Danny Ainge says fans' expectations of Jeff Green are too high

Danny Ainge made his weekly appearance on Toucher and Rich this morning, and was asked about Jeff Green's performance thus far this season. Green is coming off of his second monster game in the last two weeks, a 36 point outburst against the Sixers, and Ainge spoke about how Green is one of the few guys in the NBA capable of a performance like that. Here's the entire back-and-forth with host Rich Shertenlieb.

Ainge: “I think that other than the LeBrons, Kevin Durants and Paul Georges of the world you really don’t get consistently 25, 30+ points a night,” said Ainge. “Most players don’t ever score 36 points in a game, and Jeff’s had two in the past two weeks, 36 points and 39. I think that’s just how Jeff is. He’s a very good player and not a superstar player where we expect him to do that.”

"I don't know how many guys in the league, but maybe with all the stat people out there someone could call you guys up and tell you how many players have scored 36 points in the last two weeks in a game, it's a very, very small percentage of NBA players.

Rich: I think what frustrates people is just how far the pendulum swings. Last night was amazing, but I believe on Sunday he was 1-12. You understand why Jeff Green frustrates a lot of Celtics fans -- correct?

Ainge: "Well I understand it because I think expectations are not right".

Rich: "Well $9 million expectations I think that's what Celtics fans have"

Ainge: “Well $9 million is half of a maximum contract. Jeff is giving us 16, 17 points a game on a very efficient overall year he’s having. I think that’s what people should expect. Jeff's not going to be the guy who carries us every single night, and we don't have that guy who does that other than Rondo when he gets back to 100%."

Ok so the basic gist of the conversation is that Ainge thinks that $9 million is the price you pay for a very good player, not a great one, and that he thinks Green is playing like a very good player.

He's half right.

$9 million is not a superstar contract, and if anyone's expectations for Green are that he performs like a LeBron, Durant or George regularly for $9 million a season, their expectations are too high.

The problem with Ainge's theory is: I don't think anyone expects that. People would be happy if Green was merely "very good" consistently. But he just has not been that guy this season.

Green has absolutely had too much fluctuation in his game, and far too many off nights to make himself worthy of the $9 million salary he's earning this season. No, he's not going to go for 36 or 39 every game, or even once a week, and I think people get that. Ainge is also correct that Green is in the small grouping of players capable of going for 35+ on any given night. But that's what makes the off nights (and really, "off" is being generous) so frustrating. It's not that he has off shooting nights but still impacts the game by getting to the foul line and being aggressive. Instead, there are far too many games where he seemingly floats through 30+ minutes of action. Games where you barely notice he's on the court. And that's a major problem.

Ainge also point to Green's efficiency as a positive -- but Green has not been very efficient at all this season.

Of the 48 NBA players to put up at least 600 shots this season, Green ranks:

38th in field goal percentage - 42.2%

41st in two-point field goal percentage - 44.5%

30th in true shooting percentage - 53.1%

If you want to expand it to players that have shot 500+ times, there are 73 eligible players and Green ranks 56th in FG%, 61st in two point FG %, and 45th in true shooting %.

He's not Josh Smith out there setting records for inefficiency -- but he's not particularly efficient either.

Getting back to Ainge's "I think fans' expectations are too high" argument, I do think there is a subsection of fans that think Green legitimately sucks. And those fans are definitely wrong, and their expectations are too high. Jeff Green does not suck, not by a long shot.

But most fans would be happy if he matched last season's efficiency levels (47% FG, 39% 3 PT, 56% TS) while eliminating the games where he lackadaisically floats through 35 minutes. And if not completely eliminating them, at least making them extremely rare. Yet he's been unable to do that.

When you add in his rebounding (below average), distributing (below average) and defense (good, improving each year, but not elite) -- Green needs to be that efficient scorer putting up 18-20 PPG to be worth even half of a max contract. Scoring 16 PPG with below average percentages is not worth that kind of dough, and deep down Ainge must know that.

Then again, with the trade deadline two weeks away, did you really think Ainge would answer the question with "Yes I understand the frustration the fans have with Jeff, he's immensely talented but clearly not playing up to his salary"? I like to think of Ainge as a fairly smart guy, and that wouldn't be a smart move.

So Ainge defended his guy, and wasn't completely in the wrong for doing so. But make no bones about it -- Green has been a disappointment this season.

Listen to the entire Ainge interview with T&R here

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