My first class in high school was U.S. Geography. I got an ‘A’ without much effort, and to this day it turns out that geography remains one of my hobbies. Any skills that I may have learned are put to the test when analyzing Danny Green’s path to NBA success with the San Antonio Spurs.
Our journey begins in West Babylon, New York.
West Babylon, with a population of 43,213, is nestled between Lindenhurst and North Babylon in Suffolk County, New York. Only 40 miles from New York City, this commuter town couldn’t be more different in stature. West Babylon’s current claim-to-fame is Geraldo Rivera, and then it drops off significantly.
In 1987, Danny Green was born to mother Rene’, and father Danny Senior. As he got older Green’s height and his father helped steer him toward basketball. Danny Senior, raising Green as a single father – following the departure of wife Rene’ would prove to be a primary influence on Green’s life and career. Danny Senior would take Green on the club and AAU tour.
High School basketball highlighted Danny Green’s advanced skill-set, which propelled him into a McDonald’s All-America selection out of Long Island. Danny Green soon caught the eye of the University of North Carolina, and head coach Roy Williams.
It is a 9-hour and 31-minute drive south-west, from West Babylon, New York, to Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Stepping onto the UNC campus is intimidating for any ball player. UNC is more than a proving ground for regional high school basketball stars. The promises of NCAA tournament success, and NBA dreams, are part of the lore. The other part consists of the legacy left by former great players. Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Vince Carter, and Kenny Smith have all called Chapel Hill home.
During his freshman year with the Tar Heels, Danny Green proved to be a solid player. He averaged 7.5 points-per-game, and 3.7 rebounds-per-game. With teammates such as AP Player of the year Tyler Hansbrough, and first-round pick Ty Lawson, Coach Roy Williams needed Green to diversify his game in order for the team to succeed.
By shifting from a score-first mentality to a blended game, Danny Green gave the spark UNC needed, helping to propel them to a 2009 NCAA Championship. Green finished his college career with averages of 9.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, and nearly 2 assists per game.
According to NBA.com, Danny Green is the only player in the history of the ACC with 1000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, 150 three-point field goals, 150 blocks, and 150 steals.
Cleveland, Ohio is 543 miles northwest of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. If you drove, you’re talking a 9-hour commute.
The Cleveland Cavaliers selected Danny Green in the second round (46th overall) of the 2009 NBA Draft. The 6’6”, 210-pound Green would be playing alongside potential Hall of Famers LeBron James, and Shaquille O’Neal. He played in 20 games for the Cavs in 2010, scoring two-points and gathering only a single rebound per game. Displeased, the Cleveland Cavaliers would waive Danny Green before the start of the 2010-2011 season.
The NBADL Erie Bay Hawks, from Erie Pennsylvania signed Green, along with Darnell Jackson, in 2010. Erie is a short 1 hour 43 minute drive north-east of Cleveland along Lake Erie.
Shortly after his D-League stint, Danny Green was snatched up by the San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio was in the middle of one of the greatest runs for a professional team by winning four titles since 1999, led by their triumvirate of stars in future Hall of Famers Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli.
Danny Green’s continued growth will directly affect the Spurs’ chances of repeating as NBA Champions.
Danny Green had all the markings of a versatile role player, the kind that Coach Gregg Popovich covets.
The Spurs signed him, but then quickly dropped the former Tar Heel.
The Reno Bighorns signed Green. Back to the NBADL. Reno is 1,723 miles from San Antonio.
During Green’s stint with Reno, the “6’6” guard averaged 20.1 PPG (including 43% from behind the arch), and 7.5 RPG.
Green’s excellent D-League performance caught San Antonio’s attention and he transitioned back to the Alamo City for another run with the Spurs. Again, he was signed then moved to the D-League affiliate, Austin Toros.
Austin, Texas is a 90-minute drive north-east of San Antonio.
During the NBA lock-out year of 2011, Green made a 5,690-mile migration to play for Union Olimpija, of Slovenia. In a very short stint in Euroleague play, Green averaged 11.4 points-per-game. His Union contract had an NBA out clause which was invoked at the end of the NBA lockout.
Back to San Antonio.
This time Danny Green would stay with San Antonio, where he, under the stewardship of Coach Pop, would blossom into a key contributor on a championship-level team. During his time for San Antonio, Danny Green has played in 222 games, while averaging 9.5 PPG. While not considered a lock-down defender, Green does play quality defensive minutes spelling Kawhi Leonard on the opponent’s best guard or forward. In 2013 he helped “contain” LeBron James to a 25.2 PPG performance in the Finals.
During those Finals, Danny Green set an NBA record for most three-pointers in a Finals-series with 25. His performance would have earned him the Finals MVP award if Ray Allen didn’t knock down the infamous three-pointer in Game 6, who coincidentally is the former record holder for total three-point field goals in a Finals.
Green’s presence gives the Spurs perhaps their greatest strength: depth. His move into the starting line-up allowed Ginobili to lead the second-unit as San Antonio’s sixth man.
Danny Green on the Spurs makes sense, and is no better evidenced than by the 2013-2014 NBA season. Green averaged 43% from the field in 68 games, including 41% from three-point range.
His three-point percentage was never higher than in 2011-2012 where he shot 45% from that distance. He is a career 40% three-point shooter.
The well-traveled pride of West Babylon has logged over 12,038 miles during his journey to NBA stability. One can be sure it is time well spent in preparation for the success he has enjoyed with San Antonio. As the Spurs prepare to start a title-defense campaign in the 2014-2015 season, Green will be in the starting line-up. Finally, right where he belongs.
So, why re-tell the Danny Green story now? Simple. Danny Green’s continued growth will directly affect the Spurs’ chances of repeating as NBA Champions. Most pundits consider the Oklahoma City Thunder the primary competition in the West, and the Cavaliers the leaders in the Eastern Conference. Their stars require the Spurs to be especially athletic on defense.
Kawhi Leonard is transforming into a truly special player, and he will most certainly continue to draw the defensive assignment of the opposition’s best player. In Oklahoma City, this means covering Kevin Durant, and of course LeBron in Cleveland. But who spells Leonard in the defensive rotation. Green is the best option for the Spurs. Popovich may even consider bringing Green off the bench and implanting Manu Ginobili back into the starting lineup if these teams meet in the playoffs.
If Danny Green improves on defensive this year his 6’6” frame is lengthy enough to stay in front of Durant. Keeping Kawhi Leonard and an aging Manu Ginobili out of foul trouble will be a key factor in the bid to win the West.
What is more interesting is the one-two punch that Cleveland will be able to lay on San Antonio should they meet in the Finals. LeBron has been covered by Leonard in the past, and most see that continuing. However, do the Spurs have the right make up to consistently cover Kevin Love?
The lineup would dictate that Duncan takes Love, but isn’t Tim closer to an Anderson Varejao -defender at this stage in his career? Can Duncan step out to cover Love’s range? Do Spurs-fans want him that far from the basket? This is going to be a match up problem for the Spurs.
In a Spurs-Cavs Finals, I would expect Splitter’s minutes to all but go away. What is very likely, in an augmented rotation, would be to put the undersized Leonard on Love, and use Green to guard King James.
Needless to say, Danny Green’s range can give a team fits. That is a story that I expect to play out as the season progresses, and playoff brackets take shape.