Is Jeff Green the key to the Celtics playoff success?
Green was working his way back from heart surgery and had just signed a much criticized four-year $36 million contract.
He came out of the gate slow, scoring just 8.7 ppg and 2.5 rpg in 15 games in November. But Green improved as the year went along and in the final month of the season, he was putting up near All-Star numbers scoring over 17 ppg, grabbing around 5.5 rpg and shooting 45 percent from three-point land and 49 percent from the floor in March and April.
The caveat with those stats is Green did most of his damage with either Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett or both not on the floor. It's important to note, but isn't the whole story. Of course Green's numbers will go down with Pierce and Garnett in the game because they need the ball in their hands as well.
What Green showed in the absence of the two future hall-of-famers was more important to the future of the team and less important to the team's success now. Green has proven he can take over for Pierce whenever the Truth hangs up his high-tops.
How far the Celtics go in the postseason hinges on the health of Garnett and Pierce, not on Green. All Green has to do is produce when he's on the floor. He doesn't need to be the team's high scorer or best rebounder and a few of those highlight dunks wouldn't hurt.
How Doc Rivers handles the starting lineup in the NBA's second season is also key. It looks like Rivers is going to keep starting Brandon Bass, but this is a mistake. The Celtics best lineup is Garnett, Green, Pierce, Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley.
Sure, some bigger power forwards could give Green trouble, but that lineup is as dynamic as Boston can get and starting Green over Lee takes away a key defensive piece. The "Pitbulls" Bradley and Lee have the ability to shut down any backcourt in the league and Green can do much more than Bass on the floor, even though Bass has been playing better as of late.
Is Green the "x-factor" for the Celtics in the playoffs? Yes, but he is just one of many. Jason Terry's playoff experience, Bradley's recent defensive slump, Shavlik Randolph's impact as well as what Chris Wilcox can add are also key.
Even without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics have the talent to beat anyone. It's just a matter of squeezing every ounce of talent out of them.
stats from Basketball Reference