San Antonio Spurs forward Danny Green is an interesting player to observe in devising methods where he can improve. He was drafted with the 46th pick of the 2009 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. After spending one season with the Cavaliers, he spent some time in the D-League with the Reno Bighorns and Austin Toros. He only played in eight games with the Spurs, but was able to make the playoff roster and was even awarded by default, a small amount of playing time in the playoffs.
When dissecting Green, the first place you look at, is in his D-League history. Green played stellar in his D-League games and the Spurs were lucky to nab him before another team signed him.
Here are his numbers from his time with the Bighorns and Toros. Pay attention to his defensive statistics particularly.
Big Horns: 17 games played, 37 mpg, 20 ppg, 7.5 rbd, 2.5 ast, 1.35 stl, 1 blk, 45% FG, 44% 3PT.
Toros: 1 game played, 32 mpg, 19 ppg, 7 rbd, 2 ast, 1 stl, 1blk, 50% FG, 50% 3PT.
You can see that in his 18 D-League games, Green was a scoring machine and consistently shot the ball at a high percentage. His defensive stats are very telling of who he can be on the defensive end.
When he played with the Spurs, he continued to shoot the ball very well; and even though he played in situations where the “big three” didn’t play much or at all, his numbers are very telling of the player that he could become. His PER average (+13.2) provides a good sign, that he is productive in a positive way, when he does see floor time.
Spurs Regular Season: 8 games played, 11.5 mpg, 5.1 ppg, 1.9 rbd, 0.25 stl, 13.2 PER, 2.1/4.4 FG (49% FG), 0.9/2.4 3PT (37% 3PT).
Spurs Playoffs: 4 games played, 1.8 mpg, 1.3 ppg, 0.25 stl, 0.5/1.5 FG (33% FG), 0.3/1.0 3PT (25 % 3PT).
Though he rarely played in the playoffs, coach Gregg Popovich still trusted him enough (maybe by default) to throw him in a pressurized environment, as Green produced minimally in those few minutes.
I’d prefer Danny Green to Richard Jefferson. Yes, you read that correctly. You are probably reading this and thinking, “Paul, how can you make such a statement? Green only played in garbage time? I know RJ struggles, but come on; Green is not better than RJ.”
Here is where I try to sell Danny Green to you and why I feel my theory could be correct next season (if Green gets the playing time).
To begin, I took a four game sample from the regular season to see the level Green performs at when given regular minutes (12-20 minutes). Here are the four games I chose to use.
March 28 vs Portland: 20 minutes, 7 pts, 3 rbd, 1 stl, 1 blk, 3-3 FG, 1-1 3PT, -3 PER.
This game occurred during the infamous six-game losing streak. No members of the “big three” were present, but Green still performed slightly better than Richard Jefferson (7 pts, -8 PER). This was a game in which Spurs fans were yearning for Jefferson to take over. Of course he didn’t. The fact that Green shot very well (100% FG) and made some defensive plays (1 steal, 1 block) provides a positive sign.
April 6 vs Sacramento: 13 minutes, 9 pts, 3 rbd, 0 stl, 4-7 FG, 1-2 3PT, +10 PER.
In this game, the “Big 3” were all healthy and the game gave a glimpse of how Green could play coming off the bench with the full Spurs roster. He again matched Jefferson in points (9 pts).
April 12 @ Los Angeles Lakers: 21 minutes, 6 pts, 4 rbd, 0 stl, 3-10 FG, 0-5 3PT, -2 PER.
Coach Popovich elected to rest the “ big three” for this game. Green didn’t play well, especially by missing all five of his three pointers. The Lakers were at full strength; the Spurs barely lost, but Green got to spend some valuable minutes guarding the likes of Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and Matt Barnes for a few possessions. This could be vital experience for the future, as he understands the level of play rises against elite teams.
April 13 @ Phoenix: 24 minutes, 13 pts, 4 reb, 1 stl, 1 blk, 5-9 FG, 3-6 3PT, +8 PER.
This was the last game of the season (in my opinion, the game that ended the Spurs’ playoff season too. Manu Ginobili broke his arm early in the game and never returned.) Green was able to get some playing time with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker; he finished the game with his most productive performance as a Spur, and yet again, outperformed Jefferson’s(7 pts, -3 PER) play.
Through the four games that I just analyzed, here is sample of what Green’s averages finished as:
4 game sample: 19.5 mpg, 8.75 ppg, 3.5 rbd, 0.50 stl, 15-29 FG (3.75-7.25 FG) 52% FG, 7-16 3PT (1.75-4 3PT) 44% 3PT, +13 PER avg.
Jefferson is an 11-point per game scorer with the Spurs, that’s still three points higher than Green (8.75 ppg). But who’s to say that Green can’t increase his scoring between 12-14 points with more games and more minutes under his belt next season? As his PER (+13 PER) suggests, he’s a very productive player on the court, and he rarely turns the ball over. Green doesn’t commit too many fouls either while defending opponents. It’s not like his shooting decreases either; the kid can shoot the ball consistently.
Using Green instead of Jefferson won’t make a huge impact on the offensive end; they both do the same things on offense. But I believe on the defensive end, Green can provide more to the defensive system than Jefferson currently can. Green is younger, lengthy and quick.
On the offensive end, Green needs to work a bit more and lock in on his three-point shot. If he’s presented with minutes, he’ll have to have that ability to hit the corner three pointer at a high percentage at a high rate as Parker, Ginobili, and George Hill dish out the ball from the paint. In transition, Green needs to make sure he can finish at the rim on the fast break. Green doesn’t seem to look like an “attack the basket” type of player, but right now, Jefferson isn’t doing a whole lot of that either. Should Green get regular minutes, I can see him as a 12-14 point per game small forward that can shoot from the perimeter at a high percentage.
On the defensive end, Green’s biggest improvement will be to add bulk and more muscle to his body. He has a lanky build (because of his long arms), but I think if he hits the weight room and puts on some more bulk, he’ll have the physical figure that can defend the ‘drive first small forwards’ to the ‘set three point shooting small forwards.’ He’s got a quick stride from the time’s I saw him live at games. He’s already begun putting his time in the gym here in San Antonio; and with a full summer of working on his closeouts and perimeter rotations on help defense, he should be ready to show who he can be defensively when training camp opens (if training camp opens).
As the 2011-2012 season begins, Danny Green will most likely begin on the Spurs’ bench. Should Jefferson struggle again, I can see Green becoming the starter and essentially performing at a slightly more efficient rate than Jefferson. Though Green won’t ever "wow" you, he can still be a reliable small forward that fits the Spurs’ system. Not to mention, he has the ability to make plays on the defensive end.
My friend Gabriel Garcia is a finance graduate, he summed up the situation easily for me when I presented him with the idea of Green over Jefferson. "Paul, you have two guys that basically do the same thing, yet the guy who makes 884K is slightly more productive than the guy that makes 30.6 million."
"Think about it."
Be sure to check out the other four ‘R.F.I.’ pieces if you’ve missed them: DeJuan Blair, George Hill, James Anderson, and Da’Sean Butler.
(Photos: BrowseBiography.com, Mysa.com)
Seriously I'm not doubting DG but come on over RJ? I look at it like this the days of Bruce Bowen are gone and yes RJ could be better defensively but remember Bowen had David Robinson,Tim Duncan playing behind him that made him a lot better at playing defense even after Robinson there were decent bigs with Tim. RJ is more Sean Elliott than Bowen so the spurs should use RJ like they used Elliott. But the real problem isn't RJ it's the lack of bigs and TEAM defense.
@ZILLA I agree with you that the days of Bowen are gone. Plus, the "Bruce" type of defenders are scarce amongst the league. Tony Allen, Shane Battier, Ron Artest, Aaron Affalo, James Posey, DeShawn Stevenson, Shawn Marion, George Hill are just a few that remain. That's 8 guys in a 30-team league. I also agree that the Spurs don't have the front court any longer to help contain penetration. Hopefully the draft can help a bit with that problem. I'm not blaming RJ, I just feel he isn't needed when you have a guy that can play his role and makes $ 29 million dollars less than him. RJ shouldn't be payed like a $ 30 million dollar player if he's in the Sean Elliot or Bruce Bowen mold. And yes, the problem does start in the front court and trickles it's way out to the perimeter. Thanks for the comment. :-)
I fully agree with you that inserting Green into the starting lineup and sitting RJ , the Spurs wouldn't miss a beat or they would improve. The Spurs really need to address this situation on multiple levels. His huge contract, the fact you can replace him with a good minimum salary player and improve. The RJ experiment has gone all wrong. I like Green as a player a lot at his price.
The notion of Green of RJ isn't crazy or far-fetched at all. In fact, it's something that occurred to me down the late stretches of this past season, as RJ faded and Green seemed to produce in the limited minutes he was given. The last game of the year sealed the deal for me. I truly believe that Green would provide as much offense and certainly better defense than RJ. If the Spurs can somehow unload RJ via trade, I'd be ok with a small forward rotation of Green, James Anderson and De'Sean Butler. I'm also a big Tyler Honeycutt fan, and if this UCLA product is available @ the Spurs pick #29, I say pull the trigger on him. If that were to happen then the SF position would instantly be transformed from one of the weakest positions on the team to the team's strongest.
I agree that DG has more value. RJ is capable of defending bigger3-4's but he has never been a ball handler capable of creating his own shoot. This not true of DG. He has handles and driving instincts that RJ has never had. In my opinion, RJ never was more than he is now, but in a different offense he was required to do more. DG, D Butler, both have abilities with the ball but will likely struggle rebounding, more than RJ. We shouldn't be so negative about the future with SAS, they have the beginnings of a good young core. DG, JA, DB, RRichards, JH, TS, TP. We are a few pieces away from having very competitve teams afer TD era, which could easily extend another 3 yrs. I know TD is slowing down, but he is capable of being and anchor around the basket for a while, and how wouldn't want a TD in their rotation.