You Can Win Games With Danny Green

Danny Green isn’t the focus of this picture, but he’s there. And really, that was the essence of what Danny Green brought to the North Carolina Tar Heels from 2005-2009. Green was never the best, nor the most important player on Roy Williams’ powerhouse teams, but he was always there. While teams were concentrated on shutting down Tyler Hansbrough’s access to the lane, there was Danny Green; stationed in the corner waiting for a wide open three. While teams were fixated on containing Ty Lawson on the fast break, there was Danny Green; filling his lane, ready to receive and finish. And when teams rotated too quickly to stop a Wayne Ellington jumper, there was Danny Green; preparing for a swing pass and gearing up to attack the hoop. And if you thought you could score on the Tar Heels, there was Danny Green; an ACC All-Defensive Team member.

Green had a very good career at North Carolina. He was the only player in ACC history to record at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, 150 blocks and 150 steals in his college career. His 123 victories (in 145 games played) at UNC set a school record, breaking Sam Perkins’ previous high of 115. He joined Rusty LaRue, Tyler Hansbrough and Tim Duncan as the only players to ever win four games AT Duke against a Mike Krzyzewski-coached team.

In his senior season at Chapel Hill, Green averaged 13.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks in just 27.4 minutes per game. He shot 47.1% from the field, 41.8% from three – raising his percentage in both areas for the second consecutive season – and 85.2% from the free throw line. At 6’6″ and 210 pounds, Green had prototypical size for an NBA shooting guard and his tenacity on defense and his rebounding ability meant he could occasionally slide to small forward as well.

But when you’re a senior and you’ve never been the best player on your college team, you usually don’t get selected very early in the NBA Draft – even if you’re coming off a National Championship. On Draft day, Green watched as teammates Hansbrough (13th), Lawson (18th) and Ellington (28th) were selected before him. He lasted until the 46th pick, when the Cleveland Cavaliers took him off the board.

Fast forward three years. After being waived by the Cavs in 2010, Danny Green is now on the San Antonio Spurs.

Danny Green isn’t the focus of this picture, but he’s there. And that’s really the essence of what Danny Green has brought to the Spurs this season. Green is not nearly the best, nor the most important player on Gregg Popovich’s latest powerhouse team, but he’s always there. When Manu Ginobili got hurt, there was Danny Green; ready to step up and be an important cog in the machine. In his 30 starts this season, Green has averaged 10.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.5 blocks in 24.5 minutes per game. He has shot 45.1% from the field, 44.8% from three and 78.9% from the free throw line in those 30 games.

And now, when defenses are concentrated on getting the ball out of Tim Duncan’s hands in the post, there is Danny Green; stationed on the perimeter, waiting for a spot-up 3. Green has made 83 3-pointers this season, second on the team to only Matt Bonner. He’s become an expert at the shot the Spurs value most from their perimeter players, the corner 3. He’s made 34 of his 3’s from the corner and has connected at a 42.5% rate on the shot this season.

And now, when defenses are fixated on keeping Tony Parker out of the lane, there is Danny Green; cutting from the weak side and finding an opening near the hoop. Green tends to take only the most efficient shots available. He’s almost entirely eschewed the mid-range game; more than 75% of his shots come from downtown or in the restricted area. According to NBA.com‘s stats tool, he’s taken just 70 shots from locations on the court between eight and 24 feet from the basket compared to 204 shots from outside 24 feet and 148 shots from inside eight feet. His 55.3 TS% ranks 7th among shooting guards who have averaged at least 20 minutes per game and appeared in at least 40 games, according to HoopData.

And now, when the San Antonio Spurs need a defensive stop; there is Danny Green, taking the court with Duncan and Parker and the rest. Out of the Spurs’ top 13 two-man lineup combinations in minutes played, Green is part of the 1st and 2nd ranked combinations in defensive efficiency (Green-Parker and Green-Duncan). San Antonio’s defense is 3.2 points per 100 possessions better with Green on the court than when he’s off it.

Some nights he’s a big factor, others he’s more in the background. On any given night, Green might do any given thing. Maybe he starts (30 games), maybe he comes off the bench (28). Maybe he needs to score 24 points on 13 shots one night (January 7th against Denver), and maybe he won’t mind getting his minutes and shots cut and will find a way to chip in with six points, five rebounds and four assists the next (January 8th against the Thunder). Maybe he’ll get four steals and block three shots (January 30th against Memphis). Maybe he’ll hit four 3’s (March 9th against the Clippers). Maybe he’ll play 36 minutes and be a big part of the game plan (April 4th against the Celtics). And maybe the next time out he’ll only play 15 and not factor into things quite as much (April 6th against the Hornets). But he’ll definitely be ready if called upon a few nights later (14 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks against the Jazz on April 8th).

You can do a lot of things with Danny Green. You can ask him to shoot, you can ask him to pass, you can ask him to rebound and you can ask him to defend. You can start Danny Green and you can bring him off the bench. You can yank his minutes around. You can run plays for Danny Green, but you don’t have to. You can ask him to fill in the blanks and you can count on him to make the right play. You can win games with Danny Green. That’s for sure.

Jared Dubin

Jared Dubin is a New York lawyer and writer. He is the co-editor in chief of Hardwood Paroxysm and the HPBasketball Network.