What to do with Jeff Green?

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman says that while Kevin Durant is a no-brainer max-contract player, Jeff Green is another matter.

By holding off on an extension this summer and allowing Green to become a restricted free agent next summer, the Thunder would set into motion two significant elements that could ultimately make the move a smart play. OKC would retain the right to match any offer sheet Green receives from another team next summer. And the Thunder would allow the market to establish Green’s value, rather than potentially overpaying or even low-balling one of its core players.

It’s become the NBA’s latest trend, triggered by the combination of fewer top-flight, first-round talents in recent years and a downtrodden economy.

It’s safe to say Green’s deal should fall somewhere between $45 million and $55 million. What remains unknown is whether it’ll be the Thunder that opens the bidding this summer or another franchise that sets the bar next summer.

Green averaged 15.1 points and 6.0 rebounds this season. Using Basketball Reference’s nifty player season finder, in the last 15 years, only five forwards averaged between 14.5 and 15.5 ppg and between 5.5 and 6.5 rpg at the age of 23: Rasheed Wallace, Andrei Kirilenko, Luol Deng, Andray Blatche and Green.

Blatche and Green did it this season. Wallace, Kirilenko and Deng are nice players, but they didn’t develop into superstars, so the Thunder should be careful when signing Green to a new deal. Wallace appeared in four All-Star Games and Kirilenko appeared in one. Deng has yet to make the All-Star Game.

Widen the net a little bit (5.0 to 7.0 rpg) and Shane Battier, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Andrea Bargnani. Again, these are nice players, but there aren’t any bona fide stars on that list.

I assume Mayberry is talking about a five-year deal, so he pegs Green’s value at $9 million to $11 million per season. I’d put Green’s value at the bottom of that range. Green is a good starter, and teams that can sign good starters for under $10 million a season are ahead of the curve.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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