Without question, one of the most surprising aspects of this 2020-21 Brooklyn Nets squad has been the play of veteran big man Jeff Green. Signed on a cheap deal as he looked to chase a title, Green isn’t just an old vet who gets garbage time minutes. He quickly became one of the more versatile players on the Nets team.
Green has averaged 11.0 points per game in his age-34 season, starting 38 games while setting a new career-high in field goal percentage at 49% and 3-point percentage at 41%. The Nets needed a stretch four after Taurean Prince was dealt away, and Green has filled that role with aplomb.
Unfortunately, Green might not be able to suit up for the remainder of their series against the Boston Celtics, as a strained plantar fascia will keep him out for the next week. This is a big blow for a Nets team that was lacking in size and interior depth with Green on the floor.
It would be silly to suggest that a team with Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving would lose a series because of Green, but his loss could make it much tougher to slow down Boston’s offensive attack.
Jeff Green means a lot to the Brooklyn Nets.
The beauty of Green lies in his versatility. If the Nets want to go small, which they have had some measure of success with this season, he allows them to do that by moving to center and using his girth to haul in rebounds. If they want to go big, he can step out to the perimeter and do a fine job.
The Nets appear to have axed DeAndre Jordan from the rotation, meaning that the only true big men that they will rotate in and out without Green are Blake Griffin, a complete liability on the defensive end, and Nicolas Claxton, a promising defender that is getting his first-ever taste of the postseason.
Even though Robert Williams has been out of commission, Tristan Thompson showed that his ability to dominate on the glass can turn the tide of a game, as Boston overcame a sluggish start thanks to his superb play inside. No. 8 could’ve helped clip Thompson’s wings before he ever got as much momentum as he did.
Green is by no means prime Scottie Pippen on defense, but he has proven that he can be a serviceable on-ball defender when called upon. He would not have stopped Jayson Tatum from going off in Game 3, but he could’ve forced a missed shot or two in there.
We know that Harden, Durant, and Irving are going to get their shots up. Brooklyn might as well start every game with 60 points on the board because of it. The key to taking this series and advancing in the postseason is banking on role players emerging and taking over short segments of games.
Joe Harris and Blake Griffin have done it in this series, and Green could’ve been an X-Factor that sends Boston headed towards another dreaded L. Without him, the Nets need to look to an already thin bench and hope that one of these comparatively anonymous faces emerges as a star.
Every championship team has that veteran glue guy, and Green was filling that role while also serving as one of their more versatile offensive chess pieces. His loss isn’t series-ending, but it is going to hurt the Nets more than it may seem. Players with his combination of shooting ability, rebounding skill, and experienced leadership don’t just fall out of the sky.