Should the San Antonio Spurs Replace Danny Green?
By Ian Smith
Danny Green was awarded with a huge contract extension after the 2014-2015 season. He followed it with his worst year on offense since becoming a starter for the San Antonio Spurs.
Although his defense was still extremely solid, Green averaged only 7.2 points per game during the regular season while shooting about 38% from the field. His 3-point field goal percentage plummeted to about 33%. Considering that he’s a career 40% shooter from downtown, the dip was both perplexing and alarming.
Green was one of the weak points in their starting lineup, and it poses the question of whether he would be better served coming off the bench next season.
Right now, the Spurs’ roster doesn’t have a proven commodity at shooting guard to confidently displace Green in the starting lineup, and they’d likely have to examine the free agent market to see if any viable options exist for them to bring in to start.
The problem is that most of the intriguing shooting guards set to become free agents bring major red flags with them.
Jamal Crawford is 36 years old, and would bring the exact opposite problems that Green faced this year: all offense, no defense. It would make more sense to bring him in to complement Green if he were younger.
After a series with the Oklahoma City Thunder in which San Antonio looked lethargic and old, bringing in a 36 year old free agent wouldn’t be the most proactive strategy to improving the team.
Joe Johnson will be 35 years old at the start of next season, and while he’s a fantastic shooter and dynamic scorer, he’s a one-way player who’s consistently failed to make his teammates better throughout his career when he’s been elevated to alpha-dog status on his team. At this stage of his career, the Spurs should steer clear.
Dwyane Wade still looks like he can consistently lead a team, but using their cap space to bring in a guy with so much mileage on his body doesn’t seem wise for the Spurs.
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Two other options have proven to be fantastic scorers throughout their career, but disturbingly injury-prone as well.
Eric Gordon would come at a relatively cheap price tag for a guy who has averaged 16.6 career points per game in an 8 year NBA career. The downside is that he’s played in less than 60 games in 4 out of those 8 years.
Bradley Beal is in that same questionable category. Although a dynamic shooter, he’s struggles to go a season without missing over 20 games with injuries. The 16.0 career points per game looks enticing from a guy who’ll only be 23 come next season, but Beal has made it clear he wants a max deal, and that’s an awfully big risk to take on a guy who can’t stay healthy.
Gordon is a career 38.3% 3-point shooter, while Beal has shot 39.7% from deep for his career. Both are proven scorers, but their injury histories would make anybody nervous about committing significant money to them.
Neither Beal or Gordon are good defenders, however, and Green would perhaps be more comfortable providing that necessity off the bench. If he were to come in and also hit perimeter jumpers in even modest portions, that would be a bonus.
His playoff numbers were an improvement over a lackluster regular season shooting the ball, but he still had the tendency to disappear from the action. Some might see it as being judicious instead of passive, but a guy who once had the NBA Finals record for 3-pointers made in the series shouldn’t be as hesitant to assert himself in the offense.
The Spurs are definitely in a tough spot with Green. At over $11 million per season, he’d be a very expensive bench player, especially for someone who isn’t a floor general like Andre Iguodala or a high-octane source of points like Crawford.
Green is a lockdown defender who is capable of hitting a barrage of 3-pointers, but it would seem like a huge gamble to relegate a high-priced piece to a role where it would appear less likely for the Spurs to get their monies worth.
The Spurs’ salary cap situation also makes it less likely that they bring in a shooting guard to displace Green from the starting lineup. They’ll probably have enough money to acquire one max-level player, and with bigger holes to fill at point guard and center, shooting guard doesn’t look like as huge of a priority.
Bringing in a guy like Gordon would basically ensure that they won’t have the capabilities to sign a star point guard like Mike Conley or a star center like Al Horford, and it doesn’t seem as efficient of a way to bolster their roster.
An acquisition like Gordon only happens if the Spurs are convinced that somebody currently on their roster can be trusted with starters’ minutes at point guard and center.
Boban Marjanovic was impressive in limited minutes last year, but they’d likely want to ease him more into that role if he fits into their future plans.
Tony Parker significantly declined last season, and Patty Mills’ frustrating playoff performance highlighted the flaws in his game; mainly the fact that he’s small, can’t play defense effectively, and is largely dependent on his perimeter jumper falling to contribute on the offensive end.
The Spurs appear to have bigger holes to fill in their roster than shooting guard, and although Green had a bad season on offense, hopefully he can regain his confidence for next year. His offseason Lasik surgery helps in that regard. It certainly won’t hurt.
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He’s a talented player on both ends of the court. He just needs to start hitting shots at the rate he’s capable of.