On the surface, it looks like an easy win for the Lakers on the NBA trade market. They traded away a 33-year-old wing who was not particularly productive last season and has a sizable payout due this year for a 27-year old point guard who is comfortable with a bench role and can easily fill a need the team clearly had throughout last season. That was the crux of the deal that sent the Lakers’ Danny Green to Oklahoma City for Dennis Schroder and the Lakers’ first-round pick.
Schroder averaged 18.9 points last season, with 3.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists, despite coming off the bench for 63 of his 65 games played. He was not called on to be a primary ballhandler, not with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on board, so his assist numbers were down—he has averaged as many as 6.3 per game.
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But not so fast, according to former Grizzlies executive and writer for The Athletic John Hollinger. While Schroder addresses a need at backup point guard, Hollinger actually rates Green as the better player and wrote, “the Lakers left money on the table,” in this transaction.
Danny Green Is a Much Better Defender Than Dennis Schroder
Statistically speaking Green struggled last year. After averaging 10.3 points and 45.5% 3-point shooting in his one season in Toronto, he failed to match those numbers with the Lakers, scoring just 8.0 points and making only 36.7% of his 3-pointers. That is not bad for a perimeter shooter, but it is not the knock-down number he had put up with the Raptors.
Schroder, meanwhile, had a career-best from the 3-point line, making 38.5% from the arc. It is unlikely that he can match that kind of shooting again.
But the big difference is on the defensive end. As Hollinger wrote, using the BORG system of player evaluation (which estimates a player’s worth on a single possession):
In the meantime, there’s the little issue of Green projecting as a more valuable player than Schroder. Ignoring the specific situational need for L.A. that I presented above, BORG projects Green to be 2.73 points per 100 possessions better than replacement in 2020-21, compared to 1.78 for Schroder. The reason is simple: Green is just a massively better defender.
Danny Green Could be Traded to a Western Conference Contender
All of that is not to say the Lakers will miss Green. He is a 3-and-D wing and has built his NBA reputation on his ability to shoot and lock up opponents on the defensive end. However, at 33 years old, some of that ability is fading. It also is a relatively easy skill to replace on the free-agent market because there are plenty of others who can fill that kind of role.
Green had a rough go with Lakers fans all year but really fell out of favor when he missed a potential game-winner in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. There were even alleged death threats against him.
Schroder, meanwhile, will give the Lakers the kind of secondary ballhandling they were lacking last year, especially when Rajon Rondo was out. He is also a player the Lakers might look into keeping around after the season when he hits free agency.
But one other aspect of the deal that Hollinger mentioned is that the Thunder can now turn around and re-trade Green. The Lakers will have no control over where he lands. It would have made sense to trade Green to an Eastern Conference team so that he cannot come back and bolster another West contender. Instead, Oklahoma City can now deal him wherever they want—and the Warriors, Clippers and Trail Blazers could be among the suitors.
At first blush, Schroder certainly looks like a win for the Lakers. But a deeper look shows there could be some flaws in the deal.