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Danny Green is still important to the Spurs

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Even though he's struggling to make his shots right now, Danny Green still plays a large role for the Spurs.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

I've been somewhat heavy into the NBA blogosphere for about 4 years now. In that time, I've read, gained basketball knowledge from, and been inspired by countless amazing pieces. One of my absolute favorite blog pieces, which I come back to every couple months to read, is a profile of Danny Green.

This profile was written in April of 2012, at the tail end of Green's third year in the league, which also served as his first breakthrough season with the San Antonio Spurs. This is before Green burst onto the national basketball scene by breaking the NBA Finals record for made 3-pointers in a series. Before he played a large role on the San Antonio Spurs' 2014 NBA Championship squad. Before he became the $10 million per year (at a steep hometown discount rate) player that he is today.

The post is titled "You Can Win Games With Danny Green", by noted basketball blogger Jared Dubin for Hardwood Paroxysm. It discusses Green's history of being a part of successful basketball teams at North Carolina, but never being the star of the show, and how he had begun to carve out a similar niche in his first season in San Antonio. This role is described as "always there" in reference to Green's well-rounded skillset and ability to impact the game no matter the situation. The entire post words things wonderfully, but the last paragraph gives a definitive look at what is to come of Danny Green's basketball life.

"You can do a lot of things with Danny Green. You can ask him to shoot, you can ask him to pass, you can ask him to rebound and you can ask him to defend. You can start Danny Green and you can bring him off the bench. You can yank his minutes around. You can run plays for Danny Green, but you don't have to. You can ask him to fill in the blanks and you can count on him to make the right play. You can win games with Danny Green. That's for sure."

Though these words were written over 3 years ago, they still hold true in illustrating Green's style of play.

Danny Green's role on this Spurs team goes far beyond just being a deadeye 3-point shooter. He's a very good on-ball defender, and generally performs well when matching up against the opposition's second-best perimeter player. He's a defensive playmaker, creating transition opportunities by poking balls away from dribblers, and getting weak-side blocks on players that drive to the lane.  He also crashes the boards when needed, and has a pretty solid one-dribble pull-up when he gets chased off the 3-point line.

After San Antonio's game versus the Toronto Raptors, there was a sense on Twitter that a lot of Spurs fans pinned blame for this loss, and for this season's offensive struggles on Green's current shooting woes. There is a bit of truth to that. Green was mostly off-target against Toronto, shooting 3-10 from the field and 2-7 from 3; and he has been in a slump for most of this season, shooting a career-worst 29.4% from 3.

However, the same fans who put extra blame on Green for the loss were quick to forget that Green had a couple winning plays down the stretch. First, he rattled home a huge 3 with 2:47 left in the game (out of a hammer set, of course) to cut the Raptors' lead to 3. After the Raptors increased the lead again, he had a key tip-in, this on an air-balled Ginobili 3-point attempt with 30 seconds left, which cut Toronto's lead to 3 again. As Green has showed time and again, even if he's having a bad stretch, he can still rise up to the occasion.

Of any problems Green does have on the floor, shooting is the least of them. He still can't handle the ball, and has a tendency to make very bad decisions when he tries to. Though he has improved, watching him try to finish at the rim can be an eyesore, and the runners he takes in the lane are ill-advised. While he is a generally good defender, he has some defensive lapses that put Coach Gregg Popovich into a rage.

His shooting troubles may seem like his biggest issue because they're new and concern something he's usually very good at, which makes fans panic. But Spurs fans can take solace in this: It's not like Green's poor going to last forever. He still has the green light from deep, and he takes smart shots within the offense. A career 41.2% 3-point shooter does not simply forget how to put the ball in the hole. At some point in the season Green will progress back to the mean with a fury, and San Antonio's offense will become more potent.

Until that time comes though, understand all of the other good aspects of his game that make him such an important player for this team.

GAME MVP

Manu Ginobili - 17 points on 5-11 shooting, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals

On a night when most of the Spurs couldn't seem to get much going, it was Ginobili who sparked the offense and kept the Spurs within striking distance all night long. He looked to be in vintage fashion, ball-faking and euro-stepping his way to the rim with ease.

NUMBERS ON THE BOARD

57.8 - Toronto's shooting percentage from the field. San Antonio wasn't able to defend well for most of the night, but let's make sure we give the Raptors their due credit on offense. They were able to execute to get to their spots, and more importantly, were able to make their shots once they got there.

28 - DeMar DeRozan's point total on the night. DeRozan loves operating from the midrange, and was able to do so with ease, scoring half of his points in the in-between. He was also able to get to the line almost at will, going 8-8 from the charity stripe.

22 - The amount of points the Spurs gave up off of turnovers. San Antonio looked lackadaisical and nonchalant right out of the gates, giving up 18 of these points off turnovers in the first half. They tightened up their ball control in the second half, but by then it was just a bit too late.

GAME NOTES

  • Kawhi Leonard was visibly not himself for a vast majority of the game. He missed last Monday's game versus the Philadelphia 76ers with a stomach virus (reportedly due to a bad Philly cheesesteak sandwich), so it's pretty safe to assume that was still bothering him. Early on in the game he just didn't have any burst, or that relentless motor that makes him such a terror on both ends of the floor. He started to get into the flow things in the fourth, scoring 9 points and almost leading a comeback in the final 7:11 of the game. However, it was just too little too late. His inability to play at his normal level also made things easier for Toronto's offense, as his assignment, DeRozan, was able to go off for 28 points. It was a pretty mediocre performance for San Antonio as a whole, but if Leonard was at full-strength, they might have been able to get away with it.
  • With Leonard being under the weather, Jonathan Simmons and Kyle Anderson both saw some extended action in this game. Simmons played 15 minutes, scoring 8 points, and recording 2 assists. Anderson saw 12 minutes, scoring 5 points and racking up 2 assists as well. They both looked extremely comfortable in the offense. Both hit corner 3s, Anderson made a couple nice passes to teammates, and Simmons was able to slice into the heart of the Raptors' defense on more than one occasion. As wing depth is a bit of an issue for San Antonio, their continued growth will be something to keep an eye on as the season progresses. If either, or both of them can provide small amounts of quality minutes, that should pay big dividends for this Spurs team.
  • Tim Duncan only played 20 minutes tonight. He put up solid numbers in those minutes, scoring 8 points on 4-8 shooting, and recording 2 assists and 2rebounds each. But, it's the minutes that he didn't play that are worth a better look. In the last 7 minutes of the game, when the Spurs came back and gave themselves a shot to win and couldn't get it done, Duncan never saw the floor. In a game that was decided by Kyle Lowry's ability to get to the paint late in the game, and San Antonio missing a crucial defensive rebound with 7 seconds left, having Duncan on the floor could have swayed the game the Spurs' way. But, as usual with his minutes, Coach Gregg Popovich played the long game, choosing to ride out the game with Aldridge at the 5, win or lose, to save wear on Duncan's legs.

TWEET GAME