Offseason Depth Chart: Small Forward
BOSTON – July is coming to an end, and that means most NBA rosters are shaping up for training camp in late-September. Some changes will occur between now and then, but by and large, the league’s roster landscape is set.
The Boston Celtics are one team that will need to make minor changes over the next couple of months. As of July 31, they have 16 players under contract and one unsigned draft pick. Teams are not allowed to have more than 15 players under contract once the week of Opening Night arrives.
With all of this in mind, we’re taking a week-long look at the Celtics’ current depth at each position. Today, we examine the team’s small forwards.
|2013-14 Small Forwards|
|Jeff Green||5 Years|
|Gerald Wallace||12 Years|
How are the Celtics going to compete at small forward after trading away one of the best to ever play the position? The answer lies in two names: Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace.
Green was a bit of an unknown heading into the 2012-13 season. He had undergone a major heart surgery in early 2012 and no one knew what he would bring to the table once the season began.
The fifth-year forward came out of the gates cold when the season began. His contributions were limited, as he averaged just 9.6 points per game through his first 45 games of the year.
Then he took off. And he never looked back.
Green began his ascent in February by putting up an average of 15.3 PPG over 12 games. He scored at least 17 points in six of those contests, including 31 points against the Suns on February 22.
March and April were even better months for Green. He had the game of his life on March 18 when he dropped 43 points on LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Green became a legit 20-point scorer from that point on by averaging 19.3 PPG over his final 16 contests of the season. He also hauled in 5.7 RPG during that timespan.
The key to Green’s emergence was his improved shooting. He was excellent from the field, and in particular, from 3-point range. Over the final 16 games of the season, Green shot 50.9 percent from the field and a ridiculous 51.0 percent from 3-point range.
Green’s improved play garnered him an increased role on the team. He became a starter and went on to become the team’s featured player in the playoffs. Green’s 20.3 PPG and 43.0 minutes of action per game both led the C’s during the postseason.
Those who watched Green closely – most notably Danny Ainge – loved what they saw. Green made a statement with his play that he was ready to become the Celtics’ featured. Now, with Paul Pierce no longer in Boston, Green can step in and be the team’s starting small forward for the foreseeable future. This is Green’s time to shine.
Boston was fortunate enough to have two starting-caliber small forwards last season. The team did not experience much of a drop off when Green subbed in for Pierce. One could argue that such will be the case next season as well, with Wallace serving as a phenomenal second option at small forward.
Wallace is a proven vet who brings a lot to the table. He doesn’t have a ton of range on his jumper, but he’s strong in just about every other category.
Wallace is a top-notch defender who made the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team in 2010. He’s also great rebounder, having averaged 6.2 boards a night over his first 12 seasons. Wallace is also capable of getting to the rim and finishing in traffic. According to NBA.com/Stats, Wallace has made at least 51.2 percent of his shots in the lower painted area in each of the past five seasons. To put that into perspective, Carmelo Anthony, the league’s leading scorer last season, shot 51.6 percent in the same area, while Pierce shot 51.9 percent. Wallace has been on their level or above it for quite some time.
There’s a possibility that Wallace could start for the Celtics if they decide to play small ball, which is a real possibility considering that it’s the going trend in the NBA. Regardless of the starting lineup, however, Wallace is likely to eat up all of the minutes Green leaves on the table at the small forward position.
Both Green and Wallace possess size, scoring ability, athleticism, rebounding ability and defense. If Green picks up where he left off last season and Wallace rediscovers his jumper, these two could wind up being one of the best small forward tandems in the league.