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Why Danny Green isn't a premier defender (yet)

Danny is known as a 3-and-D guy. While we all know about Icy Hot and his streaky nature from deep, he runs hot and cold on the defensive end too, placing excellent individual plays with huge errors, especially when defending off of the ball.

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You know what really grinds my gears? Danny Green. More specifically, Green's complete incompetence on the offensive end of the floor anywhere within 22 feet of the hoop is enough to make me pull my hair out. But it's not just his offensive game that's sketchy - Green's defense is overrated.

Don't get me wrong, I love Green, and appreciate what he's contributed over the past two seasons (though I do hope he'll show off his dance moves some more). He is a match-up nightmare for opposing teams in most cases, but in others he does more harm than good.

Now, before I get a barrage of death threats from raging Pounders, hear me out. As J. Gomez (Edg5) recently posted, Danny Green is one of the best 3-and-D players in the NBA, and a lot of that is because Green can heat up from three faster than Ken Mauer calls technicals. He is also a fantastic on-ball defender on the other end of the court.

Green's defense is highlighted by his astounding .81 points per possession (PPP) allowed in isolation defense, and his .7 PPP allowed on pick and roll ball handler defense.

In the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat last year, Green also gained quite a bit of notoriety for his fantastic defense against LeBron James, particularly in transition. Here are just a few of Danny's many key defensive plays from the Finals:

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In this play, Danny does a great job of not only stopping two easy fastbreak points, but also not fouling. Transition plays like this were a turning point in Game 5, and helped bring the Spurs a 3-2 lead into South Beach.

He also had his fair share of isolation stops on LeBron James, including this key play right before halftime:

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Seldom does LeBron get blocked in a basketball game, especially on an isolation drive to the rim.

Green also showcased his fantastic transition D in one of the most important moments of Game 6:

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Off-ball defense for Green, though, is a whole different story. Green has a tendency to over-help on defense, which often leads to open looks for good shooters. Against spot-up shooters, Green allowed a subpar 1.06 PPP, including an atrocious 39.9 three-point field goal percentage. To put that percentage in perspective, the worst defensive three-point field goal percentage allowed by a team last season was the Suns, who allowed 38.8%. It's not just that Green gives open three-point looks - he gives up a ton of them. Last season the Spurs allowed 1876 three-point field goal attempts, of which 218 were off of Green's man taking a spot-up jumper.

So how does Green allow so many spot-up jumpers? They come, for the most part, from severely over-helping on the opponent's primary ball handlers. Think back to any game last season where a one-dimensional shooter went off against the Spurs, and don't be surprised to see that Green was the man who should face the brunt of the blame.

Sometimes, Green over-helps like here:


This kind of play is simply inexcusable. When Shane Battier catches Allen's pass, Green is a good 10-15 feet away from him. Why is he helping so much on a Ray Allen drive to the rim? Green should know that Gregg Popovich (or any conscious human being, for that matter) would choose a contested Ray Allen floater over a wide-open Shane Battier three any day of the week.



What is Danny doing? I get that he wants to help Kawhi Leonard with LeBron and Tim Duncan with Chris Bosh, but LeBron is driving away from Green, and Bosh doesn't have a good angle for a pass. It goes without question that Pop has drilled into every Spur's head not to leave Ray Allen or Shane Battier open. This sort of mental mistake by Green is something that should never happen on a team as disciplined as the Spurs. Once again, Danny is caught far away from his man, who just happens to be one of the greatest shooters of all time.

Other times, Green doesn't communicate with his teammates:


In this play, Green and Matt Bonner are both way too far off their respective men in Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Harrison Barnes kicks it out to Draymond, who for some reason is left wide open, who then passes it over to Thompson, who for some reason is left even more wide open. Bonner does a good job of recovering and tries to chase Draymond off the line, but doesn't communicate with Green that they need to switch men. Green doesn't realize this until it's far too late, and the Super Splash Bros don't let wide open threes go unpunished.



Here's another miscommunication between Green and his teammates, which leaves Mario Chalmers wide-open for a three. It's unclear whether Green thinks his man is Battier or LeBron, but either way he's missing out on his real match-up and great shooter in Chalmers.

Occasionally, Green's over-help defense does pay off. He has had two powerful blocks from help defense recently that are worth checking out.



This appears to be a fantastic defensive play by Green. This is, however, quite deceiving. Green leaves his man, Carl Landry, wide open for a dunk. Fortunately for the Spurs, Landry doesn't realize how open he is until it's too late. Landry tries to cut into the paint at the last second, but Curry's already in his shot, which lets Danny get away with his poorly timed help defense.



Here's another ferocious block by Danny where he got away with something (aside from the goaltend). Danny's actual man is Iman Shumpert (career 35% three-point shooter) who's standing in the corner with no Spur within miles of him. Raymond Felton has plenty of time to see that Shumpert is open in the corner, and if Raymond does, Danny is riding the pine the rest of the game.

Because of his 2013 Finals performance, Green has developed a reputation, to many fans, as a premier 3-and-D role player in the NBA. Until Danny can learn to relax a little on the help defense, he isn't one in my book, yet.