Jeff Green has always had the skills. The 33-year-old forward, who now plays backup center for the small ball Houston Rockets, averaged double-digit scoring his first eight straight seasons in the NBA.
And he’s always had resiliency. In 2011, he flunked his physical with the Boston Celtics when doctors detected an aortic aneurysm — a dangerous condition that left untreated could lead to aortic rupture — and was forced to undergo heart surgery which sent him to the sidelines for the entire 2011-2012 season.
Incredibly, he came back into the league better than ever, racking up a 43-point game and two 39-point games before eventually averaging a career-best 16.9 points per contest for Boston in 2013-2014.
But despite occasionally looking like one of the best players in the league, Green lacked the consistency to take that next step, and as a result, he’s bounced around the league quite a bit, with Houston being his ninth city stop in a career tour that’s gone from the Oklahoma City Thunder, to the Celtics, then the Memphis Grizzlies, followed by the Los Angeles Clippers, Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards, and Utah Jazz.
Green came to H-town on February 18 of this season, picked up off the scrap heap after the Jazz released him back in December after he was averaging a career-low 7.8 points per game, and he’s been a pretty slick pickup by Daryl Morey ever since touching down in Houston.
Standing 6’8”, Green’s been perfect as a small ball center off the bench, and amazingly enough, has three inches on Mike D’Antoni’s first team center, P.J. Tucker.
Since coming to the Rockets, Green has averaged 11.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and a steal per game on 55 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from three. That ability to cash the three is what makes Green such a good fit for the Pocket Rockets philosophy.
Spacing is the key, and Green provides a ton of it, averaging almost 5 three-point attempts per game in just 21 minutes a night for the Rockets.
But that’s not all. Green’s skill also allows him to be effective in the pick and roll. And the numbers show he’s actually more effective at it than Clint Capela was. Capela was averaging 1.10 points per possession as a roll man, good enough for the 52nd percentile, while Green averages 1.15 points per possession as a roll man, which is in the 62nd percentile.
It’s this versatility that’s made Green a perfect match for Houston’s philosophy, as he’s more than capable in two of the main tenets of Houston’s offensive system.
Sure, he’s not much of a rebounder, pulling in just 3 per game as a Rocket and never averaging more than 6 per game in his career. But the Rockets have essentially thrown out rebounding as an NBA necessity, getting absolutely torched on the boards in every game since the restart began.
In fact, cumulatively, the Rockets have been outrebounded a combined 233-152 in the four bubble games. And the Rockets have gone 3-1, and had every chance to win the one game they lost. The revolution has begun. And it will be televised.
Green doesn’t come without concern. He’s only been with the Rockets for 14 games total, so it’s still in the theater of small samples, and even though he’s averaging a healthy 14 points per game in the bubble — including a 22-point outing against the Portland Trail Blazers, we’re just a week into the restart.
He’s just a 33.5 percent career three-point shooter, so you have to wonder if he’s due to regress in that department soon, though the good looks being generated certainly play a role in the increase, and those aren’t going away any time soon.
Will the aforementioned consistency issues once again crop up with the Rockets prepping for the postseason, or is Green simply one of those shrewd signings of a veteran formerly on the downside, looking to make one last splash?
Right now I’m leaning towards the latter. And if he keeps it up — an additional piece the Rockets can rely on for production outside of James Harden and Russell Westbrook — the sky’s the limit for the Rockets in the bubble.