We're a bit over two weeks into Jeff Green's Grizzlies career now, and he's just as divisive now as he was when the team first traded for him.
In the Grizzlies' fanbase, there are the cautiously optimistic: those who are faithful in the Grizzlies front office (which has earned that faith), and who continue to believe that the process of fully integrating Green requires more time (which it does, like in any other case). There are the simply nervous, who see the many flaws in Green's game exposed, but who cling on to the good that pierces through from time to time in blind hope that it becomes more frequent later on.
And then there is the ever-expanding group of fans that see a player who just lacks the tools to benefit his team. In eight games and four starts, Green has posted per-games of 12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.5 steals, and 0.5 blocks to go with a 42.5% field goal percentage and a 36.0% three-point percentage in 28.9 minutes. The lack of efficiency is painfully glaring, and the evident athleticism has rarely translated into rebounds, steals, or blocks - the usual barometer of athletic playmaking.
Green fits the mold of the athletic 6'9" wing that the Grizzlies have lacked and desired for some time, but what he actually offers out of that role is limited.
We've already seen the benefit of having that kind of player from time to time, like in his first Grizzlies start against the Toronto Raptors on January 21st. In that game, Dave Joerger had Green defend DeMar DeRozan - an assignment that Tony Allen normally draws. That allowed Allen to take on the much more dangerous Kyle Lowry, and Mike Conley to conserve his energy on (temporary starter) Greivis Vasquez. The result: DeRozan, Lowry and Vasquez combined to shoot 10-of-42 for 29 points.
Players like DeRozan, or Joe Johnson who was held to a 3-of-12 shooting performance in part by Green in his Grizzlies debut, are exactly the kind of players that it helps to have an athletic 6'9" wing on hand for. A versatile scorer who can drive, post, or shoot off the bounce demands a defender with the physical capacity for handling those different situations.
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However, the truth is that being able to defend those types of scorers is a somewhat limited utility for the Grizzlies, especially since Allen can also take on those matchups. When Green, who has split time with both starter and bench-heavy lineups, is on, the Grizzlies have a 106.8 offensive rating and a 105.9 defensive rating (Green's off-ball defense leaves much to be desired). In a 231-minute sample, that doesn't carry much predictive power, especially as Green continues to mesh. But since joining the team, the Grizzlies have fared much better with him off the court – with a net rating of +11.5 in 201 minutes compared to +0.9 while on, and that's worth keeping in mind going forward.
The greatest obstacle for the Grizzlies to hurdle in figuring out Green's fit was always going to be his shooting. He hasn't been efficient from 3 since 2012-13, and he's shooting 31.3% this season. Like with Tayshaun Prince before him, teams don't get fussed if he has an open shot. With the Grizzlies, he's hitting a stride over the last few games and 9-for-25 overall.
Try as the Grizzlies might to integrate Green into the offense with other actions (and they've put in a fine effort to do so) with off-ball cuts, curls, and the odd post-up chance, the harm of deploying him as a non-shooter is still too problematic for a team that swears by the low block.
As a release valve in the offense, he hasn't been able to make defenses pay for stacking pressure on the Grizzlies' offensive stars. Since his start in Boston, Green's offense has trended closer into the paint, with a dip in 3-point attempt rate and an increase in shots closer to the rim. Even still, his efficiency has dipped on the whole.
The Flip Side
The Flip Side
Green's scoring has been inconsistent, with the occasional spark during which he transforms into an explosive slasher (6-of-11 for 18 points against the Philadelphia 76ers, to date his only game above .500 from the field), but many more games in which he throws up a dud (3-of-11 for 10 points in his debut against the Nets, 5-of-14 for 11 points against the Dallas Mavericks). Consistency has been a problem throughout Green's career, and at the ripe age of 28 now, the odds of him suddenly figuring it out aren't favorable.
Even if regression to the mean pulls Green's efficiency back up a bit (he's likely to make a midrange shot eventually, and he should be getting to the line more), it doesn't solve the problem. Green's offense is by nature inefficient, and the more non-shooters there are in the mix, the more problematic it is for the Grizzlies. They already have Tony Allen, who is an exponentially better defender and takes less shots in the flow of the offense, and throwing Green into the mix isn't helping.
If you want a bottom line, it's that Green is better than Tayshaun Prince. It's a low bar to clear, but for a win-now team, there should be some solace taken in that. However, the forecast going forward is only a little bit clearer. Green is still an uncertain fit, who teams will be able to exploit in a variety of ways in the playoffs and who isn't a perfect conduit to a hyper-powered offense for the Grizzlies.