Grizzlies in ‘win now’ mode after landing Green in three-team trade
The NBA is a risky business. Like not-drafting-Michael-Jordan risky. Like knocking-Zach-Randolph’s-headband-off risky.
So as Jeff Green trades his clover for grit and grind, the Grizzlies front office is sliding across the den’s wood floor in their underwear, taking a "win now" risk with a move that could either be the piece that helps complete the Beale Street parade puzzle or the piece that makes fans yearn for the old days of fussing about Tayshaun Prince and Tony Allen in the same starting lineup.
Jeff Green is already in Memphis, the former Celtics’ leading scorer whom the Grizzlies acquired in a three-team trade with Boston and the Pelicans.
They also acquired Russ Smith from New Orleans, while Memphis sent Prince and a protected future first-round pick to the Celtics, and Quincy Pondexter and a 2015 second-round pick to the Pelicans.
What Memphis is counting on from Green, who is averaging 17.6 per game, is his athleticism. Memphis needs athleticism that can guard huge floor-spreading men who make 3-pointers.
Remember when Bulls power forward Nikola Mirotic hit six 3-pointers at FedExForum in December? If the 6-foot-9 Green, who can play either forward spot, can limit any of that kind of production, this is a good deal for the Grizzlies.
In a tight Western Conference — Memphis is in fourth place — every little bit helps. Every little bit that can help a team get closer to a Game 7 at home helps. Green doesn’t have to be the savior of the Grizzlies. What he does have to be is better than Prince.
Prince appeared in 26 games for Memphis with a PER of 10.60, while Green comes to town at 14.50. Apples to oranges, I know, but the whole deal is apples to oranges. Any deal Memphis makes is apples to oranges because no team in the league plays like Memphis, therefore making any assumption unfair.
A few days ago wasn’t the first time Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger expressed the team’s need for athleticism. He did so back in May during pre-draft workouts, quoting a need for "more playmaking" and "more athleticism."
That word again. Green is 28 years old. That’s not spring-chicken young, but it’s not Prince’s 34 either. Green’s percentages aren’t blowing anyone out of the water. He shoots a little better than Prince (43.4 to 41.0), makes fewer but shoots more 3s (30.5 to .45.5). Green likes to shoot at the rim and can score there. How that works with Marc Gasol and Randolph down there will be interesting. And he is no longer the top option.
Of his 475 shots this year, 163 of them came at the rim. Behind the arc, he took 152 of them. His role is now floor-spreader, instead of benefiting from the floor being spread. To help the Grizzlies, his shot chart needs to have some more color in the midrange area.
Overlooked in the deal is the loss of guard Pondexter, whose potential just hasn’t peeled off like it promised in the 2012-13 postseason, where he shot 49 percent, 45 percent from 3-point range. Memphis unloads some salary — Green has a player option for $9.2 million next season — and gets a potential backup point guard in Smith, who drew his share of praise during pre-draft work in Memphis.
But the key piece is Green. Whether he’s a piece that will put the Grizzlies over the hump is debatable, but what’s not debatable is the Grizzlies trying to win, now. Giving up a future first- and 2015 second-round pick could have been a lot worse.
So put aside the doubts and the sometimes less-than-desirable shooting percentages and the lackluster rebounding statistics. He shoots 40 percent from corner 3-pointers.
Green can be more than that, as soon as he finds out where he fits. But that’s the thing about athleticism: It’s ideally versatile and Memphis needs a little of both of those words.
Does Green start? And a night after Courtney Lee went for 18 in a win against the Suns, it could be Lee whose spot he takes. The only other option is Tony Allen’s position.
Crazier things have happened. It would be crazier for the Grizzlies to not seek help with guarding those pesky bigs with a knack for shooting a long ways from the basket. If Green does that, his scoring will be gravy on the potatoes … but if not, and if Pondexter becomes an All-Star?
It’s a risky business.