When I woke up on July 18 of last year to see that DeMar DeRozan and Jokab Poeltl had been traded to the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and a first round pick, I thought two things.
First, I must be dreaming.
Yes, Masai Ujiri is some kind of Jedi mind-tricking wizard when it comes to trades. He did, after all, convince the New York Knicks to take Andrea Bargnani. (And in a bit of irony, the first round pick they got back from the Knicks turned into Poeltl.)
But, still, I thought there’s no way Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster pulled this thing off.
Second, I thought how the hell did the Raptors also get Danny Green? Was it a typo? Did the ESPN push notification guy (or gal) drink too much the night before? Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green? Are you kidding me?
I’m not in the habit of pinching myself. But I did that morning. Twice.
For full transparency, I’m a San Antonio Spurs fan. I have been long before the Toronto Raptors were even a thought in someone’s brain. So I have some bias when it comes to Danny Green.
So, after the trade, when I heard people referring to Green as purely a throw-in, I was ready to throw down. But instead I took to Twitter, tweeting to anyone who’d listen that nothing could be further from the truth.
Danny Green and “throw-in” do not belong in the same sentence. They don’t even belong in the same paragraph.
There’s no question that Leonard was the centerpiece of the trade. And Green is no Steph Curry or Clay Thompson. But to overlook his value to a team would be a massive mistake.
If you’d been following the NBA for the past eight years, you’d known the type of player Danny Green is. A role player, yes. But a highly effective one at that.
He was the starting shooting guard for a Spurs team that appeared in back-to-back NBA finals, winning it all in 2014.
He’s an elite 3-point shooter, up there on the Spurs 3-point Mount Rushmore with Chuck Person, Steve Kerr and Bruce Bowen.
And he’s an elite defender, making the NBA All-Defensive team in 2017. Basically, he’s the 3 and D wing the Raptors had desperately been searching for (sorry DeMarre Carroll).
But none of this seemed to matter (or none of this was apparent) to Raptorville. Because not only did people refer to Green as a “throw-in,” they were also questioning whether he should start.
Guess what? If he can start on a Gregg Popovich championship Spurs team, he can start for any team. Raptors included.
Now, fast-forward to January 19 vs. the Memphis Grizzlies.
None of what Green did in this game came as a shock to me. Not the seven 3s in a quarter — a Raptors franchise record. Not the eight total 3s, which matches his career high.
Nor should it have been a surprise to anyone. Like I said, he’s been an elite 3-point shooter almost his entire career. He’s just not getting the ball enough to show it.
That’s because not only is he the forgotten man in last summer’s blockbuster trade. He’s often the forgotten man on his own team.
Sure, he’s not always going to be this hot. But the fact of the matter is Danny Green can be a game changer. We’ve seen it. But right now, he’s a heavily underutilized offensive weapon.
It’s like being Nightcrawler in the X-Men arcade game, but never using his special power.
Perhaps a better analogy is playing with one hand tied behind your back. A 3-point hand that can get very, very hot.
If the Raptors want to have any success in the playoffs, this needs to change.
Let’s look at why Green should get the green light more often and be more of a focal point of the Raptors’ offence.
He’s the best they got…by far
Danny Green is the Raptors’ best 3-point shooter and it’s not even close.
According to Basketball Reference, as of January 21, Green is shooting 42.1% from three.
Not including Jordan Lloyd and Chris Boucher, it’s the best percentage on the team by leaps and bounds. The next best is Leonard at 36.8%.
Yet Green still doesn’t get the touches he deserves.
He’s been there, drained that
He’s been one of the NBA’s elite 3-point shooters for the last eight years, shooting nearly 40% from deep for his career. He’s actually shot over 40% in four different seasons.
Sure, he dipped last season, shooting just 36.3%. But guess what? He was playing with a bum groin, so those numbers are pretty good considering.
As previously mentioned, he also has playoff and championship pedigree.
He’s a proven big time 3-ball arsonist, shooting a staggering 48.2% and 47.5% from three in the 2013 and 2014 playoffs respectively.
And that wasn’t just over a single series. In both years, the Spurs went all the way. Anyone who watched the 2013 finals bore witness to Danny Green’s torching of the Heat.
It goes without saying that the Raptors will desperately need Green’s 3-point marksmanship in the playoffs.
As the games slow down, there will be fewer transition opportunities (sorry SpicyP) and much more half-court offence.
When this happens, 3-balls will be a big factor in swinging the game and the series. So isn’t it better that Green gets his reps in now so he’s good and ready come playoff time?
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So why is Danny Green often ignored by the Raptors on offence? There must be a reason.
There are two big reasons, actually.
Lack of ball movement
The Raptors are one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the league, shooting just 34.3%, which ranks 24th. Yet they’re 5th in attempts. Yuck.
Why is this happening? Maybe it’s because the wrong guys are launching way too often.
Let’s look who’s taking the shots. Other than Green, the majority of 3s come from an ice cold C.J. Miles (28.9%), Serge Ibaka (28.9%), an injured Kyle Lowry (31.1%), Pascal Siakam (31.6%), OG Anunoby (33.8%) and Delon Wright (34.1%).
We can give Fred VanVleet and Kawhi Leonard as pass here because they’re at least both above 36%.
That’s a lot of shitty percentages.
It’s not that you don’t want these guys taking 3s because you do. It just shouldn’t always come at the expense of your best 3-point shooter.
So far, the Raptors have chucked 1582 threes this season. Green has launched 252 of those, which means he’s only shot about 16% of the team’s total 3-point attempts.
For a guy who’s currently shooting 42.1% from deep, that’s not nearly enough.
There are a thousand other factors involved here, but J.J. Redick of the Philadelphia 76ers, who is a very similar player, is taking about 24% of his team’s 3s.
I first noticed Green’s lack of 3-ball attempts in the January 1 game vs. the Utah Jazz. Green played almost 31 minutes, but got up just two 3-pointers.
Two friggin attempts. In 31 minutes. WTF?
So why is your best long distance shooter only taking two attempts in a game?
It’s a lack of ball movement.
I’ve seen it a thousand times. Lowry or someone kicks it out to the 3-point line, but then the ball gets stuck. Instead of making the extra pass to swing it over to Green, one of the lesser 3-point shooters chucks it up.
And Green is left holding his green ranger.
Finally, finally they got him the ball in the Grizzlies game. But his teammates were only looking for him after he got hot. No plays were being run for him.
This brings me to my second point.
Lack of play calls
Danny Green is hardly ever featured in the offence.
Yes, Leonard is their best offensive threat and should get a lot of the touches. As should Lowry, a much improved Siakam and a re-energized Serge.
But would it hurt to draw up a few plays to get your best 3-point threat open?
After the Grizzlies game, Nurse said there was only one set play for Green. Just one.
And Nurse only did so after Green started draining multiple 3s.
I don’t know, maybe try running more plays to get him going in the first place. Why wait until he’s hot?
Green, himself, said it was weird getting the ball in his hands and having plays run for him, as referenced by Josh Lewenberg in this tweet.
Now, it’s obviously not as easy as just giving Green the ball.
Many teams are keying in on Green defensively. They know what a threat he his, especially when he gets going (which the Grizzlies found out the hard way).
That just means Nurse has to find ways to get him open shots.
With all the complaints about the Raptors’ lack of effective 3-point shooting, we often forget that there’s a perfectly good 3-point weapon sitting right there, just waiting to be deployed.
His name is Danny Green.