When Jeff Green arrived in Memphis midway through the season from the Boston Celtics, he was going to bring a lot of great things to the table. He would fill a huge hole on the wing and provide athleticism, shooting, slashing, and even a little bit of defense. His versatility was going to open the door for so many different lineup combinations that would enable the Grizzlies to confound and outmaneuver countless opponents. Most importantly, he was going to be the missing piece for which the Grizzlies had long been searching, the piece that would solve the ultimate basketball puzzle of winning an NBA championship. Those were the ideas.
As things turned out, many had delusions of Green's grandeur. Green flirted with solid play intermittently as a Grizzly, but he never did enough to give his believers something to hang their hats on, and he certainly never produced enough to grow his doubters' faith in him by even a smidgen.
The fact that Green's stats were mostly in line with his career averages is immaterial. The consistently improper utilization of the tools at his disposal is what matters, because it is what ultimately hurt the Grizzlies most.
Occasionally, Green would execute a breathtaking play like this one:
However, the excitement produced from those types of plays was far too ephemeral. For every play Green made like the one above, he made five in which he completely ignored the advantages his size and athleticism allow him and settled for a maddening midrange jumper.
The Grizzlies have suffered from mediocre wing play for years, and people have frankly grown tired of the same issue ungluing slightly different iterations of this team in the playoffs season after season. Green was arguably supposed to be the Grizzlies' best offensive wing yet, but his lackluster decision-making ability coupled with inconsistent play soured people's opinions of him in a hurry.
On the other end of the court, Green proved to be a solid perimeter defender when he was locked in. But consistency issues popped up on defense just like they did in every other part of his game. Too often, he spaced out and lost his man on a simple cut to the rim or flare to the perimeter.
Theoretically, Green was supposed to be able to guard opposing fours, thus enabling the Grizzlies to go small. He could guard some fours in small spurts, but overall that strategy wasn't much of a factor. Big men with more size than Green overpowered him, simply going both through and over him to score. Stretch bigs could dupe him with shot fakes and quick face up moves in the post. At best, Green was a defensive wash.
To complicate matters heading into the offseason, the Jeff Green experiment didn't end on a high note. He stunk it up in the playoffs, averaging 8.9 points a contest while shooting 35.6 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from beyond the arc in the Grizzlies' eleven playoff games. Though the sole purpose of his acquisition was for his projected positive impact in the playoffs, he made little to no such contribution in either series. It's probably unfair to label Green as the main reason the Grizzlies exited the playoffs earlier than they wanted to, but Green not meeting expectations was undoubtedly *one* of the reasons.
Season in Review
The massive elephant in the room has now shifted from Green's underperformance to his looming $9.5 million player option. It's an uncomfortable situation for the Grizzlies to be in because they are completely at his mercy. They can make it abundantly clear that they don't want him back, if that happens to be the case, but they can't make him decline his option and leave the Grizzlies if he wants to stay. If he stays, that would further compound issues he has brought to the Grizzlies by limiting what the organization can do in free agency, assuming Marc Gasol re-signs.
It's fair to ask if things would be best if Green and the Grizzlies parted ways after trying things out for half of a season. With some distance from the sting of a crushing playoffs defeat, it's easy to reflect on Green's season and wonder if perhaps he would be a more consistent contributor with a full offseason to train and learn all of the schemes on both ends of the floor.
Don't let Green fool you though. At this point in his career, his past performance is probably the greatest indicator of what he will be in the future, and what he will be is probably a mediocre wing who is not worth $9.5 million for a single season. With that being the case, it's hard not to envision folks in the Grizzlies front office crossing their fingers, hoping this is the end to an unfulfilling relationship.