Adam Kaufman

Celtics Must Trade Jeff Green

Jeff Green 3.jpg

Itís long been my belief, and that of most Celtics media, fans, and followers, the Cís would love to trade Jeff Green.

Frankly, itís kind of common-sense.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has noted no player on his rebuilding 12-21 team is untouchable, and that couldnít have been more evident than when he traded away the clubís captain and face of the franchise, Rajon Rondo, last month.

Whether because Ainge decided he wouldnít or couldnít re-sign Rondo this summer when the four-time All-Star is scheduled to hit free agency, it was determined the point guard wasnít part of the long-term plan.

Neither is Green. He never has been.

When Green arrived via a trade with the Thunder in 2011 Ė which countless people still lament Ė he was brought in to bolster the clubís scoring off the bench as it chased a second championship in four years. Then, perhaps as a means of showing the deal for Kendrick Perkins (and Nate Robinson) wasnít a complete failure, Ainge doubled down and re-signed Green for four years more years at $35.2 million.

For a long while, on account of occasional breathtaking flashes of brilliance and even more inconsistency, that contract looked like an albatross. Then, Green became a beacon of stability for this yearís bunch. Well, at least until Rondo was traded.

Since Rondo was shipped to Dallas on Dec. 18, the Celts are 3-7 and Green has averaged just 13 points a game, down from 19.6 in the 23 prior contests. Heís also scored fewer than double-digits on four occasions, something that hadnít happened all season.

This recent slide is, of course, a small sample size. Surprising to me and many, Green has put himself in a position where he could take advantage of the opt-out option in his contract and leave at this end of this season for an even larger contract than the $9.2 mil heís due next year. While itís hard to imagine anyone would have matched the money Ainge handed Green a few years ago following heart surgery, there is more loot in the game now and even more coming in courtesy of the new television deal.

Green could and, if he remains in Boston for the duration of the season, should jump ship to head to a better situation.

The Celtics can avoid losing their leading-scorer for nothing by moving him before the year ends.

Early Thursday morning, ESPNís Marc Stein reported the 25-10 Grizzlies are interested in acquiring Green or Heat small forward Luol Deng in hopes of, similar to the 2010-11 Cís, improving their perimeter scoring.

Given Aingeís desire to stockpile assets, youíd think heíd leap at this opportunity. In fact, Sports Illustratedís Chris Mannix says the actual act of dealing Green might be more significant than the return.

Kind of makes you want to bang your head against a wall when you see the Nuggets land two protected future first-round selections from the Cavaliers for center Timofey Mozgov, but capitalizing on desperation is the price of business. Itís hard to believe anyone is desperate to have Green.

Stein reports the Grizzlies might be dangling the $7.7 million expiring contract of Tayshaun Prince and perhaps future draft compensation.

Thatís not much, but itís better than nothing.

The biggest challenge for Cís coach Brad Stevens right now as he toys with an ever evolving rotation is determining who is and isnít going to be around in a couple of years. Green isnít, so thereís no reason not to move him, free up his 33 minutes a night, and get a more extensive look at energetic Dallas acquisition Jae Crowder (a restricted free agent this summer) and talented rookie James Young (mostly buried on the bench or in the D-League thus far). If Stevens wanted to, he could even shift Evan Turner back to the wing and get a longer gaze at No. 6 overall pick Marcus Smart at the point.

Thatís what happens when nothing is on the line; the freedom to explore.

This is no knock on Green. The 28-year-old is the teamís leading scorer with 17.6 points a game. He has always been a good soldier in Boston, continually says heíd like to stay here, heís embraced his role, led to the best of his abilities, and heís even provided some excitement.

But that doesnít change the reality his future is elsewhere, whether thatís by the Feb. 19 trade deadline, at seasonís end, or when he departs as a free agent after fulfilling his contract.

Thereís no reason for Ainge to wait, and he knows it. Itís why he took 70 cents on the dollar for Rondo (thatís the popular opinion, anyhow), it was part of the logic in trading Courtney Lee to that same Memphis club a season ago, and itís why Green wonít be here when the Celtics are suffering through their April showers and looking ahead to the lottery once again.

Follow me on Twitter at @AdamMKaufman and email me here.

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