Full disclosure: I love Danny Green. I think he is a great 3-and-D guy on a great contract. Yes, he does have some flaws but you won't find a lot of better bargains in terms of money vs. production than our Verde. That being said, I'm a bit worried about whether or not Green can give the Spurs what they need right now.
For the season, Green has been great. He averages roughly ten points on 44% from three and three boards. He's also part of the best defensive starting lineup in the league and the Spurs do a little bit better with him on the court on both ends. Part of that success has to do with him playing mostly with the starters but Green has had a very, very strong season. Unfortunately, he has been slowing down lately and his decline couldn't have come at a worse time. What does this mean for the rest of the season, and more importantly, the post season?
Danny Green needs someone to assist him
Synergy Sports tell us Danny Green gets the bulk of his offense on spot up situations, where he is absolutely deadly. He ranks 18th in the league with a ridiculous 1.27 points per possession. He also excels off screens (4th in the league, 1.23 PPP) and on cuts (23rd in the league, 1.37 PPP). That's why Green averages such a very solid true shooting percentage of 57.2% despite not being able to create for himself and not being very proficient at finishing near the rim. The less we say about his transition numbers (225th in the league), the better.
Just to give you an idea of how much Green needs others to create for him, out of his 281 makes, 242 have been assisted, with Parker accounting for 88 (over a third) of those. And of all his field goal attempts, well over 60% are from outside the arc, which makes complete sense seeing as he's one of the better shooters in the league.
Now, this is his shot chart for the season and the shot chart over the last ten and five games. (mouse over the GIF to see the progression or click on it)
Green has been as deadly as ever from the corners over the last ten games. What he hasn't been able to do is replicate the success he was having before on non-corner threes and mid range. Plus, his always suspect finishing abilities at the rim have only gotten worse. Basically, Green's shooting has been sub-par unless it's from the corner. Not having Parker to draw in the defense in order kick it out, and not being able to create his own scoring opportunities is hurting not just Green but the whole team, which is scoring at a well below average rate per 100 possessions with Danny on the court.
However, there are a lot of reasons to remain positive about Green's offensive performance and he's not really supposed to make his mark on offense. The problem is, his defense has also regressed.
Danny Green, defensive liability?
Danny Green has a very good reputation as a defender and both the eye test and the numbers confirm it, at least in some areas. He does a fantastic job of chasing shooters through screens and can defend pick and roll ball handlers, according to Synergy Sports. Green did a great job on Chris Paul last playoffs and the Spurs have gone to him to guard pick and roll reliant point guards often. That versatility is important, even now that the Spurs have a plus defender at the other wing spot in Leonard.
When it comes to guarding off screens, Green does a solid job of navigating the situation in a way that assists the team's defense. If he's guarding slashers off the ball, he will go under the screen and let the guy catch the pass in a standing position. If he's guarding shooters, he goes over the screen and trails the shooter as he receives the pass on the move. It's pretty much textbook defense. The same happens on pick and rolls. He's a bit too predictable but he does a great job. The problem comes when he has to guard spot up shooters and isolations.
Per Synergy sports, Green allows 1.09 points per possession (PPP) in spot ups for the season, "good" for 303rd in the league. That is terrible for a starter on a good team. For comparison's sake, Manu Ginobili, who has been getting a lot of criticism from me and others for his bad tendencies guarding shooters, ranks 53rd. If you've paid attention to Danny on defense it doesn't come as much of a surprise. Green usually has more purpose than Ginobili when he floats off the ball but he still leaves his man open a lot in pursuit of providing help defense. He might be a little quicker to recover but he still has to close out too aggressively and the guys that can't shoot over him just drive past him.
When there are others involved in defensive plays, like on screens or pick and rolls, Green does a good job of containing the better option. When he is left on his own, though, it's a different story. He's not a terrible defender on isolation but he's not particularly good, either. He usually just tries to funnel his guy towards the helping big or gives him a lot of room to pull up. Except when, for no apparent reason, he is overtly aggressive in trying to take away the outside shot, making himself susceptible to drives. He then defends with his hands (instead of moving his feet), causing him to foul a fair amount.
Basically, Green is as inconsistent on defense as he is on offense and has similarly specialized skills.
I've always known the above statement to be true but it seems those limitations are getting the best of him lately. The Grizzlies game, in which he continually gave Mike Conley his left, is just the most blatant example, but he has been making little mistakes -- things like biting on pump fakes or giving good shooters just enough room to pull up -- for a while now. When you combine his limited offense with his lack of isolation or spot up defense, you have a guy that doesn't seem particularly versatile or reliable. This wouldn't be as big a problem if the Spurs had another wing that was.
At this point, only Kawhi Leonard can be counted on as a good two-way swingman. Manu is injured, Jackson has had a terrible season, Neal has underwhelmed and De Colo has mostly gotten minutes at the point. Someone else needs to play consistently well and the only one who has at some point this season is Green. If Ginobili comes back and is solid, Green's flaws won't matter as he will be able to go back to a more reduced role that would suit him better at this point in his career.
But until that happens, the Spurs need more from Green. They need him to go back to being a reliable three point shooter from all over the floor and they need him to defend better in varied sets, like he did earlier in the season. Maybe it's just a question of fatigue. After all, Green has played more minutes this season than in his three prior seasons combined. Maybe it's just a question of missing Parker or just experiencing the type of relaxation that comes from having had a pretty great regular season. Who knows? All I do know is that with so many doubts surrounding Ginobili's availability and performance, it looks like Danny Green will need to step up for the Spurs to go back to being the team we've seen earlier in the season. It might not be fair to ask him, a role player, to elevate his game, but it seems it has come to that. Let's hope he can deliver.
Stats and screen caps courtesy of My Synergy Sports. Additional stats and shot charts courtesy of NBA.com/Stats.