Thursday, December 18, 2008

Seeing Red over Green

A week before XMas, and all I want is a Thunder win. When Jeff Green makes out his list, a consistent shooting touch better be on top right next to intensity. Oklahoma City has found a running mate for Kevin Durant, but he disappears in too many games.

One night it will be foul-trouble and the next it is the inability to make a 3-pointer. Green is an enigma that needs to choose a course of action. The move to power forward full time benefits the team, but does it suit the 6'9'' second-year pro?

Let's take a look at the numbers and see...

OKC's last victory was also the last game in November. Green had just scored 22 points in 40 minutes the following night, and the match-up against Memphis was a good test. While Durant dominated the Grizzlies, Green held his own with another 22 point outing. He also didn't miss a free throw and knocked down two treys. It was also the first time he had registered four fouls since making the move to the four spot.

Both the positive and negative trends continued into December.

During the current eight-game slide, Green is the streakiest Thunder player. His overall shooting figures, rebounds, and assists have all increased while his 3-point accuracy, free throw percentage and fouls are all going the wrong way. Basically Green has forgotten how to play outside while trying to learn the PF spot on the fly.

This isn't a knock on Coach Brooks for making the change. Green's scoring numbers have helped OKC stay in plenty of games, and it has allowed Durant to move to small forward. But to one day have Green become a post player is a hard thing to ask of any player, especially for a struggling team.

Two great games were followed by the crushing loss to the Clippers.

Against Dallas and San Antonio, Green shot over 60% from the floor and destroyed the Texas clubs for 58 points. Masking the high scoring was defensive troubles in both match-ups. Green was given the task of trying to stop the Mavs' Dirk Nowitzki one night followed by Tim Duncan of the Spurs the next. This proved to be the Thunder's undoing as Nowitzki scored 46 in the Dallas win, and Duncan used all his weapons to overcome Green's 33-point season high.

For OKC to get back on track, they need a little schedule luck and for Green to find his comfort level. Against Los Angeles on Tuesday, Green found early foul trouble and didn't play thirty minutes for the first time this month. He also failed to hit a triple, something more common this month.

The main reason for his struggles had nothing to do with himself.

Zach Randolph is a much-different power forward than Nowitzki and Duncan. Randolph is a bruiser, the type who likes to cause punishment, and he carried the Clippers past Green and the Thunder inside. Green will have trouble with the bangers until he is able to bulk up and play more like a conventional post player. This is because the current roster offers very little help on Green, forcing him to try too hard.

Durant has found his zone and is flourishing, averaging over 25 points a game in December. Until the Thunder play a few teams without a strong inside presence, the games will be hard to win. Green is battling in the paint, but he can't do it all by himself. OKC has to find someone to offer relief, or Green's wish-list may include a new team and a return to the small forward role.

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