Does Jeff Green Move the Needle for the Memphis Grizzlies?
On Monday, the Memphis Grizzlies executed a trade to acqure Boston Celtic forward Jeff Green.
Many are asking why Memphis would surrender a first round pick for a seemingly small upgrade at small forward, but in the West, sometimes a small upgrade is the difference between a first round exit and a deep title run. Let’s take a look at how this trade might improve Memphis.
A Void at Small Forward
The Grizzlies starting lineup consists of a very solid five players: Mike Conley, Courtney Lee, Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol. The problem for the Grizz tends to come when Allen and Lee have to take a seat. Allen has battled injuries this season and has in turn only played 26 minutes per game, a number that will likely stay there considering his age and offensive deficiencies. Behind him, things were looking bleak at small forward.
As you can see, Prince and Pondexter were not getting the job done.
Pondexter hasn’t looked the same since returning from a stress fracture in his foot that saw him miss the majority of last season. He isn’t moving as well as he used to, and he hasn’t been able to hit a shot to save his life. At 23.3%, he wasn’t even getting close to stretching the floor in an already compact front court featuring Gasol and Randolph.
The second unit isn’t better spaced either. Out of the eight most used Grizzlies lineups featuring Pondexter, seven used at least two of Gasol, Randolph, John Leuer, or Kosta Koufos. I don’t care you else you have on the floor -- when you are playing two guys who don’t shoot any threes with a small forward that shoots 23.3% from deep, you will not be scoring at a high rate. The Grizzlies were good enough to compensate partially for the lack of shooting in the starting small forward spot by getting the most out of their post play with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, but once the bench unit came in, it was a lost cause.
Prince wasn’t much better. He has practically turned into a shell of himself, and even though he was shooting 45.5% from deep, he wasn’t treated as a threat from three due to taking only 1.3 threes per game. It was almost shocking how much he was avoiding the three point shot, especially since he was making it at a career rate. On defense, Prince was practically a target other teams could exploit (with a defensive rating of 108), and at age 34, his NBA career is nearly over.
How Green Can Help
Enter Jeff Green.
Green is an athletic small forward who was Boston’s first option on offense this year. He shot only 43.4% from the field and 30.5% from three, but it’s worth noting he was forced to take more than 14 shots per game in a system that required him to often create his own shot (40.8% of his field goals made were unassisted, according to NBA.com).
As a comparison, Pondexter had 29.2% of his field goals unassisted, while Prince had 36.0%. The hope for Memphis here is that Green will be more efficient due to being a third option with the Grizzlies. The ballhandling of Conley and the passing of Gasol could set him up with open threes, and if he stops shooting from the top of the key and takes more shots from the corners, he could be a productive player.
And that’s not that much of a stretch. In 2012-13, Green was able to shoot 46.7% from the field and 38.5% from three as the fourth option on that Celtics team. A look at his shot charts from 2012-13 to this year shows the difference.
The difference is significant, and as you can see, Green is a capable shooter from the corners. He'll be able to stretch the floor enough to help this team improve.
Not a Stretch
What Memphis is hoping for is not that big of a stretch.
They are hoping they can get the Jeff Green from two years ago, which seems to be a product of circumstance rather than age, as Green is only 28 at the moment. Zach Lowe mentioned that Golden State improved significantly by seemingly replacing David Lee with Draymond Green in their starting lineup.
It wasn’t a huge change, but in the packed Western Conference, a small change is all you need to get over the top.
Memphis is hoping Jeff Green is that small change.