Celtics.com Awards Series

MVP Most Improved Sixth Man Offensive POY Defensive POY Unsung Hero Game of the Year
Paul Pierce Jeff Green Jason Terry --- --- --- ---


Although Boston’s 2012-13 season wasn’t championship caliber, several players delivered strong campaigns during the Celtics’ 81-game regular season and their six-game postseason. As the spring rolls on, we will dole out our Celtics.com Award Series, which consists of seven different awards. These seven awards will be handed out one-by-one, so check back throughout May and June to see who will be called on for an acceptance speech.

Most Improved Player

Jeff Green dunks over Chris Andersen of the Heat

During Jeff Green's emergence, he became known around the league for his thunderous slams.
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images

Every NBA player shares a similar personal goal heading into each and every season of his career. He wants to improve.

Jeff Green accomplished that goal – and then some – during the 2012-13 season.

Green returned to the court on opening night for his first game since May 11, 2011. He had missed the entire 2011-12 season after undergoing open-heart surgery on Jan. 9, 2012 to repair an aortic aneurysm. Recovery from that surgery prevented the forward from having a true offseason in 2012 as he headed into Boston's training camp.

Rather than spending the entire offseason working on his game, Green was relegated to learning how to breathe and be an athlete again. He was stuck in rehabilitation mode for the majority of 2012 and was not cleared for full basketball activities until training camp neared.

Despite those months of limited activity, Boston chose to sign Green to another contract on Aug. 23, 2012. His long-term deal cemented the notion that he would be a key piece of the team for the foreseeable future.

While signing back with Boston was a feel-good story, no one truly knew how Green would fare in his second stint with the C’s. He had undergone a major surgery and did not have much time to prepare for the season. None of those facts, however, deterred the 26-year-old from proving to the world that he can be a game-changer in the NBA.

No one is going to remember the slow start Green got off to in 2012-13. His season surely didn’t start out with a bang, as he struggled mightily during his first months back from heart surgery. He scored just three points on opening night and averaged just 10.3 points per game on 44.3 percent shooting prior to the All-Star break. Green did not eclipse the 20-point barrier until Feb. 19 against the Denver Nuggets, in his 53rd game of the season.

That 53rd game of the season coincided with the general time in which Green began to break out of his shell. Including his 20 points against Denver, Green scored at least 20 in 10 of his final 29 games of the season.

Green began to emerge in mid-February but he turned into a budding star over the final month of the regular season. He averaged 19.3 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game during the final 16 contests on Boston’s schedule. He made a ridiculous 50.9 percent of his field goals and 51.0 percent of his 3-pointers during that time span. The highlight of that stretch was a 43-point outburst against LeBron James and the Miami Heat on March 18 at TD Garden. That was his true coming out party.

Doc Rivers watched Green’s emergence from the sideline and chose to permanently insert him into the starting lineup on March 23. Green started every game from that point on for the remainder of the season.

That span includes the playoffs, which showcased Green as a go-to scorer. His ascension continued during the first round of the postseason, as he led the Celtics with 20.3 PPG against the New York Knicks. Green’s 3-point stroke didn’t fade away, either, as he nailed 45.5 percent of his treys during the playoffs. It must also be said that these numbers were accrued while he acted as one of Boston’s top defenders against Carmelo Anthony.

The fact that Green continued his tear of strong play through the playoffs was quite encouraging for the Celtics and their fans. Green showed that even when the lights are shining bright and the season is on the line, he can be a go-to player.

Many medical experts warned prior to the season that we would not see Green perform to his abilities until about a year after his surgery. Those experts were right on, as Green’s improvement was existential after the one-year anniversary of his procedure.

The splits tell this entire story about as well as it can be told. In 52 games prior to the All-Star break, which takes place in mid-February, Green averaged just 10.3 PPG on 44.3 percent shooting. In 29 regular-games after the All-Star break, Green poured in 17.3 points a night on 49.3 percent shooting. Then he led the team in scoring with 20.3 PPG in the playoffs while playing 43 minutes per night.

When the 2012-13 season began, Green was surrounded by question marks. No one knew what he could provide. By the time the Celtics’ season came to a close, Green had asserted himself as an elite NBA player.

That is one heck of an improvement.

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