The 2009 National Championship game saw an ACC powerhouse filled with future draft picks cruise past a starless, scrappy, and simply inferior Michigan State team to cut down the nets as champions. Sounds familiar, perhaps?
Only it wasn't Jahlil Okafor and the Duke Blue Devils; no, it was the North Carolina Tar Heels and "Psycho T" (incidentally, one of my least favorite nicknames) Tyler Hansbrough. That UNC team was stacked with NBA talent: Wooden award-winner Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, and Freshman reserve Ed Davis. Oh, and there was Danny Green.
Danny Green seems to have been an "oh, and this guy" guy for some time now. He was a critical part of that championship squad, yet he fell to the second round of the 2009 draft. Though he had fared quite well in analytic forums for years, draft gurus doubted his athletic ability and ball-skills, as well as his upside.
Green barely played with his first team -- the Cleveland Cavaliers -- who were winding down the end of the LeBron James era (y'know, the first one). In the wake of The Decision, as the roster was gutted and the franchise prepared for a season in the cellar, the Cavs' front office decided they apparently didn't need young Danny Green, and waived him.
The Spurs promptly plucked him up from the waiver wire, but lest we give them too much credit, it should be noted that they also cut him just a week later, before signing him for good at the end of the season.
In the meantime, Green was cutting his teeth in the D-League with the Reno Bighorns, who were for a short time arguably the best D-League team ever. They had Jeremy Lin (pre-Linsanity version), sharpshooter Steve Novak, Donald Sloan, and Carl Landry's brother,
Tom Marcus. Oh, and there was Danny Green.
Once Danny Green got a real shot at the NBA level, he didn't miss. And that's a fitting metaphor, because Danny Green doesn't miss all that much, period. Since becoming an NBA regular in 2011-12, only two players have shot better from three-point land: Kyle Korver and Stephen Curry. That's pretty good company. Green has been the ideal role player in the Spurs drive-and-kick offense, as he moves extremely well without the ball and has a quick release, along with the size requisite to finish over solid closeouts. You might remember his record-breaking performance a few years ago, where he needed just five games to hit more threes than any player in Finals history.
Of course, Gregg Popovich wouldn't play him if all he could do was shoot. Green is a physical defender who has quick feet and underrated athleticism, along with excellent timing and anticipation. With Dwyane Wade on the decline, Green is the best shot-blocking guard in the league, and in addition to his playmaking he rates quite well as an on-ball and team defender, though he is perhaps a tier below elite. Though Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard makes most pros look average on D, Green would be the best perimeter stopper on many clubs.
Yet, for all these superlatives, Danny Green has still been an "oh, and this guy" guy on San Antonio. With so many wing options on the Spurs, Green has not averaged 30 minutes per night in a season yet, despite 250+ starts.
That may change. San Antonio has a lot of free agents to be this offseason, including three of their most recognizable stars: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs may have some choices to make, and it's very possible that their best offer to Green will be substantially less than what he'll see from other teams.
Will Green leave so much on the table to stick around in an admittedly enviable situation? Possible. But in professional sports, money has a way of preventing guys from sticking around.
Fit with the Mavericks
With Monta Ellis potentially on the way out, Danny Green might just be the most desirable alternative on the market.
No, he won't match Monta's scoring punch, but allow me to make the "less is more" case. What Green can do is spread the floor, move the ball, and make good decisions. That will go a long way toward helping the Mavericks to fully embrace and implement the dynamic, ball-sharing flow offense that Rick Carlisle so clearly wants. It also means that Chandler Parsons can take a larger role in the shot-creating; a role more befitting the $46 million contract he signed this past offseason. Despite what your NBA2K rating system might tell you, that may actually be more valuable than what Monta brings.
At the defensive end, I don't think there will be a whole lot of argument about Green being better. Green's size at guard is a major plus, and upgrades a longtime area of weakness for Dallas, who have been the undersized shooting guard team for way, way too long (think Monta Ellis, O.J. Mayo, Jason Terry, etc). In fact, if you imagine Green next to Chandler Parsons, Dirk, and Tyson, with Al-Farouq Aminu off the bench, suddenly the Mavs have one of the longer defenses in the NBA, and the sort of talent that would certainly help move the Mavs up from their spot at 18th in the league in defensive efficiency.
One thing that also has to be mentioned when discussing Green's defense is his extraordinary ability in stopping opponents in transition. In fact, when you also take in account his knack for pulling up during a fast break to nail a three in front of an unsuspecting defender, Green might just be the best transition player in the NBA. (Okay, so it's probably Russell Westbrook or LeBron or something, but Green is up there.)
So, how is it that Green might be affordable, given all my gushing? Well, there is another side to this coin. Many out there believe that Danny Green is a dreaded "system guy"; a product of the Popovich-overseen dynasty beside the riverwalk, where Green's strengths are maximized and his weaknesses covered up.
There may be some truth to that. Green has rarely had to even dribble to this point in his NBA career, let alone consistently make offense for himself. Though he did make strides in that respect this past season, when the Spurs were even more bitten by injury than usual, it's unrealistic to expect him to be a great ball-handler at any point. With all the weapons next to him, Green got a lot of open looks, and to be sure some regression in his shooting percentages will come. Even on D, where Green is pretty good, the Spurs offered a great deal of support, as Kawhi's emergence into a bonafide superstar meant Danny usually checked the second best perimeter scorer on the other team.
So no, Danny Green isn't perfect. However, if there's a team that could theoretically install him almost as well as San Antonio could, it's Dallas (at least on offense). The Mavs have a great coach, and enough offensive playmakers that Green would -- at best -- be a third or fourth option at any given time. They know how to get players good looks at the basket, as when they are going well they move the ball better than just about any team in the NBA. It's easy to forget that Dallas was leading the league by a significant margin in offensive rating prior to the Rondo trade.
After so many years in the background, it's time for Danny Green to come to the forefront and get his. He will be in demand this offseason, and with good reason. He's one of the best two-way players in the league (the only shooting guard in the top seven at his position in both offensive and defensive plus-minus), with a championship ring in his trophy case and -- at 28 -- plenty of mileage left.
I would offer him a multi-year deal in the $8-10 million per range and not think twice about it.