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Flashback to June 2007. In a draft that saw Greg Oden and Kevin Durant go first and second respectively, the Celtics selected Jeff Green fifth overall. The Celtics’ brass appeared to be drafting for the future, acquiring a potential heir-apparent to Paul Pierce. As it turned out, Green was actually drafted for the Seattle Supersonics as part of an agreement that would spin Green to Seattle for Ray Allen, and the rest is history.
Fast forward to present day and it looks as if Green is still the Celtics’ future, it just took a little while to get here. To recap, he made the all-rookie team in 2007-2008 and averaged double digits in three and a half years with the Sonics/Thunder.
The Celtics traded for Green at the 2011 trade deadline in a deal that sent fan favorite Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City. Now, much more so than when he was drafted, there were high expectations of Green to come in and perform. He went on to manage just under 10 points per game in limited minutes.
Green signed a one-year deal to stay in Boston but saw that voided when he was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm. He was forced to miss the entire 2011-2012 season due to surgery and rehabilitation.
Coming into this season there were questions of whether Green would be able to play professional basketball again. However after a remarkable recovery Green inked a 4-year, $36 million deal with the Celtics and, again, expectations were soaring.
A slow start had fans seriously questioning the worth of the young forward, unsure if he could ever fully recover. Rajon Rondo’s season-ending ACL tear on January 28th seemingly doomed the Celtics but an unexpected resurgence from Green exemplified skill and potential and helped secure a playoff spot for the squad.
Minus one star in Rondo and with nagging injuries to other veterans, Green picked up the slack. The following statistics speak demonstrate Green’s in-season development.
Further, Green averaged 25 points and 7 boards per 48 minutes after the All-Star break. The biggest takeaway from these numbers is not the increase in production but rather the efficiency at which Green performed. Similar to the league’s top scorers, Green’s field goals increased as did his shooting percentages.
This has to be encouraging for fans and front office officials in a time of transition for the Celtics. At 26, Green has played along side some of the game’s best and is still young enough for continued improvement. Such improvements were seen this season when the Celtics lacked go-to guys on a consistent basis. Green continued his increased level of production in the playoffs leading Boston in scoring with 20 points per game.
Moving forward it would appear that Green has carved out a role in the Celtics’ starting lineup. He started only 17 games this season but made the most of those opportunities, putting up 20 PPG, 6 RPG and shooting over 50% from both inside and outside the arc in those starts.
Unlike a guy like Avery Bradley, Green’s impact is felt most in the stat sheet. He will be relied upon to handle the bulk of the scoring especially if Pierce and KG are gone next season. Fortunately, he has shown consistency and reliability which have begun brewing confidence.
A more confident Green will get to the free throw line more. He is a career 78% free throw shooter but only averages 3.2 attempts per game despite a large majority of his field goals being high percentage looks.
Taking a look back at Green’s original scouting report, he was advertised as a very capable and versatile scorer with presence on both ends of the court. His size combined with natural ability was prototypical and allowed him to play all five positions. This is exactly what the Celtics needed in 2007 and it is exactly what they need now. It’s safe to say he has lived up to these expectations, but it’s now time to see if Green can take the next step.