Jeff Green has had a tremendous sophomore season, especially compared to his rookie year. He is a very real candidate for most improved player with his huge jump in production. He moved into the starting lineup in the middle of the season last year, and through the coaching change, he has never relinquished it.
His skill set is unique: he is a sweet shooting big man who isn’t afraid to go inside. So often we see big men who kind of do one or the other. Either they camp outside and bomb away and avoid the paint (Andrea Bargnani?) or they do the dirty work inside and don’t have the jumper (Collison). Every team out there would love to have the true inside/outside big man, but there just aren’t that many to be had. The guys that are able to pull it off are the matchup nightmares that every coach dreams of having, guys like Nowitzki, Bosh and Stoudamire.
Green has been given plenty of latitude to develop his game. He is one of only 4 big men this year in either their first or second season, who are getting big minutes (at least 30), and have a high usage % (at least 20% of team’s possessions). The other three are Kevin Durant, Al Thornton and Wilson Chandler. Thornton, Chandler and Durant are each more realistically small forwards and not power forwards, so that leaves Green alone as the sole 1st or 2nd year player getting this much freedom to develop this hybrid big man game.
Here’s a list of all big men (6’8″) or bigger in the NBA that each have heavy usage, get good minutes (> 28 mpg.), get at least 10% of available total rebounds (showing that they play somewhat in the paint), and have played at least 1000 minutes this year; essentially Jeff Green’s peers:
A few things jump out at me from the list, especially the number of trips to the free throw line. Green gets to the line 4.2 times per 40 minutes of play, good for about 21st out of the 25 big men. Green is 3rd on the list in minutes played, but 21st in trips to the line. Green doesn’t really attack the basket, or attempt much inside offense except for in transition; he has mostly been about developing his outside game this year. But since he is getting approximately 50% of the team’s minutes at power forward, how much more effective could the team offense and his personal offense become if he would learn to work the inside game a bit more? The idea being that getting inside and attacking the basket gets you to the free throw line. Green is a very good free throw shooter, and for the big minutes he plays, he really should be getting more easy offense.
If Green can begin to get more easy offense by attacking the basket through his post game, taking bigger guys off the dribble, and rolling to the basket on the pick and roll (instead of shooting the midrange), the whole team would benefit. If he could get his FTA’s up into Nowitzki-Stoudamire territory, he could easily bump up his scoring numbers by a couple points per game and increase his efficiency.