The Josh Green experiment has been a rocky road for the Dallas Mavericks and their fans. The 18th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft hasn’t done much of value in his short career, and guys that were drafted after him are helping their respective teams big time (see Desmond Bane averaging over 17 points per game on incredible efficiency for the fourth place Grizzlies).
It’s a weird place to be. On one hand, draft picks often don’t pan out. That’s just the nature of betting on 19-year-olds. On the other hand, it’s tough to see wasted opportunities to put more talent around generational player Luka Doncic.
The good news is Josh Green’s story is far from over. Yes, he’s looked like a fish out of water at times, and no, he’s not as good as Desmond Bane. But he can still be something for this Mavericks team that is desperate for help.
Even better news is that Green just had the best game of his career. It was against a Portland Trail Blazers squad that looked like a pitiful excuse for a professional basketball team, but it still counts. It was something.
Green finished the game with nine points on 3-of-7 shooting from the field and 0-of-2 from shooting from deep to go along with 10 assists, four rebounds, two steals, and only one turnover.
Let’s take a moment to relish in an incredible part of that stat line. Josh Green, guard/forward for the Dallas Mavericks (an NBA team), finished a regular-season NBA game with 10 assists and one turnover. That happened! And despite all of the negative stuff that’s happened with the Mavs this season... that Josh Green performance was flat-out awesome.
Just like a lot of the replacement players we’ve seen over the last few games, Green brings energy, athleticism, and overall bounciness to the floor. He plays on his toes, gets up and down quickly, and best of all: moves really well off the ball.
I’ve talked about this before, but off-ball movement is something the Mavericks desperately need more of. If they don’t have many guys that can go get themselves a shot, they need guys who can create shots by getting out in transition and making smart cuts in the half-court. In that game against the Blazers, Green showed he has the ability to be one of those guys.
Most of Green’s best plays started out with him making a smart read off the ball, and putting himself in a good position to help the ball handler. Check out this bucket he had in the first quarter:
The ball swings to Frank Ntilikina on the left wing and he takes his defender off the dribble. Green realizes that his defender is sleeping and wisely cuts to the middle where he gets an easy and-one opportunity. This is the perfect example of being a creator off the ball. If Green doesn’t make that cut, the play likely ends up in a low-percentage floater for Ntilikina.
Playing aggressively off the ball doesn’t only help put yourself in position to score. It also helps keep the ball moving, leading to high-efficiency looks for your whole team. Take a look at this play from Green:
It’s pretty simple. Jalen Brunson comes off a Dwight Powell screen with the ball in his hands, so Normal Powell (Josh Green’s defender) pinches in to cut off Brunson’s driving lane. As soon as Green sees this, he darts baseline, giving Brunson an easy backdoor pass. Green catches the ball, reads the defense, and throws a beautiful pass to Dorian Finney-Smith at the top of the key for an easy 3-point look.
This might sound hyperbolic, but this is arguably the best play of Josh Green’s young career. It’s definitely my favorite play. This is smart half-court basketball. It’s the type of play that energizes the whole team. It’s the type of play the Mavs need while Luka is on the court. It’s the type of play that translates to winning basketball, especially in the playoffs. The Mavs need this.
One thing you’ll notice from Green is that nearly all of his best plays start with him getting in the paint, whether that’s attacking with the ball or cutting off the ball. After the game against the Blazers, I asked him about how important it is for him to get in the paint, and what his comfort level is when he has the ball in the paint and he’s making plays.
“I enjoy attacking,” Green said. “So trying to attack, and just get two feet in the paint and play from there. I feel comfortable finishing, but I also love passing the ball and getting my teammates involved because if everybody is rolling on the team, then it’s very hard to stop.”
Green is spot on with what he told me postgame. It’s clear he enjoys attacking. We saw him do it in college, and we’re starting to see it more with him in the pros. He’s at his best when he gets two feet in the paint. He just needs to do it more. He needs to take advantage of these games where he’s getting extended run, and he needs to keep taking risks and learn through his mistakes. It’s games where he confidently takes risks that he’ll grow the most. That’s what happened against the Blazers, and it’s what can keep happening going forward.
Who knows what Green’s future is in Dallas. If he can keep growing off of his recent performance, he’ll have a spot in a rotation that desperately needs some bounciness and juice. If not, he’ll probably get traded at some point as a filler to a team that wants to take a chance on him growing.
Last season, he didn’t get much of an opportunity to learn on the fly. This season, he’s getting the chance he needs. It’s up to him now what he does with it. If he keeps doing what he loves — attacking — he has a real chance to be an important NBA player, and even better, an important Dallas Maverick.