I'm no prophet, but I will predict bigger things from Gerald Green next season. Not quite the breakout like Al Jefferson experienced this season, but big enough that we will no longer doubt Gerald's future in Boston.
Gerald's first year in the league was used to get his feet wet. This past season, his second year in the league, was used to gauge where his biggest weaknesses are. He'll head into the summer knowing specifically what to work on. Jefferson has a terrific mentor in Clifford Ray, who knows how to bring the best out of big men, and he helped Jefferson improve his game immensely. Gerald doesn't have a private mentor like Ray to drill him on specifics, and I wish he did. Gerald will be working out again with John Lucas, who has done some good with Gerald last summer. Regardless, I think Gerald will dedicate himself this summer to improve his game, and next season, we will see a more confident and more consistent Gerald Green.
Obviously, Gerald's biggest strength is his athleticism--primarily his leaping ability. His ability to get up that high in the air puts him in a company of only a handful of NBA players. As he showed in Las Vegas in this year's All-Star extravaganza, dunking is his specialty. His confidence and creativity in dunking the ball makes him one of the premier young dunkers in the league. And the way he combines grace, power, and excitement separates him from other dunkers who are missing those key elements in showmanship. Gerald's ability to sky in the air is not only an advantage on his dunks, but his ability to quickly get high up in the air allows him to get clean looks at the basket, even when his defenders stay with him step for step because they simply can't elevate quickly enough, or high enough, to get a hand up on his shot.
Not just a one trick pony, Gerald has other strengths aside from his dunking prowess. Green has a terrific shooting stroke from anywhere on the court, and though his FG shooting percentage doesn't reveal it, he has become a more effective shooter this season. He's already shown, as young and undeveloped as he is, the knack of knocking down pull up midrange jumpers and spot up three point jumpers, and even coming off of picks and executing catch and shoots were a part of his repertoire this season. These 3 areas of shooting are what Gerald will need to perfect over his career for him to reach his high potential. He's doing a better job of getting his hands in position to receive the ball so that he can fluidly get into his shot in rhythm, and his release has been more consistent because of this. Most of Gerald's shots are true (meaning they are straight), and when he misses, he's either short (hits the front of the rim), or long (hits the back of the rim). To correct this is just a matter of arcing the ball more or using less wrist. This is very encouraging to see from a young player.
A few years ago, Chris Wallace drafted Kedrick Brown, a player with similar potential to Gerald Green. Like Gerald, Kedrick had nasty hops that allowed him to sky up high in the air and throw down monstrous dunks. And like Gerald, he had the smooth shooting stroke to be a threat on the perimeter. But one key difference between the two, among many other things, is the moxie--the inner confidence. Gerald has it, Kedrick didn't, and that's why fans can be sure that Gerald has more potential to live up to his hype than Kedrick ever came to tasting. Gerald has a mean streak in him that longs to prove to his peers that he's one of the best players on the court. He has the desire to be a big time player and be the star of the show, and even as a rookie straight out of high school, he didn't shy away from competition. It was said that in practice, he would out battle Pierce and Ricky Davis, earning him props from those two star veterans. And throughout the season, Gerald would show glimpses of stardom as he put on moves against premiere NBA players and score on veteran defenders. As his game progresses, he has the chance to be one of the best on the court--if not the best.
Gerald has a lot of good things going for him, but he's far from being a complete player in the mold of Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, and even Paul Pierce. His path to stardom can only be straightened as he turns his weaknesses into strengths.
His primary weakness at this time is his ball handling. For any wing player, ball handling is paramount to their ability to have success in the NBA. As often as Gerald will have the ball in his hands, its vital for him to be able to use his dribbling to get to any spot on the court to execute his game plan. Just take a look back at Tony Allen this season. It was like night and day for Tony--as he pounded the ball into the ground and fumbled his dribbling, he was a wreck and turnover machine. But as soon as he got his grips on his dribbling, he was able to execute what his mind was telling him to do, and he became a star caliber player, just like that. Right now, Gerald loses control of the ball too often, and you could see him thinking about his dribbling, even as he was breaking away on fastbreak opportunities. Rather than focusing on his teammates, and the defense in front of him, Gerald's attention wavers on his dribbling (among other things), and this has led to some of his troubles this season.
Another glaring weakness Gerald deals with currently is his lack of understanding of what to do with the ball in his hands. Though he improved in his off-the-ball game, he's lost when it comes to executing the right play when he has the ball. He's thinking about so many things, and so many thoughts are running through his head the instant he touches the ball, that it almost paralyzes him to the point he can't think clearly. When the game flows through him naturally and he lets his instincts take over, he's a downright lethal offensive player. But when he's thinking too much, he's constricted and incapable of making the right decision. More than anything, experience and repetition will remedy this problem, so we needn't be so concerned about this. We should see vast improvements in this area in Year 4 (next season will be Year 3).
Another weakness to point out is Gerald's footwork. He needs to clean up his footwork so that he can execute plays more efficiently. Specifically, when he's cleanly moving his feet, he can take a couple of power dribbles and pull up into his jumper and knock down shots cleanly. But when his feet aren't under him and he's stumbling to get balance (as he often displays when he's dribbling out of control), he looses his body control and barrels into defenses, picking up silly offensive fouls. As Jefferson has demonstrated this past season, cleaning up his footwork enabled him to dictate what he wanted to do. With crisper footwork, Gerald will be able to do use his athleticism to his advantage a whole lot more than he is now.
Lastly, Gerald needs to focus on defense this offseason. He does have the ability to be a solid defender cause he does have the athleticism, the quickness, and the long arms to disrupt his man. To be a shut down defender, a player needs to shadow his man well, and that comes from shuffling and moving the feet well. Just like how Green needs to work on his footwork on offense, the same applies for his defensive game as well. Balance and footwork are important to be able to stay with his man, as well as staying low and making himself wide. At 6'8", he has the quickness and elusiveness to defend both SG's and SF's and it will be a big time advantage for us if we can utilize Gerald for his defensive play on top of his offensive game.
Areas of improvement
In order for Gerald to take the next step, he must prove himself as an offensive weapon off the bench and a capable defender. Like Jerry Stackhouse for the Dallas Mavericks, having a big perimeter scorer off the bench who can knock down shots from deep and drive to the lane for buckets is a huge asset. He'll have to cut his teeth in this role first before he moves to the starting lineup, and if he can prove to be an impact bench scorer, his transition to the starting 5 will be the next step.
Its not hard to see that young Gerald has the goods to be a stellar player in the NBA He has star caliber talent in him. Improving his strengths and minimizing his weaknesses will land him on the All-Star team in '09, and for years to come. Next season, he will start to emerge as an instant offense off the bench, but he will play behind of Ryan Gomes (whom I predict will be our 6th man). Green will be our 7th man. But he will be our future starting wing player, and a member of future All-Star teams.
Great piece Derren! I like GG's game so far. His development is progressing splendidly. I think people are rushing for his trade, but I think that will be a mistake unless you can get All-Star worth. I think GG will be that good!