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For Josh Green, rapid development is key

Youth is on his side, but another lost season would be a disaster

Dallas Mavericks v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

With the 18th overall pick in the 2020 draft, the Mavericks selected Josh Green, despite both Saddiq Bey and Tyrese Maxey being available. The Mavericks were enamored with Green’s physical traits and potential to be a prototypical “three and D” guard. Green’s skill set was particularly appealing to the Mavericks as a bigger guard who could still guard the point of attack.

Green’s rookie season was a disaster. There are mitigating factors, which his defenders rightly point out, but it is important to be honest with one’s self: in no way was 2020-21 a step in the right direction for Green.

The first part of being a “three and D” player is being able to hit threes. Green only made four three-point shots all season, and the fact that he only took 25 threes in 445 minutes is actually more frightening for his future outlook than the number he made.

One of the biggest mistakes fans make when projecting players is assuming that because one player who previously shot poorly developed as a shooter, another player will develop similarly. Dorian Finney-Smith’s shot development is often cited as a potential path for Green, but Finney-Smith was developed in one of the few recent periods when the Mavericks were not actively trying to win. And, crucially, he was always willing to shoot.

In his rookie season, Finney-Smith shot 29.3 percent from three, but he took 6.1 threes per 100 possessions. He also had a three point attempt rate of 57.4 percent. Green shot just 2.8 threes per 100 possessions and only had a three point attempt rate of 26.9 percent. He was less than half as willing to shoot as young Finney-Smith in a league that shoots much more often as a whole.

Biggest Question?

Will Green take and make more shots in his second season? In order to play, he is simply going to have to take and make more shots. There was perhaps too much optimism about his shooting given his college performance. Green made only 30 of 83 three point attempts in his lone college season. He did shoot more (5.1 threes per 100 possessions), but a 36.1 percent three point shooting percent from the shorter college line is not overly impressive.

He shot 78 percent from the free throw line in college, which is encouraging but not exactly Steph Curry like. In the NBA, that number fell to 56.5 percent on only 23 attempts as he had no rhythm.

Green needs to improve in another critical area. His defensive effort was apparent last season, but he wasn’t actually good. Fans can see the effort he puts in to hounding opposing guards, coupled with his impressive physical traits, and believe that makes him a good defender. It doesn’t.

Green allowed a field goal percentage 5.5 percent higher than expected per NBA.com. For someone labeled as a “three and D” player, who clearly didn’t provide threes, that is unacceptable. Green is developing in a time completely different from when the Mavericks developed Finney-Smith. Any season with Luka Doncic playing at the level he currently is cannot be wasted playing a player who is a negative on both ends.

Best Case Scenario

Green uses the consistent minutes that new coach Jason Kidd gives him to find a better rhythm and knocks down shots. He also channels his energy and athletic traits into actually effective NBA defense. Speaking of those athletic traits, let’s compare his numbers to an absolute best case scenario.

Player Measurables Comparison

Player Lane Agility Time Shuttle Run 3/4 Sprint Standing Vertical Max Vertical Height W/Shoes Standing Reach Weight Wingspan
Player Lane Agility Time Shuttle Run 3/4 Sprint Standing Vertical Max Vertical Height W/Shoes Standing Reach Weight Wingspan
Player A 10.64 2.28 3.12 30.5 39.5 6'5.5 8'5.5 214 6'9.75
Player B 11.17 N/A 3.18 30.5 34.5 6'6.75 8'9.5 217 6'11

Player A is clearly the superior athlete based on those numbers. Player B is an inch taller with an inch longer wingspan but their weights are only separated by three pounds and Player A is better in every athletic test.

Player A is Josh Green. Player B is Andre Iguodala.

Iguodala is an amplified version of Green. Iguodala had one outlier shooting season in 2012, but he is a career 33.3 percent three point shooter who has only attempted 4.2 threes per 100 possessions. His greatest offensive strength is his playmaking with a career 6.6 assists per 100 possessions average and a career high 8.9 assists per 100 possessions.

Green averaged 3.1 assists per 100 possessions last season despite extremely limited touches. Passing is his greatest offensive skill, and his vision was apparent on several plays last season. The Mavericks have enough spacing around him that his playmaking can make up for some of his lack of shooting if he defends and passes well.

Worst Case Scenario

Green doesn’t play much due to veterans Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock overlapping his theoretical skill set. This leaves the Mavericks a bit in limbo where they cannot discard him due to his “potential” but he isn’t a trade or on court asset. Hope is generally thought of as a good thing but sometimes it can be the worst thing in the world. The Mavericks have to know definitively if Green can play at the end of this season.

The next worst case scenario is that he plays and plays poorly. If Green gets minutes and is a negative on both ends again this season, the team must move on. That is sad given the lack of draft capital due to trades for Luka and Porzingis, but a sunk cost must be acknowledged.

Overall

Green is on an accelerated time table despite his youth. The team cannot sit around and wait on him to develop while stomaching terrible play on both ends. Green has more promise than his raw numbers suggest, but he also has glaring flaws. He must mitigate those weaknesses while leaning into his strengths. He must channel his chaotic energy into effective rather than just enthusiastic defense. If he can do those things, it will be a huge win for both the player and a team starved for young talent outside of one transcendent superstar.