Does Jeff Green Suck on Defense?


Copyright 2011 Oklahoman
February 25, 2011
Section: SPORTS

Green became the odd man out in OKC

The Thunder doesn't have as much talent as it did before the trade deadline.

That's because it didn't bring in anyone as good as Jeff Green.

In one of the biggest surprises of the trading deadline, the Thunder sent the versatile swingman to the Celtics and dealt away a significant piece of its young, talented core. Green is a starter, a contributor, not to mention a big-time ballplayer. No player that the Thunder acquired Thursday is as good as he is. Not Nazr Mohammed. Not Nate Robinson. Not even Kendrick Perkins.

Green has been playing out of position for as long as the Thunder has been in Oklahoma City. Occasionally, he'd have a chance to play small forward, but if the Thunder wanted its best players on the floor at once, Green had to play power forward. That wasn't a spot Durant could play.This much is clear with the team's decision to trade Green. If Serge Ibaka wasn't ready to take over that No. 4 spot and give the Thunder a true power forward, the Thunder wouldn't have made the trade sending Green to the Celtics. With Green undersized and outmatched almost nightly, opposing power forwards routinely ran through the Thunder.

Last Tuesday's loss at Memphis marked the moment the issue became unavoidable for the Thunder. Green was woefully outplayed in his matchup with Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph, who out-rebounded Green 16-0 and outscored him 31-8. It was only the third time in Green's career that he failed to grab a rebound. It was the umpteenth time Green has been bullied on the block. That's not an indictment of Green. At his natural small forward position, Green has plenty of value. But at power forward Green walks into nearly each game out of position and over his head.


As far as I'm concerned, that last paragraph settles the debate. Throw whatever stats you want at me, but I'm going into this season with Jeff Green having a clean slate. There are only two players sized 6-8 who could effectively defend the Zach Randolph's of the world, and since Jeff's last name is neither Russell nor Cowens, I'm gonna give him a pass on this issue (for now).

Hell, does anyone remember the regular season game against the Lakers where Bynum bullied KG into position for a game winning lay-in? This is 7-1 Kevin Garnett, one of the greatest defenders in NBA history. Evaluating Jeff Green's defensive ability playing out of position against players bigger, taller, and stronger than him is ridiculous.

Do we have any evidence that Jeff Green may surprise us on D?

Well, yes, we do.

But although more offense from Green would be nice, his job against the Heat is largely to bother LeBron James as much as he can. Green was 5 pounds tougher at both ends of the court Saturday, but his part (along with Paul Pierce) in holding James to 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting was most appreciated by his coach.

"He was huge," Doc Rivers said. "I mean, it's a great example where probably in Jeff's career he's been judged on points scored, and maybe for the first time in his career he was as valuable as he's ever been without scoring. He scored a couple points, but his defense, his pressure, getting up, his deflections, him running the floor, stretching the floor for other people — that's the Jeff Green we want to see every night. It was great. He has to keep doing that."


Beyond defense, I think we may be surprised with #8 on the other side of the ball, too.

With 2:51 remaining in Thursday's win over Orlando, Thunder forward Jeff Green nailed a game-changing 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer that pushed the team's lead to seven. It was the latest in a long line of crunchtime plays Green has made in a Thunder uniform.

This season alone, Green has delivered a driving game-winning layup at Detroit, a huge last-minute hustle play at Portland when he saved the ball from going out of bounds, three straight free throws with 4.8 seconds left to extend a game against New Jersey to triple overtime and a key stretch of smothering defense on Indiana center Roy Hibbert late in a win over the Pacers.

"I'm always confident in myself no matter how I'm shooting," Green said of his knack for providing key plays. "If I'm 0-for-11 when the time comes or if I'm 7-for-7, I'm going to shoot the ball if it's in my hands and I have an opportunity to make a play




FLCeltsFan said...

Excellent post! Everything that we have to judge Green by is with him playing out of position against power forwards. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt. This season we will see him at his natural position and I think may surprise us on both ends of the court. (and this is coming from someone who still hates the fact that Danny traded Perk). Add the fact that he has a renewed sense of purpose both on and off the court after his heart surgery, and I'm excited to see what he does this season.

By the way, thank you for not referring to him as "employee #8" :D

bballee said...

Really appreciated the post! I've felt that the blogosphere was selling Jeff short but had nothing to back my feelings up. This has been the nicest bump for my psyche in the month of August. Always glad to see you look up from the wayback machine (not that I don't enjoy your retrospective offerings) and shine the light of your intellect on this century.

Lex said...

Jeff green mania has begun!

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