Danny Green finally finding his rhythm in new Spurs system

April 7, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich (left) talks to guard Danny Green (14, right) against the Golden State Warriors during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
April 7, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich (left) talks to guard Danny Green (14, right) against the Golden State Warriors during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

With his elite perimeter defense and 3-point shooting, Danny Green is one of the best roll-men in the league. But with Spurs shifting to inside-out game last year, he struggled to find his rhythm on offensive end. This season he finally seems to getting the right spots.

San Antonio Spurs had a historic 2015-2016 season with 67 wins. Although he gave a huge defensive contribution, Danny Green had overall bad offensive performance. He had career-low 37.6 field goal percentage and career second worst 33.2% from 3-point line. Considering 3-point shooting is his main offensive contribution and role in a team, it was a disappointing season.

The main reason for this poor shooting was change in Spurs offensive approach. With addition of LaMarcus and Kawhi starting to isolate and post up more, Spurs shifted to more inside-out based game. They posted up a lot more than earlier years and it slowed down their trademark ball-movement motion offense.

Danny’s main offensive role is shooting. For shooters, the most important thing is confidence. To be confident with his shoot, player must feel comfortable, knowing where his spots are and when to get to them. That comfort in taking the right place was Danny’s biggest problem last season. He struggled to find his place in new offensive system, so his shoots’ efficiency suffered. It wasn’t accident that bringing the right mentality and confidence back was Danny’s number one priority heading to 2016-17 season.

Over the summer the Spurs again significantly changed their roster. With Pau Gasol in lineup the Spurs are able to spread the floor a lot more. Gasol is great 3-point shooter for a big man, so he and Aldridge have a green light to take them this season. Last year the Spurs starting big men took 0.2 attempts per game from 3-point line; this season they have 2.2 per game. Spurs are also taking more trees than year before (21.9 compared to 18.5).

Other significant change is Kawhi’s new offensive approach. Last season Kawhi averaged almost equal amount of post up and pick&roll plays per game (2.4 and 2.5 respectively). This season he is much more perimeter-oriented, taking 5.3 pick&roll possessions and only 1.8 post-up possessions per game.

This changes create much more motion in Spurs offense and it definitely goes in Danny’s favor. Spurs game is now more perimeter-based, and with 5 players able to spread the floor, the Spurs gained more ball and player movement. Danny is able to circle around perimeter with more freedom, enabling him to easily find his sweet spots for shooting. More freedom in movement gives more comfort, which grows confidence.

So what do number say to back up this statement?

Since returning from left quad injury, Danny Green played 11 games for Spurs this season. For purpose of this article, comparison between Danny’s this season and 2015-16 season numbers will be given.

Considering he is a shooter, most important offensive stats for Danny is shooting percentages. This season he has 46.9 field goal and 43.5 s-point percentage, both his career second-best. Last season he was shooting 37.6% (career low) field goals and 33.2% (career second worst) from beyond the arc. This is tremendous improvement, considering he’s taking even less shots this season (5.8) that year before (7.1). He’s also improved his free throw shooting (80% compared to 73.9% last year). Overall, his true shooting (TS%) and effective field goal percentage (EFG%) are on career high level. His TS% is 64.3 (last season 49.2), and he has EFG% of 62.5 (48.0 last year).

In addition to this, Danny is averaging 2.5 assists this season (career high), compared to 1.8 in last. When on the court, Danny participates in 13 percent of his teammates field goals with assists; it’s his career high and 41 percent improvement from last season (9.1 percent). He also has career-best assist ratio with 25 percent (last year 17.7 percent). His 3.38 assist/turnover ratio is by far margin his career best (1.88 last season). Assist number indicates Danny is better integrated in Spurs offense, especially considering he’s not famous for his ball-handling skills. He’s more comfortable in spot-up situations, making smarter decisions when to shoot and when to put the ball on the floor and search for open teammate.

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Danny’s performance certainly affected his team in positive way. Individually, Danny has 15.6 Net Rating (last season 12.7), his career best. If you look at Spurs production with Danny on and off the court, his impact is even more obvious.

When Danny was on bench, along with his 8-game absence, the Spurs had overall Net Rating of +1.9. When he’s on the court the Spurs are as high as +15.6, which is a +13.7 difference. In 2015-16 the Spurs had +12.7 Net Rating with Danny on the court and +10.7 when he was on bench, a +2.7 difference.

Spurs TS% and EFG% also increases with Danny on court. Team has TS% of 59.8 and EFG% of 55.1 when Green is in game, and 54.9% and 48% without him. With Danny struggling last year, the Spurs actually had better TS and EFG percentages when he wasn’t on the court. Although these numbers don’t depend solely on Danny, they are largely influenced by his performance, considering he’s one of the team’s main shooters.

The Spurs have a lot new faces this season. Although they have second best record in the league, there a lot of thing that they need to work on until the Playoffs. There a lot of puzzles to fit together. But one thing that definitely is encouraging is Danny Green’s performance so far.

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His shooting confidence is getting back, he makes smarter decisions on offense and provides usual elite perimeter defending. The Spurs need Danny Green at his best to compete for title, and Danny is on a good way getting at that level when they need him the most.