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Five Reasons Jeff Green Will Outplay Paul Pierce

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Five Reasons Jeff Green Will Outplay Paul Pierce
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Jeff Green against the Washington Wizards. Photo by Keith Allison.

COMMENTARY | With All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo's recovery timeline still very much uncertain, the Boston Celtics' season primarily rests on the shoulders of 27-year-old small forward Jeff Green.

Green is set to replace former captain Paul Pierce, whose No. 34 jersey will likely be hanging in the rafters at the TD Garden in the not-so-distant future.

Taking over the starting role of a legend is never easy but with the Boston Celtics, it's a rite of passage for young players who want to become stars. The pressure will surely be on Green to show improvement, at the very least, over his breakout second half in 2012-2013. But if he really wants to win the Celtics' faithful over, nothing would be more effective than outplaying Pierce over the course of the season.

The following five reasons explain why Green has a great shot at accomplishing this very difficult task:

1. Green's exceptional play after the All-Star break

Prior to the All-Star game, Green averaged a disappointing 10.3 points per game, 3.3 rebounds and 1 assist, and he shot 44.3 percent from the field. After the All-Star game, despite the absence of master-facilitator Rajon Rondo, Green managed to dramatically improve his overall stat line, averaging 17.3 points per game, 5 rebounds and 2.7 assists, and he shot an impressive 49.3 percent from the field. If the momentum he developed in the second half of the season and the playoffs carries over into 2013-2014, the NBA is going to be in for a rude awakening when opponents square off against the Celtics in November.

2. Strong improvement on the offensive side of the ball

One of the biggest criticisms of Green in the past has been his inability to consistently shoot from mid-range and from beyond the 3-point line. This is a fair critique of his game and one that he has worked tirelessly to improve on.

During the second half of 2012-2013, the hard work paid off, and Green managed to average an exceptional 43.9-percent success rate from 3-point range while shooting 39.3 percent from mid-range. Pierce, who is widely considered to be a very strong mid-range shooter, averaged 39.6 percent from mid-range over the past two seasons, a fact that should give Boston fans great confidence going into the new season.

3. He's well-suited for a starting role

When Jeff Green did get a chance to start in 2012-2013, which occurred in only 17 games, he put up stellar numbers. His stat line included an average of 20.1 points per game, 5.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, a field-goal success rate of 52.3 percent, and he made an incredible 51.9 percent of 3-point shots. Now that Green should spend the entirety of the season as a starter, fans should expect this kind of showing every night.

4. Jeff Green arrived in the playoffs

One of the few positive takeaways from the first-round loss to the New York Knicks in the playoffs in 2013 was the strong performance turned in by Jeff Green. In six games, he averaged 20.3 points and 5.3 rebounds, shot .455 from 3-point land, and even managed to tally three blocks in the first game of the series, showing off his athleticism against a very tough New York team.

Paul Pierce, on the other hand, struggled against the Knicks, hitting only 36.8 percent of his shots from the field, the lowest playoff shooting percentage since 2003-2004. He was terrible from the 3-point line, making only 26.8 percent of his attempts, which was his worst success rate in the playoffs since 2004-2005.

5. Paul Pierce has to share the ball with two other stars

I have been a strong supporter of the position that Pierce is going to have another solid year in 2013-2014, but the chances of him outperforming Jeff Green, a rising star, is highly unlikely. Pierce is going to be 36 years old when the season starts in November, and, instead of playing for a Boston team where he was responsible for carrying the scoring load every single night, Pierce now belongs to the Brooklyn Nets, an organization that already has two very strong scorers in Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.

Pierce's role with the team is no longer to put up huge numbers; his new goal is going to be playing well at the end of games, where Joe Johnson usually shrinks, and being the go-to player in the playoffs. Jeff Green, on the other hand, is going to be the focus of the team until Rondo returns, and even with Rajon back in the lineup, Green is still going to be responsible for being the team's leading scorer.

As long as Joe Johnson and Deron Williams stay healthy, its fair for Celtics fans to expect Green to outperform Pierce -- not only because Pierce now has other stars to defer to, but also because Green's second half of last season should make him the most prolific player in Boston in 2013-2014.

Don't agree with me? Tell me why I am wrong on Twitter @THATCelticsGuy.

Justin Haskins is a New England native and a freelance journalist. He has been obsessively following Boston professional sports for 10 years and has been published in numerous online publications and websites.

Statistics provided by Basketball-reference.com and NBA.com.

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