Brace yourself, I’m going to talk about Jeff Green.
The Thunder has struggled this season rebounding the ball and a lot of the blame has been pointed at Green, among others. As the starting power forward on a really good team, it’s hard to excuse the fact he’s averaging just 5.7 rebounds a game. It’s hard to excuse that he’s had multiple games of playing heavy minutes without pulling in a single rebound. As a recent example, it’s hard to excuse what happened Sunday night.
Rebounding is kind of a weird stat because you can really get lucky in a game and have five rebounds just land in your lap. There are players that go get rebounds (Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin) and players that just rebound their area. Jeff Green is the latter. And really, other than Russell Westbrook, the entire Thunder team is too.
Consider this one: Jeff Green has 262 total rebounds. Russell Westbrook has 266. (Green has played seven less games, but still.) The bad part is, Green has just 55 offensive rebounds to Westbrook’s 85. That’s a point guard and a power forward. That’s crazy.
Among power forwards, Green ranks 25th in rebounds per game. He averages just 4.5 defensive rebounds per game (26th among power forwards), but a puny 1.2 offensive rebounds a night (37th). Green isn’t a strong rebounder by any means, but man, he really has no interest in hitting the offensive glass. Serge Ibaka, in fewer minutes per game, averages 4.5 defensive rebounds per game, but 2.5 offensive. Something is just different there.
In terms of advanced stats, it’s worse. In rebound rate, Green is at a career-low 8.9. For reference, Blake Griffin’s is 19.7.
One more: In six games in February, Green has pulled down a whopping two offensive rebounds. He’s has 19 games where he didn’t record a single one.
I think you get the point. Jeff Green’s not a great rebounder.
But I’ve been curious for a while why Green doesn’t put up better rebounding numbers. He’s tall, athletic, strong and can jump. It seems like he has all the qualities to put up good numbers on the glass. So I tracked his rebounding Sunday against the Warriors.
Out of his five rebounds Sunday, he didn’t go out of area to rebound once. He didn’t “win” any rebounds. Everything he got was mainly by luck. The ball bounced off the iron just right and landed in his hands.
Offensively, he only crashed twice. He was in the area a few times for an offensive board, but those were more by coincidence than anything else.
One play sticks out to me: With about five minutes left in the second quarter, Ekpe Udoh beat Green on a long offensive rebound. Green was in position with Udoh on his back. But Green just didn’t anticipate the ball well. It bounced long and Green was slow getting off the floor. That’s the one thing some players can’t help. Some have that gift of feeling a missed shot. I don’t think Uncle Jeff does.
There was never a play where I notice Green wasn’t boxing out though. Almost every time a shot went up on the defensive end, he was stuck to technique. That’s not the problem with Green. He does his job for sure. He just doesn’t go above and beyond. When you block out, basically you assure that your man doesn’t get the rebound. And for the most part, Green did that. When he had a man in his area, he put a body on him and kept him off the glass. But rebounding against players like David Lee and Andris Biedrins, you have to do more than just block out. You’ve got to rebound out of your area some, and Green didn’t really do that.
That’s really my biggest gripe with Green’s game. He doesn’t want the ball. He doesn’t attack the glass. I asked this a couple days ago, but when have you seen Jeff Green sky for a rebound, grab it with both hands and pull it in strongly? When have you ever seen him go get the ball? Have you ever seen him with a putback dunk?
Some guys aren’t gifted rebounders. Not everyone is Kevin Love. Just like Ben Wallace doesn’t have the gift of scoring, some players don’t have that ability to rebound. It’s understandable. But at the same time, rebounding is a lot effort. It’s about how much you want the ball. If you’re big, strong and athletic, there really shouldn’t be anything to stop you from rebounding.
What I saw from charting his effort Sunday was that in a lot of cases, he just wasn’t in position to grab a rebound. Not necessarily by his mistake, but because he was help-defending, on the perimeter or just in the wrong place. Because he’s a player that likes to hang around the outside, he’s not inside when a lot of shots go up. Ibaka is down there. That’s a big reason the two have differing offensive rebounding numbers. But maybe that’s the rub. We’ve all said that Green plays outside a bit too much. So here’s a hint that maybe he needs to plant his butt on the block a bit more.
Of course there’s also the counterpoint that OKC’s rebounding “philosophy” is that they do it as a total team. I get that and that’s true. But at the same time, the reason for that is because one or two guys can’t handle to bulk of the duty on their own. Example: Jeff Green.
I admit, I like Jeff Green a lot. I just can’t help it. It’s hard to be around the guy in the locker room and other places and not like him and root for him. He’s always professional, funny, smart and charming. He’s the kind of player that’s great to have in your city representing your team. Now that type of stuff doesn’t always count for wins and loss which is what’s most important, but Uncle Jeff is just terrific and will always be one of my very favorite players in the NBA, no matter where he ends up.
And what makes him such a stellar teammate is despite playing out of position, which is probably costing him money in terms of an extension, he’s never backed down, never complained, never questioned and never puffed out his chest at the negativity. He takes it and always does his best to fill his role. He sacrifices shots and the spotlight for his teammates. He’s the ultimate team player and again, the type of guy that’s great to have on your team.
Plus, he does good things! Jeff Green is a really, really good basketball player. He’s versatile, multi-skilled offensively and has a good amount of athleticism. He might not be Dennis Rodman, but he makes impactful plays on the floor. There’s a reason Scott Brooks plays him 35-40 minutes a game, even if it’s hard to see it. He’s a winning player, plain and simple.
It’s hard not to wonder how he’d perform with a more traditional center playing next to him though. If Green could hide behind a good rebounding and strong defensive center, I don’t think we’d point so much at what he’s doing wrong. He’d be a bit more free to use his versatility and create from his power forward position. Hopefully at some point Cole Aldrich is that guy, but we’ve just got to sit and wait with our fingers crossed there.