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Measuring A Year: Was the Jeff Green Trade Worth It?

One year ago this coming week, the Memphis Grizzlies made a trade that some felt would take Memphis over the top, and others worried cost way to much for far too little. After about 365 days of games and data, who was right? Part III of this week's Friday Three explores that.

Jeff Green as a Grizzly has been a mixed bag at best.
Jeff Green as a Grizzly has been a mixed bag at best.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It makes for ways to measure a year that would make even the cast of the hit musical "Rent" blush.

In slam dunks? In missed assignments? In chase down blocks, in clanking jump shots?

In draft picks? In versatility? In Twitter beefs and Vines?

Two thousand, four hundred, thirty-six minutes. For Jeff Green as a Memphis Grizzly, we can now more effective measure a year in the life, of the career, of a basketball player who is best described at this point as polarizing. A life that has been debated and dissected each and every way, with the question then still shining through now as we approach the one year anniversary of the move for the enigmatic combo forward-

Was he worth it?

To properly answer that question, at first context is drastically needed. For it is easy to look at the flaws of Jeff Green (and there are many) and instantly say that any move for Green was a mistake. But you must remember the dire straits that the Grizzlies were in at the time of his acquisition. While Memphis was 25-11 at the time of the Jeff Green acquisition (25-11...those were the days) they had cooled considerably from their 15-2 start.

They were 8-7 in the month leading up to the trade, with a net rating of -2.5 and serious issues on both offense and defense. Tayshaun Prince was the worst player on the team- of players who played at least 20 minutes per game, he had the worst net rating at -8.7. His offensive rating was 101.1, the worst of the players who played 20 minutes per game or more, and his defensive rating was 110.1, against the worst among key players on the team at the time. He was bad- pure and simple.

Jeff Green's year in Memphis was electrifying, polarizing, infuriating...and unfulfilled.

Something had to be done. An upgrade was needed.

It is also important to remember that Jeff Green was not necessarily Memphis' first choice for an acquisition. Luol Deng was reportedly a target of Memphis, and the Grizzlies were laughed at by the Miami Heat. Jeff Green was the next man up, and despite his career as a net neutral-to-negative player, especially on defense, it became clear that Green was the best available option.

Danilo Gallinari? Injured. Wilson Chandler? Not walking through that door. Nicolas Batum, Tobias Harris, your list could go on and on for days...

Jeff Green was the option...more than likely the only option.

And this is perhaps why Boston was able to pry that first round pick from Memphis, in addition to Tayshaun Prince's expiring (and eventually bought out) contract. Memphis was desperate, and likely saw the potential versatility of Jeff Green and hoped that he would rise to the level of the new company that he kept. As a star in Boston, he led a bad basketball team. Perhaps as the 4th or so best player for the Grizzlies he could make a real difference, be an answer to the question of "who can put Memphis over the top?"

Point being? It was worth a shot. What would you have rather the Grizzlies' front office do, ride it out with a player in Tayshaun Prince who, using the same numbers above, would still be the worst player on a Memphis team this season that is significantly worse than last year's squad? This time last year the Grizzlies were seen as legit contenders after their hot start. They were competing for two seeds. They were seeing a Western Conference load up on moves and trades. They did not want to be left behind.

They did what they thought they had to do. It just didn't work out.

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There were highs and lows for Jeff this past year. That has been written and shown here, there, and everywhere. There was the Jeff Green game-saving play in Phoenix...this time was on an offensive rebound, but it would not be the last time that Jeff would terrorize the Suns. There was the big game he had in Orlando against the Magic, leading the team to victory with 21 points  in his second game with the team with exclamation marks like this...

Violent athleticism that Memphians hadn't seen since Rudy Gay. It can be intoxicating...

Those vines and clips are from both the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 campaigns, and have been posted on various social media accounts and on this blog multiple times. Green was a human highlight reel throughout the past year. So many flashes, so much potential as a creator and dominant athlete...

Not enough consistency.

While Jeff Green is a tremendous physical specimen, and while an unfair amount of play gets placed on him, the fact remains that he is not "the answer" to Memphis' question about who will rise and bring the Grizzlies with them to the next level. Green is a defender who cannot be depended on...and will never be able to be depended on consistently. He is not good on the defensive end of the floor...

...he is an offensive weapon without the ammunition to consistently be effective. He too often settles for the jumper, not attacking the rim enough. His career 33.8% three point shooting, and 32.3% shooting from range in 82 games for Memphis since he arrived last year (not including playoffs) does not help create spacing for Memphis' bigs Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph...in fact, he and Zach Randolph struggle to play together because they often occupy the same space in the lane/on the block. The Memphis Grizzlies are 48-34 since the Jeff Green trade, a mark that isn't bad by any stretch, but compared to the 26-11 they were when he was acquired? Certainly a drop off.

He demands too much offensive attention in terms of usage (19.8 usage rate in his Memphis career), whereas the player he replaced, while not as good, did not take away from other Grizzlies' opportunities (Prince had a 14.2 usage rate over his time in Memphis.) He completely disappeared in the playoffs for the Memphis Grizzlies, and while Tayshaun Prince was not better during his time with the Grizzlies (Green had a 7.9 playoff PER for Memphis last season, Prince's career playoff PER for Memphis was 7.2 over two seasons) the fact remains that Jeff Green was not that much better.

He is average at best, bad at worst, and according to basketball-reference.com somewhere in the middle according to the imperfect measurement that is PER (Green has a career 13.2 PER). However, Jeff in Memphis has a 13.0 PER and a .082 Win Shares per 48 minutes. Tayshaun's PER in Memphis over three seasons? 9.2. His Win Shares per 48 minutes? .055. The question isn't whether or not Jeff is better than Tayshaun- he is, and was. The question is, did Jeff fit like Tayshaun did?

You gave up a first round pick for that?

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Two thousand, four hundred, thirty-six minutes.

Thousands of words, of characters in Tweets. Millions of YouTube views and Vine loops. Countless debates and debacles, exclamation marks and moments of infuriating flaw. Jeff Green has played 82 regular season games for the Memphis Grizzlies, a complete season, and the jury is no longer out. Jeff Green was an answer, but not the one Memphis needed. He was a solution, but not to the problem that the Grizzlies truly had.

He was an upgrade over Tayshaun Prince and is a downgrade to the roster at large. He is a highlight waiting to happen, for both himself and his opposition. He has all of the versatility and potential in the world, and yet he has yet to reach the point where either has been fulfilled. He is the scapegoat, rightfully so at times, who can leave the skeptic electrified and the believer in doubt. He is a man who has overcome so much off of the court, but can't get beyond himself on it.

He is better than Tayshaun Prince, and yet not worth a first round pick. He remains a key part of Memphis' immediate future...until he isn't, which is likely to be in the not so distant future. Trade, or his expiring contract, will likely end Jeff Green's tenure in Memphis. When that time comes, and Green leaves the Bluff City, many will rejoice, some will wish him well.

And all will wonder, one way or the other, what might have been.

Stats provided by NBA.com/stats and basketball-reference.com

Check out the rest of this week's Friday Three, and catch up on previous editions, here.

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