early 2014 was sell my Xbox 360. After years of having fun playing online games with my friends, it was finally time to distribute my focus elsewhere. Last night, per usual, I sat and pondered my existence in the universe, as well as the future of the Boston Celtics, when I realized that their decision to trade Jeff Green could affect them in a way very similar to how my choice to move on from video games changed me.
Green was Boston's leading scoring, averaging 17.6 points per game, but his play was declining, just as my satisfaction playing games was. Through the first 21 games of the year, before the Rajon Rondo rumors reportedly began, Green looked terrific, averaging a career-high 20 points per game on a league average 50.8 eFG percentage. However, in Green's final 12 games with the Celtics, he averaged only 13.3 points per game on a dismal 43.4 eFG percentage, and his defensive concentration level also slipped.
It was time for the Celtics to sell, especially considering Green's uncertain future entering the summer of 2015. With a player option worth $9.2 million, Boston reportedly believed that he'd decide to test free agency. And if Green does do that, it's quite possible that a team will overpay him considering this year's free agent class doesn't have many wings as talented as him. It quite simply made sense for Boston to move on when they did.
The Celtics will acquire a first-round draft pick that they likely won't see until 2019, an expiring contract in Tayshaun Prince, and Austin Rivers, but they received a lot more than that by making the deal when they did.
The Boston Celtics have already played two games without Jeff Green, which has given us a glimpse at how the rest of the season could shake out.
More minutes are available
Brad Stevens has had a difficult job distributing playing time this season considering he had such a deep roster to work with. It was challenging to find minutes for everyone, since most players were relatively equal and all of them deserved to play. But without Green, Stevens is now able to dispense his 33.1 minutes per game to other players on the roster, just like I was able to spend more time on writing CelticsBlog articles and scout the NBA Draft after selling my Xbox 360.
Here is how playing time at the small forward and guard positions have been distributed in the past two games, compared to the prior couple of weeks after the Rondo trade:
Everyone is benefiting from the change, especially Jae Crowder who is now receiving serious minutes with the starting gig. James Young is also getting an opportunity to play, though it may take one more move to get him more consistent minutes. Moving Green has also allowed Stevens to play his guards more frequently, as Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, and Evan Turner are all seeing an uptick of over four minutes per game.
Green is undoubtedly a quality player, but he was not in Boston's plans beyond this season, so now the Celtics are able to get a look at other players to find out if they're part of the future and help them develop, or both.
Crowder will finally get his chance
One player that's has always intrigued me going back to his college days is Jae Crowder, so naturally I was excited when the Celtics acquired him. Crowder always struck me as a player who just needed the opportunity to develop into a 3-and-D role player, and he started to receive that last season with Dallas, but the acquisition of Chandler Parsons slapped him right back on the bench with only limited minutes.
Now with Boston, he'll get the chance to continue the positive development he showed as a sophomore last season. Through 11 games with Boston he has already hustled his butt off every time down the court and he has displayed his effectiveness at defending multiple positions. Whether it's diving for loose balls or fighting through a screen, Crowder is very much like a larger version of Marcus Smart in the sense that he plays with a "never let up" attitude.
Crowder has positively impacted the team, as they have a plus-7 Net Rating with him on the floor, (107.4 offensive rating and 100.4 defensive rating), and he has yet to really hit his stride offensively. Crowder has a 49.3 eFG percentage, right around the league average, but he has not shot the ball well at all, at just 21.7 percent from three-point range.
Interestingly, 25 percent of his field goal attempts have come from above the break, which is an area he has been ineffective his entire career. I'd like to see Boston try to shift his usage to the corner, where he shooting 44.9 percent in his career, compared to just 27.1 percent from above the break.
In any case, Boston will be able to feature the 24-year-old Jae Crowder for the rest of the season and they'll have chance to find out of he's a keeper before extending his qualifying offer this summer. If Crowder is able to develop into a hard-nosed role player like Atlanta's DeMarre Carroll, then we could be seeing more of him in years to come.
Young moves up the totem pole
You got your wish, Celtics fans: James Young is now one step closer to becoming a nightly role player. After scoring 13 points in 18 minutes last week, Young attempted only a single shot in 13 minutes the past two games, but his shot frequency should increase as the coaching staff integrates him into the offense.
In eight games with the Maine Red Claws, Young averaged 22.4 points per game with a sensational 66.5 eFG percentage. Young displayed his sweet stroke from three, draining 47.9 percent of his 73 attempts from downtown, but more impressive was his development on the defensive end of the floor.
Though Young is still likely a sieve at the NBA-level, he has made large strides under the tutelage of Ronald Nored and other coaches on both Boston and Maine's staff. There is no doubt Young is a better two-way player than he was at this time last year with Kentucky, which is a good sign for the 19-year-old rookie.
Expect Young to be used primarily as a three-point threat that will occasionally drive the closeout and pull-up from mid-range. I think his minutes will continue to be limited considering his deficiencies on the defensive end (remember: the goal is still to win games), but his experience at the pro-level should help him going into next season, especially defensively.
Heavier dose of Bradley
Jeff Green had a 23.7 usage percentage this season, which led the team, and so far it appears that Avery Bradley will pick up a lot of the slack. Bradley had a usage of 24.9 the last two games, up 4.4 percent since the Rondo trade occurred in mid-December. Boston has begun using him more and he is coming through, averaging 17.3 points on 15 shots per game in 2015. Going back a little further, in the last 10 games, Bradley is red-hot from downtown, at 50 percent.
Fans have been disappointed with Bradley's progression this season, and understandably so after he signed a large contract extension worth $32 million this summer, but it's possible that more usage will help him get out of the funk he's been in and sustain a high-level of success.
I don't want to overanalyze a small two-game sample size, but I do think we should continue to see more Bradley the rest of the season. He is certainly capable of being a volume scorer, and I want the Celtics to force-feed him above the break three-point attempts if that's what it takes to develop him into a sharpshooter. With Green gone, that'll be quite a bit easier.
It may be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel after the Boston Celtics dealt away two of their best players in Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo, but there are silver linings. Boston was willing to make transactions that might help them in the future, but they're also better-positioned to make moves in the present, and that alone is enough for me to be optimistic about the direction of the franchise.