The already spectacular Miami Heat offseason managed to get even better today when they locked up spark plug Gerald Green for one year, $1.4 million. Green has been a journeyman since he was drafted out of high school in 2005, but he had a career year with the Phoenix Suns in 2013-14 before taking a step back last year, although going for the minimum wasn’t expected at all.
It’s almost inconceivable how Pat Riley works his magic, but he managed to snatch a player worth close to five times more than what he signed for on the dotted line. Somehow over a week into free agency, the Heat just got the bargain of the summer.
Green is used to being overlooked and underpaid, but after years of bouncing around the league and barely managing to keep his head afloat, the player whose talent always outweighed his production finally blossomed into the player he was supposed to be in Phoenix.
First and foremost, Green is about as freaky of an athlete as they come, standing at 6’8” with the speed of a point guard and the dunking ability of DeAndre Jordan. His dunks are a combination of grace and pure unadulterated athleticism, something like Vince Carter meets Zach LaVine.
You can scour his YouTube highlights for hours, or take a look at his top 10 dunks here, but plain and simple, the dude can fly.
For a quick glossary of sorts, here’s some of my personal favorites from Green, including his Dunk Contest cupcake slam, a thru the legs with no shoes, and a couple oldies but goodies:
The dunks are fun, but we knew he could do that coming into the league. He was a question mark just about everywhere else.
Green first showed signs of life with the Nets in the 2011-2012 season, finishing with a 15.88 PER in 31 games, but he quickly regressed the next season with the Pacers, slumping to a 9.92 PER.
In 2013, Green was no longer just flash and frill, and with the Suns, he began to show consistency, with his flashes of brilliance turning into stretches of solid basketball.
He averaged a career-high 15.8 points and made 204 threes while shooting 40 percent, both also career highs. He finished fourth in the league in three-pointers made, trailing only Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Damian Lillard.
He’s also right-handed, and has a stub for a ring finger, earning him the nickname the Four-Fingered Assassin, making his stellar shooting all the more impressive.
His sharp improvement saw him finish fourth for the Most Improved Player Award, which eventually went to his teammate Goran Dragic. The Suns finished 48-34, just missing out on the playoffs.
Last season, Green fell victim to the inconsistency that’s plagued his career, as did the Suns. Phoenix finished with a 39-43 record, with Green only starting in four games, down from 48 from the season prior, and his minutes per game fell from 28.4 to 19.5. His jump shooting also took a hit, as he made 137 threes while shooting 35.4 percent.
Even with less playing time and a shaky jumper, Green still had one of the best years of his career. His PER only fell from 16.55 to 15.47, and his 24.5 points per 40 minutes were a career high. His skill set is more suited to a bench role anyways, where he provides energy and instant offense at a high volume.
His game is pretty simple. He can’t really handle the ball and doesn’t have a blow-by move to get past defenders, but he does his damage in transition and from behind the arc.
According to Synergy, he scored 179 points in transition, behind only Eric Bledsoe and Dragic on the Suns, and scored 1.14 PPP in spot-up opportunities and 125 points off screens, which led the next-best Sun by 72 points. His length and solid mid-range game also made him a viable iso option, scoring 0.98 PPP in iso situations.
Grantland wiz Kirk Goldsberry outlined his shot chart below:
Gerald Green gives Miami another decent scoring threat in the midrange and beyond the arc. pic.twitter.com/FYWbYErLp6
— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) July 9, 2015
There’s a hoard of orange on the top of the key and left wing on the perimeter, and specks of red in the left elbow area where he was deadly, as he shot 48.6 percent between 10-14 feet, per NBA.com.
With his speed, length, athleticism and aggression, Green settles for off-balanced or contested jumpers far too often. Per SportVU, 32.9 percent of Green’s jumpers from greater than 10 feet were with a defender within two-to-four feet, where he shot 42.0 percent. He might have the J.R. Smith effect, because he actually shot worse when given six feet or more of room to shoot, shooting only 36.9 percent in those situations.
He doesn’t drive as often as he should, with only 18.3 percent of his offense coming at the rim, where he shot an above-average 57 percent.
On the defensive side, you’d never know Green is the athlete he is. He doesn’t get a whole lot of blocks or steals, and he finished 92nd out of 98 shooting guards in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus. There’s not a whole lot of evidence to support his effort or ability on that end, and per SportsVU, players shot 2.7 percent better when defended by Green, including lighting him up for 53.5 percent shooting from within 10 feet.
Green may not be the superstar teams thought he could be when he entered the league, but he’s the consummate role player and the perfect sixth man off the bench. You know what you’re gonna get out of him, which is sheer offensive production and high volume shooting. That’ll lead to some bad games, but also some offensive explosions, like his 41-point outburst against the Thunder. At minimum, he’s worth a whole lot more than the vet minimum, and he’s a huge get for the Heat.