One of the most encouraging developments we’ve seen as Boston continues to reel off impressive victories against playoff teams has been the offensive progression of Jeff Green. The Celtics have clearly told Green to look for his own shot as often as possible, and he has obliged, scoring 1.14 points per possession in spot-up attempts (24.5% of his attempts) and 1.19 PPP in transition (14.9%).
But Green still hasn’t really shown much improvement in his post-up attempts. H is averaging just 0.75 PPP in post-up sets, which isn’t awful but it’s very average. After taking a look at just about every Jeff Green post-up this season, it seems like there might be a simple way to drastically improve his post-up efficiency.
Let’s start by taking a look at some of his recent struggles.
In the first play above, we see the Celtics begin by overloading Green’s side of the floor, then clearing out as a sort of misdirection so that Green will be isolated in the post against Evan Turner, who is smaller. The set both works and fails; Green gets the ball, but it’s near the 3-point line which negates his advantage to a certain extent. To his credit, he recognizes how he should attack Turner and tries to make a move inside, but when he is cut off, he spins to the baseline and hoists a fadeaway jumper which misses everything. Green isn’t bad at jumpers along the baseline, but he was much too deep to be attempting one from that distance. The Celtics needed to find a way to get him closer to the basket if that was going to be his move.
In the second play, Green sets a pindown screen for Pierce to force a switch, pitting Jeff against Draymond Green (which might get confusing, so bear with me). Draymond presents a problem for Jeff (which begs the question: Why run the set with Pierce and Green at all if the screen wasn’t going to create a mismatch?). Although Jeff gets the ball much closer to the basket than he did in the previous set, Draymond’s large body is much more difficult for Jeff to get around in the post, since (despite every appearance) Jeff has just average foot speed. He tries to go a few different directions, but Draymond stays in front of him easily and forces him into a travel.
On the final play, Green gets a post match-up that presents an advantage for him, the smaller Klay Thompson. But Green establishes position far away from the hoop once again, and as he backs down Thompson, David Lee has plenty of time and (more importantly) plenty of space between Green and the basket to come over and force an ugly shot.
Three things to take away from these plays:
- We know Green has a solid face-up game, but with his back to the basket, he NEEDS to get good position.
- When Green both starts AND receives the ball on the strong side, he struggles to get good post position and usually ends up pretty far from the hoop.
- (Most importantly) He struggles to get deep post position in sets on his own.
The first set is pretty simple. It’s essentially a variation on the “floppy” sets Boston used to run for Ray Allen, except instead of going out to the 3-point line, Green stops short on the block. As Green runs across the lane, he receives a pick from Jason Terry (who is hidden in this picture).
When Green gets the ball, he makes the same move against Wilson Chandler that he did against Klay Thompson above. The difference? This is how close to the basket he is when he catches the ball.
Denver still sends a second defender, Andre Miller, to double-team, but there isn’t any space between Green and the basket when he turns to his right for Miller to sneak in and contest. The result is the kind of shot Green should be able to hit consistently: a little baby hook very close to the hoop.
The second play, from the same game, doesn’t involve a screen really. But to get position, Green runs from weak to strong-side. The traffic in the lane acts as a (perhaps) unintentional screen, and Corey Brewer is forced to cheat the gap and try to front Green. Given Green’s height, length, hands and vertical leap, fronting him should NEVER be an option for the defense. He establishes himself and since Brewer is in front of him, Lee’s bounce pass away from Brewer’s contest allows Green to slip to the basket for an easy basket. Once again, running interference for Green put him in a good position in the post.
Finally, my personal favorite, in no small part because it found a hole in Chicago’s vaunted defense. Once again, Green cuts from the weak to the strong side, and this time he catches a screen from Collins.
Jimmy Butler actually does a really good job of fighting through the screen so that nobody has to switch. But by doing so, he sacrifices the baseline to Green close to the basket, which is not good for Chicago. Nobody is close enough to help when Green gets by Butler and finishes at the rim.
It has been gratifying watching Green playing much closer to his potential, especially given the amount of flack Boston took for his contract this summer. But despite the many positive aspects to his game, Green’s arsenal of post-up moves with his back to the basket is extremely limited. In fact, you essentially saw all of his moves in the videos above. He can turn toward the lane and put up a baby hook shot, or he can spin to the baseline and either attack the rim or fire up a fallaway jumper. Running these cross-court pick sets allows Green to start his post move closer to the basket and get a better look no matter which move he chooses. A turnaround jumper is always more efficient when the player is 10 feet from the basket as opposed to 17. A baby hook is easier when the set starts closer to the hoop. And of course, Green is arguably the best Celtic at attacking the rim.
In the last three weeks, the Celtics have gone to Green in the post just 14 times. That small amount of usage may be playing a part in his newfound efficiency given his struggles outlined above. But it seems possible that Boston could utilize Green in the post and still get efficient play from him simply by running sets that put him in a position to succeed.
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