When Georgetown reached the Final Four in 2007 Jeff Green was asked what player he patterned his game after.
Green’s response: Scottie Pippen.
Eighteen months later Green is viewed as the Thunder’s version of Pippen, the sidekick to Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant.
"I wouldn’t say we’re anywhere near close to them,” Durant said. "We’re not even in the same sentence with those two. But we’re both from the same area (Washington, D.C.). We’re building some chemistry. We’ve grown together as best friends. We try to help each other and hope to stay together for a while.”
It would be unfair to compare any duo to Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest player in NBA history and Pippen, who collected six NBA championship rings. But if Oklahoma City is to evolve into a playoff team, much less a Western Conference contender, Durant and Green must improve in upcoming seasons.
There are similarities between Green and Pippen. Both were selected No. 5 overall. One reason Green admired Pippen was he played multiple positions and was a perennial all-defensive player best known for his all-round game.
"I think (Green) plays just like Pippen,” Durant said. "I can see him growing into a player like that. I’ll be excited to see his game a couple of years from now. With some of the other pieces we have, if me and Jeff continue to grow, continue to get better, this team can go very far.”
No one is predicting Green will become the next Pippen. Green, though, has a leg up after one season. Green averaged 10.5 points his rookie season, Pippen 7.9.
But Green still has a long way to go to be compared to Pippen, a seven-time All-Star who collected 2,307 career steals and averaged 16.1 points and 6.4 rebounds during a 17-year career.
Thunder coach P.J. Carlesimo wants Green to focus on expanding his game by playing more on the perimeter. It’s nothing new for Green. Before he grew six inches late in high school, Green was a guard. He also handled the ball at Georgetown.
"His strength is his versatility,” said Georgetown coach John Thompson III. "Jeff is someone you can put anywhere on the court, inside or outside and he will have success. He has a willingness to be coached. He’s a sponge. His skill level is terrific.