There were many questions surrounding the Spurs after being eliminated by Oklahoma City last year. One of them was whether Danny Green would recover from the worst offensive season of his career. He shot just 37% from the field, and a disappointing 33% from beyond the arc.
The 29-year-old was still a really good defender, but his shooting woes caused concern. He needed to find a way back into the offense. Fortunately, it looks as if the 2015-16 campaign was a blip. Despite missing eight early games due to an injury sustained in training camp, the shooting guard is playing his part as the Spurs go in search of another championship. Ever since his impressive outing against New Orleans in mid- December, Green has been on a roll and the team has thrived as a result.
Since 18th December among starters who average at least 4 shots a game, the North Carolina alum is second in the league in three point accuracy at 52%, and his overall field goal percentage is 48%. In the +/- category, only Steph Curry and Klay Thompson rated higher than Green for players who have played at least three games in that time. That he finds himself just behind the Golden State Warriors star-studded backcourt duo, shows just how well Green has performed on both ends of the floor.
What Green brings to the Spurs’ offense when he’s playing like this, isn’t just good shooting. It’s another offensive weapon the opposition must pay attention to. After hitting his first shot in the win against the Pelicans, they wouldn’t leave him open, which allowed LaMarcus Aldridge to post up against his defender without any help defense, as Buddy Hield and Jrue Holiday covered Green.
Here are two plays in which it’s easy to see the difference in space for Aldridge. The first is before Green hit from deep, with New Orleans playing off of him.
The second one shows a much different story. It comes almost straight after Green’s first 3 pointer of the night, and Holiday is hesitant to offer help on Aldridge. The play resulted in an and-1 for LaMarcus. It’s a good example of how the Spurs offense benefits when Green hits his shots, and the floor opens up for his teammates.
In the next play, against Houston, both James Harden and Nene push out on Green in transition, mindful of his 3 point shooting. This leaves Aldridge open, with Pau Gasol also available for a pass. With just one Rockets defender between both big men, it's no surprise that this play resulted in a score for the Spurs.
The final example came against the Blazers, where Green finished with a season-high 18 points, despite taking just 9 shots. With Parker driving, Portland's Allan Crabbe is afraid to over-commit on the point guard, aware it would leave the hot-handed Green open for a 3. Crabbe simply gives a lazy reach-in attempt before rushing back to the arc to cover Green. This allows Parker to get to the basket, and his missed attempt is tipped in by Gasol.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround. Last year’s struggles brought speculation regarding his future. Green’s defensive efforts were still there, but offensively the Spurs offense suffered spacing concerns as defenses took the risk of regularly using Green’s man elsewhere. But Green has answered the doubts. He’s posting a career high in his three-point shooting (46.3) and efficient field goal percentage (64.6). The former statistic sees him listed as the 5th most prolific backcourt starter in the league in that category.
When looking at the Spurs Western Conference rivals, it’s hard to find a starting five who boast such scoring threats. All 5 of San Antonio’s starting unit are not only reliable scoring options, but also legitimately prolific. Green’s resurgence will only make this group even more difficult to defend, evidenced by the success the team have enjoyed in the last month.
Finally, if Green is hitting his shots then his defense will be on the court more often, and that’s most definitely a good thing.