When the Boston Celtics set out on their 2013-14 season it appeared as though Jeff Green would be in prime position to become a go-to scorer, elevate his career and take an opportunity to become a leader on a young Celtics team. While the Celtics started well, the team’s wins have dried up as of late and Green has proven incapable of the lofty heights many may have expected prior to the season. It should not come as great surprise that the 27-year-old forward has not dramatically changed as a player, but with the opportunities and natural talent that he has, the Celtics likely had greater hopes and apparently are now looking to move him via trade. NBA.com’s Sam Smith reports that rival executives expect the Celtics to trade Jeff Green this season (as well as expecting Rajon Rondo to remain in Boston indefinitely).
More executives think the Celtics want to trade Jeff Green. They’re probably trying to persuade someone to take Gerald Wallace along with Green, though many figure they’ll eventually move Green.
Green is currently averaging 15.8 points, five rebounds and 1.5 assists this season and has started all 42 games for the Celtics. The athletic, 6’9” Green has had stretches playing shooting guard, small forward and power forward and his versatility is one of his most valuable attributes. While the numbers are solid, they are hardly what you would want from a team’s leading scorer and Green himself may be better served as a third or fourth option on a competitive team rather than trying to bare the load offensively for a young, rebuilding squad like the Celtics. He currently has three seasons remaining on his contract that will pay him around $9 million per season, so while there is some long term financial commitment to any team making a play for Green, his production lives up to his contract by comparison to the rest of the league and the right team should have no problem paying him for what he brings to a roster.
The Celtics are already locked into paying veteran forward Gerald Wallace big money for the next few years after acquiring him from Brooklyn in the offseason. Wallace is far less productive than Green and Boston will be unlikely to find a willing trade partner at least until there are fewer years remaining on his huge contract. Having nearly $20 million a season tied up in two players at the same position and neither with the ability to be a real go-to player makes little sense for a rebuilding franchise and without the option to move Wallace, it will likely be Green that is moved to provide more financial flexibility and would garner a much greater return in any deal. General manager Danny Ainge has already signaled his intent to trade this season, moving Jordan Crawford after Crawford had filled in admirably as the team’s starting point guard in Rajon Rondo’s absence. The collection of assets at Ainge’s disposal grows with every deal he makes and it appears there are a few more moves up his sleeve before he cashes those chips in.
When trying to gauge Green’s value in a trade, you can start by looking back to when the Celtics’ acquired him in 2011 from the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was then traded alongside Nenad Krstic and a first-round draft selection for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson. Perkins was, at the time, the Celtics’ long-time starting center and had a reputation as one of the toughest interior defenders in the NBA. Moving such a cornerstone piece of the 2007-08 championship team showed how much Ainge wanted to acquire Green and in hindsight the deal has also worked out tremendously for the Celtics with Perkins on a dramatic decline. There is little doubt the Celtics would like to get more than the Thunder received if they moved Green today and would be more likely to be in search of young talent and cap space as opposed to an established veteran. There are a number of teams around the league that could use a player like Green on their roster but the question is whether any will be willing to match the high price Ainge puts on his head.
With the Celtics recent nosedive in the standings, the team appears destined to miss the playoffs and be among the hopefuls in the 2014 NBA Draft lottery. Hanging on to Green and paying him over the next three seasons appears to make little sense for a team that will look completely different between now and the next time they are competing for a championship. Losing Green may cause the Celtics to lose some additional games this season but in the grand scheme of things that may not be the worst result. They currently have the fourth worst record in the league and with a stacked 2014 draft on the horizon, Danny Ainge may do everything he can to ensure he gets top value for his veteran players via trade while setting him up for the best odds possible to find the next great Celtics’ star. Some had hope that Green could be the offensive centrepiece of this team, but it is becoming clear that is not in his makeup and he would be much better suited as a valuable, versatile role player which a number of teams across the league would covet.