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Josh Green is acting different and it’s paying off for the Dallas Mavericks

He’s feeling himself right now, and his play against the Warriors showed that

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the 2022-2023 season, one central goal for the Mavericks was to turn Josh Green into a basketball player. The roster is absolutely starved for young talent, and the team simply had to get something out of their 2020 first-round draft pick. Green took meaningful steps forward in his sophomore season under Jason Kidd a year ago, but he was still more of an idea than reliable piece and unplayable in the playoffs. He only averaged 15.5 minutes and 4.8 points per game and watching the Desmond Banes and Tyrese Maxeys of the world put up eye-popping numbers night after night continued to be incredibly frustrating for Maverick fans.

Yes, the Mavericks should have picked one of those other players, but the past cannot be changed. The front office that made those decisions is gone (with one large exception) and the new regime’s challenge became this: how do we make Josh Green a rotation piece?

We’re starting to see an optimal version of Green this season, and it looks as though he’s well on his way to filling a desperately needed role for Dallas. Simply put, Green has been one of the most impactful Maverick players this year and the team is better when he is on the court. While last night’s game against Golden State wasn’t Green’s best statistical game, it may have been his most impressive. There were a few plays highlighting the reality that Josh Green is a different guy: he’s more decisive, more confident, more under control, and more vocal.

Green has flashed passing brilliance during his time in the league and last night he made what might have been the craziest pass of his career. That play was incredibly impressive, and Green has made a few ones like it before. He tends to chaotically drive the lane with no plan, pick up his dribble, and then use his vision and passing ability to whip highlight-reel passes to open players. As exciting as that is to see, it was actually a pass Green didn’t make that impressed me the most last night.

After receiving a drive-and-kick pass from Maxi Kleber, Green fakes a “one more” pass to Reggie Bullock in the corner and confidently drains an above-the-break three. The defense knew that Green’s first instinct would be to swing the ball, and he used that to create an open shot for himself. This is something that Green simply would not have done a season ago. He’s talked to the media about being ready and willing to shoot, trusting the work he’s put in and his ability to knock down threes. It’s so nice to see him using his other skills to magnify that aspect of his game more, and even better to see him make quick, decisive decisions like this.

Late in the game, with the Mavericks clinging to a one-point lead with under 1:30 to go, Josh Green scored on the most confident drive to the basket I’ve ever seen from him.

This is an excellent play design. Green is handling the ball and Doncic comes to set a token screen (!!) for him. It’s barely a screen at all, but the defense is so worried about Luka that Green has all kinds of space to operate (Luka really needs to set more screens). He explodes to the rim and punctuates it with a really nice finish over a recovering Andrew Wiggins to put the Mavericks up by three, giving them some breathing room. One of the biggest knocks on Green coming out of Arizona was his terrible finishing at the rim; this year, Green is leading the team by shooting 87% in the restricted area according to NBA Stats. Of course, this a small sample size, but the eye test also leads me to believe that Green has made real progress in that area.

On defense, Green was creating havoc and making life miserable for Jordan Poole. He has a knack for getting his hands on the ball and does a really good job of moving his feet, staying in front of quick guards, and rotating.

Green doesn’t come up with the steal here, as his momentum took him out of bounds, but this is Chaotic Good at its finest. He cuts Poole off and forces a loose ball, and then follows him around a Kuminga screen and forces another with an incredible rear-view contest. After this play, the entire Maverick bench gathered around Green as he got up from the floor and you could see him get visibly fired up. A couple weeks ago against the Nets, he was talking trash to Kevin Durant. This is a massive change from the passive, nervous, soft-spoken guy we’ve seen during the last two seasons. After the game, Green was asked about having to step up with Spencer Dinwiddie getting ejected in the fourth quarter:

This is one of my favorite quotes from a Maverick player in a long time, and it’s indicative of a change in mindset for Green; he’s no longer afraid to make mistakes. He has confidence in his ability to play through them and adjust, like he did down the stretch last night. Green is averaging 6.9 points on .600/.500/.742 shooting splits. Those numbers are incredibly encouraging, and the arrow is pointing up. He has been a revelation next to Luka Doncic. And most, importantly, he’s becoming a success for the Mavericks’ player development team on a roster that needs his production. He’s done this by adopting the “it’s time to hoop” mantra on and off the court. He’s a different player and the Mavericks need to keep rewarding his play with more opportunity to grow.