It's put up or shut up time for Jeff Green.
During Green's five-year career, he's always been seen as a player with superstar talent who has never quite lived up to his potential. Some of that criticism may be warranted as Green has yet to really breakout, but he's never been in the right situation to showcase his talents. In Oklahoma City, he was battling for touches with one of the best small forwards in a generation in Kevin Durant and a point guard who loves to shoot in Russell Westbrook. In Boston, Green was playing second banana to Paul Pierce.
Now with Pierce gone and Green penciled into the starting small forward spot for the next few years, this is the best opportunity he has ever had to prove what kind of player he truly is and for him to try to salvage his career to show that he really is a star in this league. And the Celtics need him to seize the moment, as they have several more pressing questions to answer:
Will Rajon Rondo come back healthy? Is Jared Sullinger the real deal? Will Kelly Olynyk's game translate to the NBA? Can Avery Bradley return to his impeccable defensive form after his poor showing in the playoffs, while also becoming more consistent on the offensive end? What do the Celtics do with Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee? Is there anything from the haul of players the Celtics got for the Nets in the KG/Pierce trade that can be salvaged?
With so much uncertainty surrounding the team, whether or not they need to find a replacement at small forward need not be one of them.
Green did show flashes of brilliance last year, so much so that he earned a starting spot on the team at the end of the season and in the playoffs even with Pierce still on the roster. He should be back to 100 percent with his recovery from heart surgery complete.
His numbers per 36 minutes last year weren't terrible with 16.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg and 1.1 bpg. But Green should be expected to do more. Depending on what Gerald Wallace has left in the tank and how he fits into this team, Green should come into the year as the Celtics' best scorer and number one option. Putting up over 20 ppg should not be a difficult task considering how many looks he is sure to get.
It doesn't matter if Green is an all-star next season, as the team is rebuilding and has finally closed its window on title contending, at least for now. All he has to do is show that he can be the go-to guy Boston needs and will give consistent energy, effort and production night-in and night-out. With the team searching for its identity post Big Three, the wins aren't likely to be a good measuring stick of Green's success as a player. As long as he shows that he is a real piece to build on for the future then the Celtics will be just fine keeping him as Pierce's replacement.
As for trading Green, it just doesn't seem likely. Green's contract, which pays him an average of $9 million per year for the next three years, would be the biggest issue in any trade. The Celtics would be looking to dump his deal onto another team instead of trading him for assets. At just 26 years old, Green still has time to show he is worth that contract without too much damage to the Celtics' salary cap. Even if his value rises and he all of a sudden puts down 20+ ppg then it wouldn't make sense to ship him because the Celtics don't have a ton of options to replace him with and why trade the guy when he finally comes into his own and proves all the doubters wrong? Also, Danny Ainge had to figure Green into the building equation when he signed him to a four-year contract knowing full well that Pierce's and Garnett's time in green was quickly coming to a close.
If Green continues to only show flashes of brilliance and can't be counted on as a cornerstone of the next squad to make a run at the title, then Green could be moved to clear space. Just don't expect it to happen this year. This is a year for answering questions and seeing what the Celtics truly have to build on, not making snap judgments. The Celtics really have nothing to lose and Green has everything to gain.
@ericblaisdell13 Eric Blaisdell 8/08/2013 01:27:00 AM Tweet