Despite looking like a strange move on the surface, Jeff Green has been a solid addition to the Orlando Magic roster this season.
Instead he landed with the Magic, on a one-year deal worth $15 million. The money and even length of contract weren’t the issue, however; it was the fact that a player who was potentially a one-year rental would take minutes away from the younger players on the team.
This is a critical moment for the Magic and improving from within is key if they are to take that next step and become a constant in the playoffs once more.
When looking at this team’s big picture, it was unclear where Green fit in. On the one hand, he was a clear upgrade over the players already on the team.
But on the other, even if he was productive, if he leaves next season and stunts the growth of younger players before doing so, then really what was the point in him being there in the first place?
The team is in a 4-7 hole, but Green has played his part in ensuring the second unit remains competitive offensively. So much so in fact, that he has been moved into a starting role in his last three appearances.
Coming off the bench for the most part so far, Green is averaging the fewest points (8.5 per game) and second-fewest assists (1.2 per game) of his career.
The last time his numbers dipped nearly as low as this, in 2010-11, he only appeared in 26 games. He would miss all of the following season with a heart condition.
Despite the diminished numbers however, it’s clear Green has embraced his role, and as a result the team is benefiting. He’s become a more efficient and dependable player.
Backing up Aaron Gordon, he gives the Magic stability off the bench at the small forward position each night.
Offensively he’s always been mercurial at best and he has an effective field goal percentage of 48.2 for his career so far.
Given that Gordon is experiencing growing pains as he adapts to life at the 3 position, Green is the perfect complement to that each night.
If Gordon is having a poor night (which hasn’t happened yet as he’s averaging career highs in most statistical categories) Green can come in and provide instant, dependable offense.
This was especially evident in an earlier win over the Washington Wizards, with Green scoring a team-high 18 points in 27 minutes.
He’s also shooting 30 percent from three-point range, which is also a better figure than Gordon is currently posting (29.4 percent).
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More encouraging however is the fact that just under half (49.2 percent) of all of his shot attempts have come from beyond the arc so far this season.
His career average before this season from long range is just 26 percent. This shows he’s trending in the direction that will lead to success in today’s game.
So having a more dependable long range shooter who can start or come off the bench is a luxury the Magic have lacked in recent seasons.
Obviously this team has more underlying problems (like being a bottom-10 defensive team), but there’s only so much Green can do.
He was brought in to be a veteran presence who the team can trust with whatever job he given. So far, that has largely been the case.
On top of that, he’s become a more efficient scorer as well. The Magic need players who can create their own shots.
But they also need guys who can convert the chances that will come their way when the point guards tee them up.
Green has excelled on this end, with 41.2 percent of all of his shot attempts being catch and shoot efforts.
Although one in four of his shots (25.5 percent) are pull-ups, a less desired way of scoring outside of Golden State, Green is playing within the offensive system in place as well as he can.
This is arguably more impressive when you consider he spends some of his time playing with members of the second unit.
The fact that he is even taking pull-ups though is as much to do with the fact he’s always been fond of his ability to score, mixed with the inability of the Magic to manufacture him clean looks.
Some might feel that Green could be doing more offensively, especially given the career-low output in certain areas, but that’s unfair when you consider his surroundings.
The Magic are also an above-average bench scoring team (12th, averaging 35.9 points per game) and Green has played his part in that.
He’s also doing all he can given the circumstances, and his Player Efficiency Rating of 11.7 is the lowest since his rookie year.
He’s capable of doing much more with the ball in hand, but as we’ve seen from his play with other organizations, that’s not always a good thing.
Green has been known to force a play or take too much out of the ball, but with the Magic he’s kept it simple and helped where he can.
Defensively he’s not giving you much (career-low defensive plus/minus of minus-1.8), but in some ways he’s become a kind of knock-off version of Klay Thompson for this team.
That seems like a stretch, but Green is working hard without the ball, usually only takes a couple of touches and is shooting threes at a high rate for him.
Obviously he’s nowhere near as good as Thompson, and he’s a terrible defender compared to the Warriors swingman, but he’s the best the Magic have got in those areas.
So while it may not have been a move that made sense, or even that the fans wanted, Jeff Green has found a temporary home as a viable contributor for the Orlando Magic this season.
He’s ideal cover while Aaron Gordon makes the transition to small forward, and he’s toned down his puzzling offensive moves from previous years.
You can’t ask for much more from a guy signed to a one-year deal on a team that is struggling to make its new parts fit properly.