In his eighth season with the San Antonio Spurs, shooting guard Danny Green was asked to shoulder a larger role defensively, which affected his offensive production.
For most of the year, coach San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich tasked Danny Green with the league’s most difficult defensive assignments. As the team’s most consistent on-ball defender besides the sidelined Kawhi Leonard, Green was forced to play outside of his position and size to combat the league’s elite.
His ambition and tenacity on the defensive end were a sight for sore eyes as he guarded the world’s greatest ballplayers on a nightly basis. No matter the competition, Green nagged his opponents with his anticipation, quick lateral movement and remarkable hustle. Averaging a steal and a block per game, Green will certainly have his name in the ring for All-Defensive team consideration after putting together a stellar season on this side of the ball.
In addition to his work defensively, Green entered the season with improved ball handling and a newfound confidence in his ability as a shot creator. One major knock against Green throughout his career has been his inability to dribble, a skill that’s become necessary for perimeter players in the modern NBA. To put in the work to improve fundamental skills at the age of 30 is highly commendable, as many veterans would resist change to their playstyles later in their careers.
Even with his improved ball handling, Green left something to be desired in his three-point shooting. He connected on 36.3 percent of his 4.6 three-pointers per game, his third lowest percentage ever from behind the arc. Furthermore, Green shot an abysmal 38.5 percent from the field in his 70 games played.
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Green’s production has dipped for a number of reasons, the first and foremost being his newfound role as Popovich’s primary perimeter defender. In a Western Conference headlined by dynamic wing scorers such as James Harden, Kevin Durant and Paul George, Green was tasked with difficult matchups night-in and night-out. Even the lesser teams of the league such as Phoenix and Sacramento have talented wings such as Devin Booker and Buddy Hield, who can cause defensive dilemmas for any team. I say this to say, Green’s first priority on the floor was defense, which has historically had a negative impact on player’s statistical output offensively.
Secondly, San Antonio’s offense fell off a cliff this season with the decline of Tony Parker and the absence of Leonard. In many ways, these two stars drove the offense with their playmaking abilities and true understanding of Spurs ball movement. This left players such as Green and Patty Mills to their own devices, forcing them to take shots that they otherwise may not have. With the resurgence of LaMarcus Aldridge on the low post, the team’s gameplan shifted heavily into low-post isolation and pick-and-roll, which is an unfavorable playstyle for a three-point specialist like Green.
What the box scores don’t show is the leadership that Green brought to the ballclub. Between uncertainty in the locker room, new acquisitions, declining talent and the development of youth, Green, along with Mills, took large leadership roles for a team that’s relied on the same leaders for decades. Not only did Green provide the voice of reason, but he also made sure to connect with the public on multiple occasions to help settle the nerves of fans, invalidate rumors and represent an organization that typically strays away from the limelight.
For this, Green deserves a lot of credit. It’s not easy for a role player to have a major voice in a dynasty but it’s just another hurdle that he cleared this year.
Season Grade: B-
With the July 1 start date for NBA Free Agency rapidly approaching, one must wonder where Green will land next. He’s got a $10 million player-option to consider for this coming season, but could potentially land more money on the free market. For San Antonio, his value stands somewhere between the $5-10 million dollar range annually, as his two-way play, longstanding relationship with the team and veteran presence remain valuable.
With a healthy team and some new talent around him, Green could see another jump in his efficiency in the 2018-2019 season.