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The case for keeping Jeff Green

After Rajon Rondo's trade to the Mavericks, Jeff Green has become the latest target for armchair and real GM's as the Celtics enter a long rebuild. He's been the whipping boy whenever the team has struggled and the team has struggled a lot in the last two years, but keeping him might be Danny Ainge's best option.

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Admittedly, I'm a huge Jeff Green fan and I want him to stay in Boston.  I understand all the arguments for trading him.  The team is rebuilding.  Ainge needs to get whatever he can get no matter what.  Green creates a logjam for the development of the younger players.  He's wildly inconsistent.  His eFG% and usage rate are not analytically appealing.

I get all that and I might even agree with some of it (Forsberg does a pretty good job detailing Green's Celtics career), but I hope he stays.

Why would Danny keep him?  Consider what could happen if Green stays in green for not just the remainder of this year but also next.  He's publicly stated that he doesn't want to be traded, so presumably, he'd then be in favor of picking up his player option this summer and instead, cashing in as a free agent in 2016 when the salary cap is expected to increase substantially.  Now if that's the case, Ainge would retain Green's Bird rights and could have some leverage in a future sign-and-trade if he doesn't deem Green as a future Celtic.  That's really no different than what his value is today.

Some teams might be a little hesitant this year to trade for Green, worried that he might pick up his player option and affect their cap space next season if the short term rental doesn't work out and his value somehow diminishes (i.e. Evan Turner post-Indy).  The rumor is that Ainge is demanding a first round pick in return for Green, but there really isn't a market for swingmen right now.  Houston has already filled their holes by acquiring Corey Brewer and Josh Smith.  Teams like Memphis might not be desperate enough to give up a first rounder to upgrade that position whereas the Clippers, Pelicans, and Wizards just don't have the right assets to cobble together for a Green trade.  It's a gamble, but there could be more of a feeding frenzy in 2015-2016.

Some will argue that getting rid of Green before the February 19th trade deadline creates more immediate cap space, but for what?  With Rondo gone, is there a big time free agent that would conceivably sign in Boston this summer?  It seems highly unlikely.  The team will already have an influx of new talent with two first round picks in this summer's draft plus as many as three second rounders and as many as 11 returning players on the roster.  2016 is a more realistic year for a spending spree and Boston will have Gerald Wallace coming off the books then.

But I don't even like to talk like that because I want him back in Boston for not just next season, but moving forward.

On the court, he's the perfect fit in Brad Stevens' system.  All those preconceptions about whether he can be a go-to scorer or a good third or fourth option can be thrown out the window when you talk about Green under Stevens.  Yes, he's "slumped" since Rondo's departure.  Everybody has.  It's shell shock.  The roster is now bloated with redundancies and nobody is immune to a little inconsistency as the team tries to figure things out.

But if you look at what makes the prototypical player in the motion offense, it's Green's combination of speed, size, and versatility.  He may not be as cerebral as Rondo, but his quick twitch skills are more suited for Stevens' system.  He'll never be the guy you can throw the ball in to to either get a clutch bucket or create for his teammates, but he'll never be asked to either.  Nobody is featured in the new Celtics offense or relied on too much on defense.  Fans have been on Green since he came to Boston for not being aggressive enough, but Green's complementary nature fits perfectly with his coach's team first attitude.  If he doesn't have it, he'll gladly pass it to the next man up, but we know that if there's the slightest crack in the defense, Green will attack the gap and finish.


Cynics will say that that's the perfect no pressure, no expectation situation for the passive Green to play in.  Tankers would rather the Celtics lose and improve their lottery chances, so maybe Green is the perfect hapless veteran to lead this team through the minefield of moral victories and blow out losses.  I know it's January, but bah humbug to the haters.

Green is only 28-years-old.  I think he seems older because a lot fans have tried to pigeonhole him into a role and he's frustrated them time and time again by not performing up to their standards.  Frustration mounts quicker than joy so Jeff Green has become the annoying pebble in their collective shoes.  But let's just take a second to review Green's timeline with the C's.  He played admirably after getting traded to Boston in 2011, missed the entire following season with his heart surgery, played great down the stretch of that the Big Three swansong sans Rondo, and stumbled through last year when the team was in flux.  And with the Rondo trade three weeks ago, it's yet another year of inconsistency for Green.  Maybe I'm making excuses for him, but I give him the benefit of the doubt because the team hasn't exactly been consistent either.  I still don't think we've seen the best of him.

However, what has seemingly been consistent is Ainge's support for and faith in Green.  To the dismay of many, he gave Green a 4-year, $35M deal without ever seeing him play a game after his heart surgery.  And even yesterday, after Marc Stein reported a rumor that the Grizzlies were interested in trading for himAinge came to Green's defense:

"Jeff has been our best player this year and has had a fantastic year," said Ainge. "Last night, he didn't have a good game - he got in foul trouble early - but he hit two big shots to seal the victory down the stretch. He has been our most consistent scorer."

I'm with you, Danny.  That may be GM speak for "if anybody wants our best player, you're going to have to pay up," but the opportunity cost of keeping Green and potentially seeing him walk is much less than what Ainge might have lost had he let Rondo leave in free agency.  I genuinely believe that Green wants to stay with the Celtics, he'll pick up his option in July, we'll go through another round of trade rumors, and I'll be back here campaigning for him again.

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