Danny Green's Defensive Importance


Over the course of NBA history, several ‘player archetypes’ have developed. Many times, the origin of these archetypes are simply created when a large group of players at a particular position play a certain style. One of the most common, most well-known, and easiest to identify of these archetypes is the ‘3-and-D’ wing. Players that classify as 3-and-D wings are usually either shooting guards or small forwards that may have several notable skills, but excel most at three point shooting and defense, especially perimeter defense. There are many examples of three-and-D players, but some notable examples from the San Antonio Spurs are Bruce Bowen, whose trademark was his lockdown defense, but he also consistently knocked down corner three’s, Kawhi Leonard, who at the beginning of his career was widely considered to be a three-and-D player, but has since developed into an all-around player, and Danny Green, who is a player that potentially personifies three-and-D with such accuracy that one could imagine his game was designed around the archetype itself.

Green became a household name for fans around the NBA when he set the then NBA record for three pointers made in an NBA finals series back in 2013. Green was having a remarkable offensive outbreak over the course of five games on the NBA’s biggest stage and he was forever linked with the image of a sharpshooter from three-point land. This has proved to be a blessing and a curse for Green, however. A blessing in that no matter how well he is shooting, opponents will respect his shot and won’t cheat off of him, especially on the strong side of him. This provides the Spurs with valuable spacing, especially with their increased reliance on mid-range jumpers and isolations from Leonard.  This image of Green is a curse, however, in the sense that many fans view this as either Green’s most valuable or only skill. This means that when Green goes through stretches where his three point shot is not as accurate as fans are accustomed to, it can be easy for some to not understand the value of Green being on the court. The reality of the NBA is that while more and more players are becoming more and more skilled at shooting, there is, and probably always will be, an uncertainty about long-range shots. Stephen Curry, who  may just be the greatest three point shooter in NBA history, went an entire game without making a three pointer followed immediately by setting the all-time NBA record for three’s in a game. At the end of the day, Green is a three-and-D player who is judged more for his three point shooting, while his defense, arguably more important to the team as a whole, often gets overshadowed.

What may be more important to the team’s success overall, from both Green and the rest of the team, is recovering from what appears to be a defensive slump. Green’s current defensive rating is 107, tied for worst of his career. The Spurs are currently 11th in defensive rating overall, a far cry from the near-historic mark of last season. Some of this is explained simply by the fact that Tim Duncan, longtime defensive anchor for the Spurs, retired, but Leonard and Green are one of the most dynamic perimeter defending duo’s in the NBA. Leonard, who also has a career worst defensive rating at 103, is currently defending his back-to-back defensive player of the year award and has been absorbing most of the defensive responsibilities of the team to this point in the season. With his increased offensive workload, however, it just isn’t feasible for Leonard to have to carry the entirety of the defense. This is where Green has his greatest opportunity for impact. Green’s low defensive rating early on in the season is not a great cause for concern yet, however. Green missed most of training camp and the first eight games of the season. The Spurs have always discussed defense as a process, a goal that you build to over time. Last year was an anomaly in that regard. It’s no different for individual players, especially those who miss the beginning of the season.

NBA fans should keep an eye on Green’s defense as the season progresses. While it’s easy to judge him on his three point shooting alone, his game is not limited to that end of the court. Many of the elite teams in the NBA have multiple threats from the perimeter, meaning that Leonard alone cannot contain opposing team’s wing threats. The Spurs will need Green’s defense to have a shot in these matchups. While Green’s shooting slump last season was more of a hot topic among Spurs fans, ultimately, it is the improvement he and the rest of the team look to make over the course of the season that will have the greater impact during the playoffs.

All stats obtained from basketball-reference.com



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