SALT LAKE CITY — On July 2, hours after the news came out that Jeff Green had signed a one-year veteran’s minimum deal with the Jazz, recently retired Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade had to get something off his chest.
“I do NOT understand how and why Jeff Green keep signing these 1 year deals for the minimum,” Wade tweeted. “This is now 3 years in a row. He’s never injured, He’s never been a problem in the locker room, He’s athletic, he can shoot the 3, he can guard multiple positions and he’s not old.”
There’s a lot of truth to that.
Last season, Green averaged 12.3 points and shot 47.5% from the field, including nearly 35% on 3-point shots as he transitioned into more of a stretch four. He played in 77 games a year after playing in 78, and while he'll be 33 in August, he still frequently attacks the basket.
Wade’s not saying Green’s a perfect player — he struggles to rebound and hasn’t been the greatest defender over the course of his career — but he doesn’t seem to fit the bill as a league-minimum guy. So why then has he had to settle for those types of deals for the last three seasons?
The answer likely revolves around expectations.
For his first 10 years in the league, Green was a player multiple teams thought would be the guy who could help them reach a championship level. Or at least that's what it seemed based on what organizations were willing to give up to get him.
Seattle traded Ray Allen to draft him. Boston broke up a championship-winning starting five to trade for him. Memphis and the LA Clippers both gave up first-round picks to obtain him.
Those teams made those moves with the hope that the 6-foot-9 athletic forward who can do a little bit of everything could help them get over the hump. That led to SB Nation to publish a story in 2016 asking what many fans across the league had been asking, “Why do NBA teams keep thinking Jeff Green is the missing piece?”
Now, though, it appears the pendulum has swung the other way. Green’s value is now probably underrated. Just look at some of the players that have signed minimum deals this offseason: JaKarr Sampson, Anthony Tolliver, Kyle O'Quinn and old Jazz friends Trey Burke, Raul Neto and Alec Burks — players who have been in and out of rotations over the years, and may or may not be getting playing time with their new clubs.
The Jazz, though, didn’t sign Green just to fill a roster spot and sit on the bench. He is expected to be a part of what looks to be a core rotation of nine players. For a veteran’s minimum deal, that’s pretty good value.
So when the new Jazz forward was asked about the minimum deals on Friday during his introductory press conference, it was no surprise that he expressed some frustration.
“The reason I have signed them? I don’t know; you got to ask all these GM and these teams,” Green said. “I want to win. I’ve put in the time and I've put in the work to not have the minimum deals. It’s very disrespecting. At the end of the day, I’m blessed to be playing basketball. But I do look at it as motivation to continue to work, to continue to prove a lot of people wrong. I think it’s fun.”
Green admitted that he didn’t think he would have to sign another minimum contract entering into free agency this summer, but said he takes the best opportunity given to him. With the Jazz, he gets a chance to be a big piece on a team with championship aspirations. That's not a bad situation and one he's happy to be in.
“It’ll all work out,” Green said. “I’m not too concerned. It is pretty disrespecting from the work that I’ve done. But people always look at your past and try to base you off that. But it can change — and it will. I’m not worried about it.”