Danny Green gained notoriety as a vintage bargain bin find for the San Antonio Spurs and later a true three-point marksman when he briefly took over the 2013 NBA Finals. However, to consider him just an excellent long-range shooter would be foolish. Quietly, he has become so much more than that for Gregg Popovich and San Antonio.
Since firmly joining the Spurs in 2011-12, Green has been a key part of the rotation, averaging 23.1 and 27.5 minutes per game from 2011-14. He has started 244 of the 282 games as well, as Popovich quickly recognized the value of Green’s defense in addition to his obvious shooting prowess. This season, no other Spur has done more to keep San Antonio afloat. Green has played 2,008 minutes while the next closest player is Tim Duncan at 1,893. Boris Diaw is third with 1,647 minutes. At 29.5 minutes a night, Danny Green is the well-rested Spurs’ “iron man.” He and Diaw are the only team members to have missed just one game.
Of course, much of Green’s value is still derived from his pinpoint shooting. He has taken his attempts to a career-high 7.2 per 36 minutes, but he still knocks down 40.5 percent of them. Of players with at least six attempts per 36 minutes, only Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, J.J. Redick, Kyle Korver and Kevin Durant make a higher percentage. And only the Splash Brothers are taking more threes per 36 minutes. Green is a lethal shooter on par with the league’s finest.
Overall, the Spurs have a 4.9 net rating, per NBA.com. Green, who has played by far the most minutes on the team, has a net rating of 8.2 points per 100 possessions when he plays. Both the offense and defense of the Spurs improve by his presence. When Green takes the bench, the Spurs net rating spirals all the way down to 0.2. The only Spur with a bigger effect on the team’s success is reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, whose absence yields a shockingly average -0.2 net rating for the champions.
With Leonard and Green on the wings, the Spurs are nearly unbeatable. Kawhi struggled early on as he battled a lingering eye infection and truly bizarre hand injury that required a prolonged absence. The Spurs managed to stay amid the Western Conference playoff teams, but they’ve really turned it up as Leonard and Tony Parker have finally gotten healthy. Green has been San Antonio’s one true constant throughout the season. Since the All-Star break, the Spurs’ numbers are truly scary.
In the last 16 games, San Antonio has a 7.1 net rating and a blazing-hot 109.5 offensive rating, per NBA.com. With Green playing, they’ve somehow been significantly better. Green’s on-court net rating is an eye-popping 16 points per 100 possessions, easily better than Golden State and Atlanta. The defense has been great while the offense has been impossibly good: 116.3 points per 100 possessions. Somehow, the Spurs hold a 60.1 true shooting percentage in Green’s post-All-Star minutes. Golden State leads the NBA at 57.2 percent.
Even more impressive, the Spurs have been legitimately bad with Green on the bench in that stretch. His off-court net rating is just -4.1, worse than Brooklyn and Denver. So the Spurs are playing historically great with Green on the floor and pitifully bad when he sits. The other Spurs starters see similar effects, but none to a degree as big as Green’s, even Leonard. It’s important not to read too much into smaller samples, but the full season numbers easily back up Green’s impact as well: he might be the Spurs’ second-most important player.
Green’s ability to guard nearly any ball-handler is a perfect fit next to the human glove that is Leonard. While Leonard wreaks havoc forcing turnovers from anyone in his way, Green is overpowering whichever wing the opponent tries to hide from Leonard. He joins an impressive group of players that have averaged over one steal, one block and two three pointers per game: Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, Nicolas Batum, Robert Horry and Danny Granger. Green has done it in under 30 minutes a night; the others averaged between 36 and 41 minutes. With Tiago Splitter back healthy and the reliably excellent Duncan at power forward, the Spurs aren’t easy to score on. For the season, they rank sixth in defensive rating.
Finally healthy and typically well-rested, the Spurs are rounding into shape just in time to tear through an admittedly stacked Western Conference. Coach Popovich will undoubtedly be counting on Green to play a huge role. While he took over huge games in the past with his shooting, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the versatile wing make a lot of noise on both ends of the floor this postseason.