But some seasons, the gods smile upon the drafters and they are given a bounty of solid options from which to choose. 1998, 1995, and, of course, that hallowed year of 1984, when teams chose from Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton (and Michael Cage, lest we forget).
This past June was supposed to be one of those drafts, with all sorts of experts weighing in on the talent available. With two picks in the top five, the Sonics and their fans should have been dancing in the streets, right?
Leaving aside the arena situation, why are we, well, less than thrilled with the results? Kevin Durant’s shot selection has been mocked from coast to coast, but he is still the odds-on favorite to win Rookie of the Year, and no one disputes that his career appears bright.
But Jeff Green, that second selection, fifth overall? The guy with the college experience? The Pippen to Durant’s Jordan? What of him?
In a way, Green’s year has mirrored the opinions of him: not bad, but not good either. Green is seemingly too small to regularly play power forward, yet he doesn’t seem especially suited for small forward either. His stats bear that out.
First, let us look at the most recent #5 selections in the draft (with the notable exception of Nikoloz Tskitishvili), listed in chronological order:
Obviously, Green’s numbers are lacking. Of course, PER is but one measure of a player’s worth and I am quite sure his defenders could produce a litany of reasons for why he ranks the worst.
But what if we expanded the list, to, say, the past 20 years rather than the past five, and we looked at all the numbers rather than just PER? For the purposes of this discussion, I will omit such players as Jonathan Bender, who languished on the bench their rookie seasons. Here are the numbers, from best to worst:
Doesn’t look so good, does it? It is one thing to be the lowest ranked man in a list of five, but another entirely when you rank 19th out of 19. I won’t re-create the entire lists here, but Green ranked 14th in true shooting percentage, 17th in effective field goal percentage, 16th in assist percentage, last in offensive rating, 18th in win shares, and last in steal percentage.
To be fair, Green did fairly well in rebounding, ranking 8th in rebounding percentage. And to say his career is over after less than a full season would be a foolish argument to make, but I doubt that anyone could argue that Green’s season has been somewhat of a disappointment. Even David Thorpe, who constantly ranks and re-ranks the rookie class for ESPN, has Green slotted as 16th in his class, two spots below Glen Davis and nine below Carl Landry, two second-rounders the Sonics traded away.
Will it mean anything for his future, though? It is important to note Felton, Harris and Wade all dramatically improved their passing skills as their careers progressed and Williams became a much better rebounder statistically this season. People are not machines, and to say Green’s accomplishments, or rather the lack thereof, this season are the sum total of his capabilities is silly. There is plenty of upside to Green’s future, and I won’t be type of person who says that the Sonics made a big mistake in taking him. It’s just too early to tell all of that.
With that said, though, if you find yourself reading this off-season that the Sonics’ front-office attributes Green’s numbers to first-year troubles, well, I guess you know a little better, don’t you?