Despite looking like a strange move on the surface, Jeff Green has been a solid addition to the Orlando Magic roster this season.
One of the more confusing additions to the Orlando Magic‘s squad this offseason was Jeff Green, with the 30-year-old small forward looking like a better fit for a contending team.
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.
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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?
Nov 3, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic forward Jeff Green (34) dribbles the ball in the second half as Sacramento Kings forward Omri Casspi (18) defends at Amway Center. Orlando Magic won 102-94. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
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.
I said at the beginning of the season if Jeff Green starts over Aaron Gordon that meant something went terribly wrong. So… here we are.
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.
Oct 20, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Alonzo Gee (15) guards against Orlando Magic forward Jeff Green (34) during the second quarter of a basketball game at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
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.