At 2019 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Javonte Green showed up in green and white and blew everyone away with his athleticism. At least once per game, and regularly more often, Green would have the crowed saying “Ohhhh!” after a play. Fans showed up to see the abundant rookie class and Tacko Fall, but came away talking about the wing with the hops.
Green’s story is a fun and inspiring one. He went undrafted out of Radford in 2015 and didn’t even receive a Summer League invite. Over the next three seasons, Green played in Spain, Italy and Germany. He went to Summer League with the Phoenix Suns in 2018, but didn’t catch on. While in Italy, Green flashed this ridiculous bit of athleticism:
Last summer, the Celtics had plenty of bigs and ballhandlers on their summer squad. Green got the call as someone they wanted to take a look at. Five games and several thunderous dunks later, Green had himself a partially guaranteed contract for training camp.
Green’s been a part-time player for Boston this season. He’s played 9.4 minutes per game over 44 contests. Most of those appearances came when Brad Stevens’ wing rotation was wrecked by injuries, or when the coach needed to inject some energy into the game.
So far, Green has done most of his work in around the paint. At six-foot-four, Green has taken a whopping 73.4% of his shots in the paint. The good news? 23.5% of his remaining shots have come from behind the arc. That’s a game that fits the modern NBA almost perfectly.
So, what’s next for the bouncy wing? Unfortunately for Green and a few others, the Celtics are facing a major roster crunch heading into next season. Boston likely only has one or two open roster spots. Green will be in a mix of five to six players competing for those spots.
The Case for a Roster Spot
·Offense: Green’s years overseas helped him improve his feel for the game. He understands who he is a player. He’s not going to do a lot with the ball in his hands, so he relies on smart cuts and running the floor. On this play, Green times his cut perfectly for the dunk:
Later in that same game, Green out-sprints the rest of the field to get to the rim. He also goes up strong for the finish, which negates any chance of the chase-down block:
As Green’s confidence grew, he used the dribble to attack bigger players. Here he takes Kristaps Porzingis off the bounce and uses his athleticism to get the bucket:
·Defense: Green often showed up as a help-defender. Here, he’s not a passive participant. Green gets involved and rejects Jarrett Allen’s follow-up:
Green is also solid as an on-ball defender. He likes to press up on his man and make things difficult, as he does here to get a steal against Terrence Ross:
First, Green does a good job navigating the stagger screens by Orlando’s bigs. Ross is a shoot-first guy and Green stays in his pocket. Then, it’s quick active hands for the steal.
Green is also pretty good at jumping passing lanes. When he does, he’s off the races:
·Intangibles: Of all the Celtics this season, Green runs neck and neck with Tacko Fall for “happiest to be here” guy. He has sort of an ever-present smile on his face. He’s a player Stevens and Danny Ainge can point to for the young guys to take lessons from. Undrafted and three years overseas before making the most of his NBA shot is inspirational. He’s also known to be an extremely hard-working guy who wants to get better. NBA rosters are best when the bottom features hungry players trying to stick in the league.
·The Contract: Green’s deal is for the minimum at $1.5 million. It’s also fully non-guaranteed. His contract doesn’t become fully guaranteed until the league-wide date of January 10. That’s great news for the Celtics, as they can afford to take a wait and see approach with how the roster comes together, and Green’s fit in that plan.
The Case against a Roster Spot
·Offense: The clips above showed some dunks and a running hook off the bounce. That’s about the entirety of Green’s offensive game right now. He hit just 26.1% from downtown. That’s simply not good enough for a smaller wing that isn’t an ace defender. Green’s also been an inconsistent free throw shooter, which doesn’t portend great success as a shooter.
Green’s also not much of a passer, as his game is all about his finishing. And his off the dribble game is based on getting to the rim. There isn’t much of a sign of a pull-up or fadeaway in the mix. That’s going to make it tough for him to score regularly at the NBA level.
·Defense: Green’s a battler. He’s really more like a small combo-forward than he is true guard/forward wing. He’ll take on bigger players, but that’s where his lack of size shows up. Green’s foul-rate is pretty high, going back to his days in Europe. Part of that is aggression, but a lot is trying to make up for his lack of size.
Off the ball, Green can occasionally get lost, especially when his man looks like he’s spotting up. That can lead to breakdowns on the defense end.
Finally, when he’s guarding much bigger players, they’ve shown a willingness to take Green down to the block and shoot over him. His incredible lift allows him to challenge shots, but the better players can get buckets over him with relative ease.
·Intangibles: This one is pretty simple: It’s not usually a great sign when you make your NBA debut at age 26. That’s tough to get past. As a prospect, Green’s mostly a finished product. He’ll learn some more about the NBA game, but his skills aren’t likely to develop all that much. Maybe with better coaching, he can improve his shooting. That’s a must if he’s going to stick in the NBA. But Green’s age works against him more than most undrafted players.
·The Contract: This one is tough, because Green’s non-guaranteed deal works against him as much as it works for the Celtics. Boston can keep Green all the way through training camp and then move on. At that point, NBA and European teams will have their rosters full. Because of that, Ainge might choose to do Green a solid and move on early. And it will come at no cost to the Celtics, due to the non-guaranteed deal. When considering keeping Green, cost is also a factor. Boston can possibly add a rookie for the same or less than the cost of what it would take to bring Green back at $1.5 million. For a team that is likely to be over the luxury tax, every little bit helps.
Javonte Green has shown he’s an NBA player. He’s probably just not an NBA player with the Boston Celtics next year. We’ve already written that Tacko Fall, Semi Ojeleye and Tremont Waters deserve roster spots. And the team will have as many as four draft picks to account for as well. That’s where math starts working against Green.
The guess here is that Green sticks until the start of free agency. If it looks like Boston won’t have roster spots, Ainge will waive Green early. That will allow him to catch on with another NBA team, or to finalize a deal to return to Europe. Considering he’ll be 27 at the start of next season, the Celtics will simply have younger options with more upside for the end of the bench.