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2015 NBA free agency: Letting Danny Green walk would be a huge gamble for the Spurs

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Danny Green might not be irreplaceable but it would be unwise of the Spurs to let him get away.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Erler and Jesus Gomez have been discussing the status of the Spurs' upcoming free agents. Danny Green is the topic of this final chat.

Michael Erler

Okay, here is my argument for keeping Danny Green, the key numbers above and beyond any stats he put up: 383.

That's how many minutes Ginobili played in December, 27.3 a game, with Leonard and/or Parker out. It completely wore him out and he didn't play more than 22.5 the rest of way.

If Green leaves, and the Spurs replace him with someone new, Pop is not going to know the guy or trust him. When it comes to crunch time, he'll rely on Ginobili and that experience and corporate knowledge. He'll wear out Ginobili again, against his better judgment. Re-signing Green, at whatever the cost, prevents that.

Plus, Green is a guy they can use Bird rights for, so his salary doesn't matter too much, even if he is overpaid. Replacing him on the other hand counts against the cap and would be very difficult. Who is an upgrade? Khris Middleton? He'll be just as costly, if not more so.

Unless the Spurs draft a quality shooting guard, they pretty much have to re-sign Green.

Jesus Gomez
Do they? Since you made the case for bringing him back, I'll make the case for moving on.

Green is an elite 3-and-D guy. He's not a system player because he's not just a corner shooter. He can't lock up bigger wings but he can slide down to guard point guards.

That's all great but it became a bit redundant the minute Kawhi Leonard emerged as a potential star. Against every team except the Warriors the Spurs only needed one elite defensive wing this season and Leonard is it. If Green costs over $10 million, why not sign Arron Afflalo or take a chance on Wesley Matthews returning around December for a fraction of what he'll cost?

Do you really think Pop wouldn't trust those guys?

Erler
Spoiler alert, but yeah, Afflalo was #2 on my list if Green moves on. I think he would be the free agent splurge if Green leaves, which just makes the Spurs worse. Matthews will not be healthy by the time camp starts. I think him playing at all in 2015 is a long shot. I'd rather they keep Green and use mid-level exception on somebody who can make them better instead of trying to tread water.

Green was third in the NBA in RAPM among shooting guards, so he's worth whatever he gets on the market. Before Leonard went crazy in February and March, he was the Spurs MVP going by some metrics. I'd argue the Spurs having two great wing defenders is a part of what made them unique and special and such a threat to the Warriors.

It's good to have things no one else has. No one has a guy who can dribble into threes like Curry. No one has two wing defenders like the Spurs.

Gomez
I think Green's situation mirrors Splitter's, in a way. With Duncan in tow, Splitter looks redundant at times. With Leonard on the roster, Green's values comes mainly from his shooting. Don't get me wrong, he's a great defender. But he doesn't get to showcase it much because you want Leonard on those tougher matchups.

We've been operating under the rules that the Spurs bring back Manu and Tim. If that happens, they should bring Green back. But I think he's more replaceable than many think.

Erler
I think he'll be more valuable as the years go on and more teams copy the Warriors, Hawks, Spurs, Cavs, Rockets and so on. The league is getting smaller, everyone is switching and everyone is shooting threes. The more guys you have between 6'5 and 6'9 who can shoot and defend, the better.

Green is a top eight shooting guard in the NBA right now. His problem is A) He plays with Leonard, as you mentioned and B ) he's spent most of his career playing with another top eight shooting guard, which has glued him to the bench and led Pop to have a short leash with him.

Last season Green was legitimately a better player than Ginobili, and that's enough of a reason for me to underscore his value.

Gomez
But shooting guard is a weak position. Being a top 10 shooting guard is not like being a top 10 point guard. I really don't buy Green as a cornerstone for the future, I guess. I want him back if Duncan and Ginobili are back, no matter the cost, because it would mean this core gets another shot at a title.

If not, I'm not sure you want to commit for four years and over $40 million to a guy that has topped out as the fifth best player on a championship team.

Then again, this is all moot because the Spurs have Bird rights to him and will bring him back unless another team offers him a ton of money on the first day of free agency.

Erler
At the money that's supposedly rumored to be out there for him, the Spurs will think long and hard about not matching. Plus, he's unrestricted, so it'll have to be an understanding that whatever offers he gets, his agent will bring to the Spurs and they'll have to promise to match or exceed it via Bird rights. It could get tricky.

My argument for Green is the same one for Baynes, in a way, albeit a far more important player at a far higher cost. Better the devil you know than the one you don't. You know what you have in Green, he's young enough where he can still improve some, and you can re-sign him and add on instead of hoping to replace him.

Also, the dirty secret about Leonard is that he didn't always guard the best guy. Sometimes he got a breather, especially if the best guy was shorter than 6'6 and quick. And Leonard to me is more dangerous when he's roaming and doing unpredictable things rather than sticking on one guy.

If you want Leonard to be an offensive force and to be the focal point of the offense, sometimes he'll have to take a breath on defense. How often does LeBron guard the best guy? Hardly ever. I didn't see him chasing Kyle Korver around.

Gomez
No, Iman Shumpert did. A young guy on a cheap contract. And Shane Battier took the tough assignments before him. An old guy on a cheap contract.

Let's end with a hypothetical: if Duncan retires would you prefer to have Green back and someone like Roy Hibbert along or LaMarcus Aldridge and Wayne Ellington?

Erler
Green all day.

Honestly, I'm not too excited about the thought of a 35-year-old Aldridge making over 30 million.

Gomez
Fair enough. I'd take Aldridge and a replacement level shooting guard in a heartbeat. That's not an indictment on Green as much as a suspicion about the quality of the shooting guard position and an affirmation about the value of big men.

Erler
With or without Duncan, I think Green makes sense for the Spurs. At times during the past three seasons they were rolling with a "big three" of Leonard, Green and Splitter.

Gomez
I think Green is the less important player of the three and that's where most Spurs fans and I disagree.

Erler
I strongly disagree.

I see the argument for Splitter. I do. I just don't trust him from a health standpoint and he's already 30.

Gomez
Well, if we bring health into it, you are right. There's value in being durable. But wing shooters are easier to find than good defensive bigs.

Erler
Green is not just a wing shooter. And even if he was, he's an elite one. What makes him special is he's elite at two different things.

Gomez
I think that if Kawhi Leonard wasn't on the Spurs' roster already, I'd be lobbying for Green to get the max or close to it. But I can't help but feel his skillset is a bit redundant now.

That being said, I love the guy. I'll be happy if he's re-signed. I'm still skeptical about him as the third best player on a great team but hopefully he will never be asked to be that.

Erler
Third might be a stretch, I agree, but I don't think the Warriors would lose much at all if he replaced Klay Thompson.

Gomez
That's more an indictment on Klay and how he's played in the postseason than a compliment for Green but I agree.

The bottom line is we both want Green back. I'm not so sure he's as irreplaceable as many do but I guess I'd prefer not to have to find out.