Originally posted on November 13th, 2013.
8 – JEFF GREEN
Ah, good old Uncle Jeff. Lover of Drake, sugar cereals, and Katy Perry. The 6’9″, 27-year-old small forward was drafted 5th overall by Boston in 2007, immediately traded to Seattle in the Ray Allen deal, and traded three years later back to the Celtics for Kendrick Perkins. Besides Rondo, Jeff is probably the most polarizing player on this team. When we gave him a 4 year, $36 mil contract coming off a season where he was sidelined for its entirety with an aortic aneurysm, a lot of fans were bewildered. He had played well before – he consistently put up 16 & 6 numbers when he started for the Thunder – but is this guy really worth an expensive four year investment? Can he be a go-to scorer when Paul Pierce retires (or is traded to the Nets)? He seemed to answer this question after the All-Star break last year, when he put up 17.3 PPG on 49.5% shooting and 43.9% from 3, including a fantastic 43 point performance in a losing effort against LeBron James and the Heat. In six games in the first round series against the Knicks, he averaged 20.3 PPG on similar percentages. After the Brooklyn deal, one question was on everybody’s mind: Can Jeff Green be the number one scoring option on an NBA basketball team, even a mediocre one? Eight games into the season, the answer so far is: Sure. He’s not putting up 24 & 7 like the most optimistic Celtics fans would have hoped, but he is putting up similar numbers to what he did last year after the All-Star break, and his percentages are still stellar. We’ll see what he can do for the remainder of the season. Uncle Jeff is a talented offensive player. Tremendously athletic, his favorite and most effective move is the right-handed drive down the lane; he either uses his strength to bully his defender or uses his quickness to get past him to the rim, where he finishes strong. He’s also developed into a terrific shooter from three-point range. Last year he shot a scalding 46% on corner threes in 105 attempts, and he’s shot 6/10 from the corners this year. He’s not the best ball handler, but he’s not at all a liability. Defensively, he’s, in a word, solid. He has the quickness to guard small forwards, which he usually does now, but when guarding power forwards, like he did for a good amount of last year, he is susceptible to being bullied in the post by bigger, stronger players. He’s a bit of a tweener, spending some time at PF last year and even starting at SG for the first few games this season, but with the plethora of power forwards and shooting guards we have on the roster, I’m sure he’ll spend most of his time at the 3, where he belongs.
It’s tough to say where Jeff fits in with the future of the team. We have him locked up for three more years, including this season, but I can easily see him being traded for young talent and picks if Danny Ainge decides to drive the tank at full speed. With no one knowing how long this rebuild could take, Jeff could be in his 30s before this team is really competing. I really like him as a player, my only problem with him is that I’m not really sure how he fits in Boston’s current situation.
9 – RAJON RONDO
RAAAJOOOON RONDOOOOO!! Rajon is the most polarizing, but undoubtedly the best player on this team. A 6’1″ point guard playing in his eighth year out of Kentucky, he was drafted 21st overall by Phoenix in 2006, but was traded immediately to Boston for a first-rounder and cash considerations. Rajon is pretty universally regarded as one of, if not the best passer in the NBA. I’m also pretty sure that he’s a wizard. Rajon really began to come into his own in the 2008 postseason, and he has continued to elevate his play throughout his career. Craziest Rondo statline: in 14 games in the 2009 postseason, he was just .3 rebounds and .2 assists per game away from averaging a triple double. Only five people – Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Fat Lever, and Jason Kidd – have averaged a triple double in a single playoff SERIES. For Rondo to come that close in 14 games is pretty mind-blowing.
Rajon was on pace last season to tie his career high in points, average over 11 assists per game for the third straight year, and set a career high in rebounds, but his season came to a screeching halt when he tore his ACL in a January game against the Heat. Besides an inspiring win streak immediately after the injury, the Celtics struggled without him, finishing just a game above .500 and losing to the Knicks in the first round. The big questions this year seems to be whether, when he returns, he can:
1. Increase his scoring. He never had to shoulder much of a load before, but with the departure of two offensive threats, he needs to score more.
2. Maintain his high assist totals and run the team as well as he did before. A few Rondo detractors are arguing that the only reason Rajon put up such high assist totals was that he played with three Hall of Famers for the majority of his career. Well, are those detractors right? We’ll have to see.
Offensively, Rondo is about as pure of a point guard as one can imagine. His court vision is matched only by Chris Paul and Steve Nash; I’d argue that his flashiness is matched by no one. The downside to this is that he sometimes actively searches for a pass when he has a relatively easy shot available. He’s been called a “stat whore” and an “assist padder,” and sometimes it’s hard to disagree – especially during his slightly absurd 10+ assist streak that continued into the beginning of last year, in which he was very actively pursuing assists when he hadn’t reached double digits near the end of games. While his jumpshot is definitely a weakness, he’s really improved over his career, shooting a cool 51%on midrange jumpers last year (albeit defenses sag off him frequently). He is yet to expand his range to beyond the 3 point line (.241 for his career). He’s lightning quick, and crafty at getting to the basket, and he drives-and-dishes so often that defenses always seem a little surprised when he actually shoots it. I think that if he’s going to increase his scoring this season, he’s going to need to rely on his driving ability a lot more. Defensively, he’s definitely above average. He’s been selected to the All-Defensive team four times, twice on the second team and twice on the first; this is more due to his gaudy steal numbers than to his on-ball defense. Rajon’s length helps him a lot on the defensive end, and willingness to gamble on-ball and in passing lanes is both a blessing and a curse. I’ve seen him whiff on a steal and let his man get by him too many times. Don’t get me wrong, he’s definitely an above average defensive player.
In terms of how Rajon fits in with the future of this team, he’s in a similar situation as Uncle Jeff. He’s 27, known to have a volatile personality, and we’re not exactly sure of his stance on wasting a few years of his prime on a rebuilding team. Again, we don’t know when this team will be competing again, and while his court vision will never leave with age, his quickness will. Nevertheless, he’s a player I would always want on my team, simply due to his unselfishness and court vision. If we don’t trade him this year or next year, which is definitely a possibility, he’s most likely going to demand a much higher deal than his current $11 mil / year deal, and I’m not sure if the Celtics are willing to pay that. He’s by far the best player on this team and when healthy a top 5 point guard in the league, and I love his game, but unfortunately his future with the Celtics is up in the air, and his Paul rating reflects that. Sorry, Rajon.