The (advanced) profile
Offensive PPP: 1.01 (43rd)
Defensive PPP: 0.96 (405th)
Offensive rating (points per 100 possessions): 112
Defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions): 103
The San Antonio Spurs did it again. By again I mean, of course, they staved off the proverbial championship window for another year. Their time will inevitably come — no small-market team can build a continuous juggernaut because of the nature of the NBA business model — but, as long as they are consistently utilizing gems like Danny Green, that window is very likely to stay shut for too long.
Green is one of the few NBA players to toil through four years of college. The extra years of learning under one of the premier programs in America didn’t lead to a mass interest in his services. Cleveland took a chance on Green with the 46th overall pick, a chance they never were completely committed to. Green played 115 minutes in a Cavalier jersey before he was released prior to the 2010-11 regular season.
The Spurs scooped up the ravaged remains of an unwanted player before releasing Green themselves the following year. After playing only eight games with San Antonio, Green tagged along for one last effort at reinventing his career before it was too late. As training camps waned and rotations became slightly more lucid, it was apparent that Green wasn’t apart of the Spurs’ long-term plans. Still, Green was pretty fortunate enough to crack the opening day roster. He still had an opportunity, though he had no idea when his services would be needed.
That moment came against the Denver Nuggets. Manu Ginobili was sidelined with a fractured metacarpal on his left hand. As a result, Popovich went with the unorthodox backcourt tandem of Gary Neal and Tony Parker. James Anderson already proved that he was ineffective so Popovich made an even more unusual move: he inserted Danny Green with 6:31 to play in the first quarter.
Pop paired Green and Kawhi Leonard together, creating a pairing that he eventually utilized very often. They are both athletic, sharpshooting wings (although we didn’t know how Kawhi would fare from the perimeter in January) that can defend the majority of NBA players. They don’t require the ball and, when they do get the chance, they are generally efficient. A natural fit.
Green missed his first shot of the game, a 25-foot 3-pointer that predicated from penetration by Tony Parker. That miss didn’t define Green nor did it deter him. He kept shooting and, as the shots continued to fall down, kept earning minutes. He finished the night 9-of-12 (following the miss) including three 3-pointers. Don’t forget his two steals and two blocks that are indicative of his continuous motor either.
His impressive performance tentatively delineated the rotation. Anderson was completely out of the equation. Kawhi became a starter, joining Green on the perimeter. Richard Jefferson was flipped to Golden State.
Without Green, San Antonio’s bench would have been collectively weaker. Starting Green allowed for Popovich to bring Manu Ginobili off the bench, a preposition that is deadly for the opposing team. He didn’t sacrifice shooting or defense by placing Green in the starting lineup either (otherwise he probably wouldn’t have started Green for half the season). Green couldn’t create his own shot but, in the constructs of the Spurs’ offense, that skill was irrelevant. Converting on his corner 3-pointers at a 46% clip was exactly what Pop needed from his starting 2-guard (not named Manu). Nothing more, nothing less.
Green didn’t give him any less. It was his last chance after all.
Performance of the year: Jan. 7, 2012 vs Denver. W 121-117.
The line: 33:27 MIN | 9-13 FG | 3-3 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 24 PTS | +2
This was Danny Green’s official breakout game. Green harped on one of his first opportunities to make an impact in the NBA and didn’t let go. After his 24-7-2 line, Gregg Popovich trusted Green with a more inclusive role on the team. He finished with 38 starts under his belt despite playing 28 games in his first two years of his career. He tailed out in the Western Conference Finals but, honestly, who could’ve predicted Green’s performance? He was behind James Anderson on the depth chart prior to the season. Think about that for a second.
Season grade: B