The past couple of days have been...interesting...around here. Debate has swirled, takes of the highest degree of hotness have been dealt. Jeff Green sucks, Jeff Green makes us better, thanks to Quincy and Tayshaun for all you did during your times here in Memphis. Trades over the course of several days, and apparently over the weekend, make for all the more time to dissect and evaluate what has been gained, and what has been lost, in the wake of the biggest trade since the Rudy Gay deal of 2013.
Finally, we get back to basketball.
And finally, we get to see what Jeff Green actually looks like in Beale Street Blue. Hyperbole and hypotheticals aside, the pursuit of a championship kicks into high gear for the Memphis Grizzlies as they begin to utilize their newest acquisition. Questions abound, fair queries that will almost surely take game minutes and a stretch of 8-10 games at the very least to answer. Looking ahead to this next stretch of basketball for Memphis, how head coach Dave Joerger answers these questions will not only impact the team's immediate future, but how the West aligns heading into the all important post-All-Star-Game stretch.
Hope he's a fast learner. Let's take a look at some of the uncertainties in this newer, Green-er world.
Should Jeff Green Start?
It has all the makeup of a prize fight-
AND IN THIS CORNER...
LET'S GET IT ON!
All joking aside, as Green becomes integrated into the lineup, there is a good chance he comes off the bench to start his Grizzly career. As the system becomes more familiar, however, Joerger's starting unit will come under more and more scrutiny. The major question heading into the season for many was how the roster would succeed without a true small forward in its starting lineup. While Green can play either forward position, he fits the bill of a traditional small forward more and better than anyone that has been on this Grizzlies squad so far this season.
So, question answered, right? Not so fast. Courtney Lee and Tony Allen have both had success in their roles so far in 2014-2015. Courtney Lee, whose regression to the mean looks good from here, is still shooting at an impeccable clip compared to last season's performance with the Grizzlies.
Lee's 2014-2015 Shooting Chart-
And Lee's 49-game regular season run as a Grizzly last season-
There's still time for it to cool off, but Courtney's offensive prowess and efficiency, especially off of catch-and-shoot opportunities (167 of his 379 points has come off of these chances) have helped keep Memphis properly spaced offensively, and have especially helped the likes of Mike Conley, who is having a career year from beyond the arc himself (44%).
And Tony Allen? He is quietly having a dark horse Defensive Player of the Year season. Ross Wooden of the Grizzlies tweeted out this chart recently, and it is impressive.
Dominant. Couple that with his 2.2 steals per game (tied for 3rd in the NBA), and TA is again in the mix for a 1st Team All-Defensive selection.
Should Jeff Green come in and mess this up? Wouldn't it be easier for Green to truly replace those that have left and come off the bench, taking on the minutes that were once occupied by Tayshaun Prince and Quincy Pondexter (and likely Jon Leuer)? Perhaps, but it is hard to picture the Grizzlies giving up a future 1st round pick in exchange for a glorified 6th man, right?
The answer perhaps lies in the past. The last (and only) time Jeff Green started less than 20 games in a season while playing in over 80 was 2012-2013. He played 27.8 minutes per game and had a net 0 efficiency rating, with both his offensive and defensive efficiency numbers being 104. He has only been in the negatives since, and was only even one other time in Boston, the year he was traded from Oklahoma City to Boston, 2010-2011, that was also shortened by the lockout. His shot chart in 2012-2013, in that reduced role, was in spots, dare I say...promising?
45.7% shooting from beyond-the-arc in the corners. Compare that to this current season.
40% from the corners, and 43.4% shooting overall compared to Green's 46.7% overall from that 2012-2013 season. Green off the bench can give a fresh look to the starting lineup without having to be a starter at all. Subbing him in for Allen gives Memphis 5 true offensive threats on the floor all at the same time, something that the Grizzlies have not had in...well...a long time. Subbing Green in for Lee allows for Tony Allen's defensive tenacity to stay on the floor and forces opposing defenses to adapt to a new offensive threat different from Courtney Lee, with a uniquely athletic and versatile skill set.
Jeff Green playing with the possible new all-bench unit of Beno Udrih/Nick Calathes/Vince Carter/Kosta Koufos also has the makings of an offensively creative crew. Dribble drive penetration, mid-range scoring, or pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop - all are possible and that ambidexterity would make the Grizzlies' reserves that much more of a threat to extend leads while the starters rest. You can always insert Green with the starters in other parts of the game.
Yes, the situations are different; Green would be playing alongside new players, in a new scheme. But in the past, reduced minutes, a reduced role, wreduced usage (22% in 2012-2013, compared to 23.7% this season), and fewer shooting attempts (only 10 per game in 2012-2013, as compared to 14.4 so far this season) have shown that they could make all the difference in the world for Green. Is it possible, perhaps even likely, that Green eventually starts? Sure. Could he still be successful in that reduced role as a starter? Absolutely. Let's see how he does coming in as a reliever in the first quarter though, an injector of offensive energy to help get over the lull that Memphis falls into sometimes in the second halves of opening quarters. It isn't broken. Let's not over-think it...at least not yet.
The Early Verdict: Start off on the bench, enter the game as the first sub in for either Tony Allen or Courtney Lee, depending on individual play/match-up.
Is Green a Small Forward or Power Forward?
Why does it have to be chocolate or vanilla? Why can't it be a swirl? If Green is coming off the bench early for one of the two wings, why can't the next sub be Vince Carter for Zach Randolph and why can't Jeff Green slide down to that power forward spot? During that most recent successful season for Jeff Green in 2012-2013 in which he posted his career high PER of 15, he is listed on Basketball-Reference.com as a Power Forward primarily. Green has the height of Tayshaun Prince, he isn't quite as long but has more size and strength. If Prince played Power Forward (which he did and did well multiple times), Green surely can.
And he should! He can score well out of that position, using his athleticism and ability off the dribble to create mismatches against slower, bigger bodies. Take this recent transition opportunity against the Chicago Bulls' Nikola Mirotic.
Jeff surely notices the opportunity in front of him, seeing only Mirotic and a far behind Kirk Hinrich as the only things standing between him and an attempt at the rim. Green is different from the last athletic rangy forward that the Grizzlies had, Rudy Gay, in that he has the ability to consistently penetrate off the dribble. This skill comes in handy in open space, especially against larger bodies at the Power Forward spot.
Hinrich recovers better than anticipated, but a burst of acceleration off the dribble gives Green the step he needs. He gets into the body of Mirotic to create contact and earns an and-one attempt on a shot in the lane. Efficient use of a mismatch in open space.
Defensively Green can hold his own, and any possible defensive issues can be negated to an extent simply by sliding Green over whichever big is less of a threat to score at the time, allowing for Kosta Koufos or Marc Gasol to defend the bigger/better body. If rebounding is a concern, you can view cleaning the glass as you view spacing the floor; surround him with players whose strength that is. If Green comes off the bench, he will play alongside Kosta Koufos a good bit in that role. An Udrih/Carter/Allen/Green/Koufos lineup provides athleticism, spacing and rebounding through TA and Koufos. Depending on match-ups, Zach Randolph could play a small-ball center alongside Green, enabling Jeff to work the elbows and mid-range.
Yes, you perhaps sacrifice defensive personnel a bit in that kind of a line-up. Sometimes in order to get out of the mud offensively, you will have to relent some defensively. Scheme is more important in the grand vision of things; as Green learns to play within himself and Coach Joerger's system, short bursts of time in which offensive explosiveness is maximized with less-than-ideal defensive personnel will be more and more possible. These "kickstarts" could prevent and/or long runs of cold shooting, or could perhaps close out teams by extending runs beyond their usual length because of Green's entry into the game as that stretch four.
It is a gift to have a player capable of creating mismatches in a variety of ways. Jeff Green will naturally play a good amount of his minutes on the wing, but if you really want to keep opponents guessing/on their toes he should be the Grizzlies' main forward off the bench, not just Small Forward.
The Early Verdict- If Green gets 30 minutes a game on average, allow 16-18 to be on the wing and 12-14 to be at Power Forward as the true back-up to Zach Randolph. Jon Leuer...better luck next year.
Who Finishes Out Games?
In some ways this question is more important than who starts. Fans of the Memphis Grizzlies know that Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and company have a flare for the dramatic. Their new teammate shares that flare. Take this clip from last season against the Miami Heat.
And another from last season, this time against the Cavaliers.
And of course, who could forget how Green put Tennessee's own Vanderbilt University away in the NCAA Tournament so many years ago.
Jeff Green can hit the game winner too. But between the starting unit, Green and Vince Carter there are only so many spots for "Uncle Jeff" to slide in to. Again, the answer depends on situational basketball. This aspect of Green, his versatility, is what makes him so valuable to Memphis. Need a 3? Conley/Udrih/Lee/Carter/Green. Need a stop against an athletic/stretch power forward? Conley/Lee/Allen/Green/Gasol. The Grizzlies now can better respond to lineups that are being thrown out against them through the ability of Green to be malleable. Either forward spot, defending multiple positions, scoring the basketball off the dribble, in the mid-range or from beyond-the-arc.
End of game situations just potentially became more difficult due to unpredictability for opponents of the Memphis Grizzlies. It all comes down to utilization.
The Early Verdict- Depends on the situation. Green should be in the late-game mix regularly though.
Has Jeff Green underachieved a good bit of his NBA career? Sure, but that is as a player who a team can be built around. He does not have to be that in Memphis. If put in the right situations, he can serve as a great complimentary piece, in a way the anti-Rudy Gay. He can be the athletic, versatile wing who doesn't need to touch the ball on every possession to feel a part of the Grizzlies' process. He can create mismatches against smaller wings and larger power forwards, forcing teams to react to how Memphis wants to play. He can get out in transition and change the pace of the game; like a relief pitcher in baseball, he can give the Grizzlies' opposition a look they haven't seen from Memphis yet.
And this is what he brings to the table that is most valuable. He is different. He is multifaceted. He allows for Dave Joerger to expand the floor and run, or get into offensive sets, cutting to the rim alongside Tony Allen. He has the ability to pass off of drives to an open Courtney Lee, forcing defenses to respect his offensive game and creating more opportunity for his teammates like Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
The page of Grizzlies history has been turned. Jeff Green has arrived, and with him comes a world of possibilities. It will be up to himself and Coach Joerger to see those possibilities fulfilled.