I’d like to once again highlight one of my previous links, a strong piece by Royce Young at DailyThunder.
It’s Officially Time to Ask the Question
That’s right, Royce finally decided to propose to Jeff Green.
Young’s analysis of the delicate chemistry that is both the player’s psyche and the team’s dynamic is a good one and appropriate to consider while we’re still early in the season.
It seems like the straight up comparison between Ibaka and Green is necessary to decide who will get the starting spot as well as the starter’s minutes. This comparison is likely what will govern the team’s ultimate decision. I think there is a better way to look at it.
I’d like to throw another idea out there that makes the choice a little bit more cut and dry. The logical comparison to investigate whether Green should be starting is to compare his play, not to Ibaka, but to Kevin Durant. Why? Because Green is really a small forward playing out of position. He is a 6’9″ long, lanky forward that likes to take perimeter shots and averages 6 rebounds a game. He also averages less than one assist and one blocked shot per game. He is essentially a lesser version of Durant.
So the question really is, does Green’s play warrant taking away minutes from Durant? That answer is a little bit more clear cut. Durant needs as many minutes as he can handle to retain the offensive focus of the team. When he struggles, this is an opportune time for the not-quite-as-skilled-but-still plenty-skilled Green to come in and perform a similar role that Durant does.
The best comparison I can think of at the moment is to look back 15 years ago when Toni Kukoc and Scottie Pippen played together in Chicago. Kukoc was really, really good, and unquestionably the best passer on the team. However, Pippen was clearly superior in 9/10 of the other meaningful categories. As a result, Phil Jackson had Kukoc come off the bench and play a key role in a number of Bulls’ championship teams, which garnered a 6th man of the year award for Kukuc in 1996. Pippen had a notoriously frosty relationship with Kukoc early on. Jackson handled this issue by clearly defining their roles. In the end, Kukoc led a Bulls second unit that frequently outperformed the opposition’s second team, which helped the Bulls capture three rings in a row (’96-’98).
To me, that is the scenario that makes the most sense. Certainly you can mix and match lineups to suit the opposition (like throwing out a lineup of Westbrook, Durant, Sefolosha, Green, and Ibaka if you really want to fly), but right now the strongest lineup seems to be:
With a 2nd team consisting of:
The combination of Maynor, Harden, and Green would be quite potent, and unrivaled against most of the league. Maynor would make Green the primary scoring threat, instead of the 3rd option, which would keep Green content with his offensive touches. Also, having Green spell Durant would ease the wear and tear Durant has put on his treads over the past year. Finally, since Durant and Green play similar offensive games, the overall offensive scheme would not need to drastically adjust when Durant sits down and Green comes in.
Assembled this way, that’s a team that can go far in the playoffs. I just hope that the situation can be sorted out so that all parties involved (Green especially) feel valued by the squad and want to play their best.