While Joel Embiid was the straw that stirred the drink for the Philadelphia 76ers last season, he had a lot of help in pushing the team to the best record in the Eastern Conference. His playoff struggles notwithstanding, Ben Simmons was one of the best No. 2s in the entire Association, for example.
The Sixers roster was stacked with quality role players, too. And it could be argued that none were as impactful as Danny Green.
At the very least, his absence was felt in a major way during the team’s second-round series with the Atlanta Hawks. After Green went out with a calf injury, Philly lost three of its last four playoff games and was sent home early.
As important as he was in his first year with the Sixers, though, there’s a chance his run with the team may have already reached its end.
Green is entering the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. Moreover, he just turned 34 years old, which probably works against him getting a new, multi-year deal — with the Sixers, or with anybody else, really.
So, when analytics guru and former league executive John Hollinger gave him a production-based valuation of almost $20 million, it raised some eyebrows. After all, Green is a career nine-point scorer in addition to being closer to the end of his career than the beginning.
That said, there’s a chance Green is actually worth paying for if you’re the Sixers. Even if he comes at a premium and it causes you some luxury tax pains.
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Green Brings Intangibles, But Also Raw Production
Much has been said and written about Green being the ultimate glue guy; a player that helps teams win without grabbing the spotlight. It’s a reputation that’s well-earned, too. There’s a reason he has three championship rings with three different teams (Spurs, Raptors and Lakers).
He plays hard and smart on both sides of the floor and has a knack for being in the right spot at the right time. To play at a championship level, teams need those kinds of players behind their stars.
But it’s not pure basketball mysticism at play here; he has consistently made measurable contributions to getting Ws. And that continued to be the case with the Sixers in 2020-21.
Two-thirds of the 12-year pro’s shot attempts came as a catch-and-shoot three-pointers last season. That’s 5.3 attempts per contest, which Green knocked down at an impressive 41.9% clip. For a team that was middling at best in its ability to space the floor, that’s an important weapon to have. On the whole, nearly 22% of Philly’s three-point buckets came from Green.
Consequently, the Sixers put up 114.5 points per 100 possessions when Green was on the floor; the third-best mark on the team among rotation regulars.
Although Philly definitely needs another player or two capable of generating their own offense, having players that can take advantage of opportunities that are created by opposing defenses focusing on Embiid is an important part of the Sixers’ winning recipe. Green was one of the best players in the Association at doing that last season.
Defensively, Green holds opponents 0.6% below their regular shooting percentages when he is the closest defender. His defensive box plus/minus score was also positive for the 10th consecutive season in ’20-21.
Paying the Price
If the Sixers weren’t so close to being a title contender, it may be prudent to let Green walk. But when you have a top-five player on your roster who is entering the back-end of his prime years and a strong cast of supporting players, it’s time to push your chips in.
Green is a stabilizing presence on the court and behind the scenes. His 9.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals per contest made a difference for the Sixers. His catch-and-shoot ability and defensive awareness did, too. Finally, his years of experience and leadership were of equal importance for Doc Rivers’ squad.
He may not be throwing down many monster jams or crossing people over at this stage, but even in his mid-30s, he’s still equipped to provide exactly what the Sixers need from him. If he walks, Philly may not be able to replace what he brings to the table.
So, barring a sign-and-trade to bring in a better player or including Green in a Simmons-centric deal to net another big-time star, re-upping with the wily wing could be an important part of fielding a title-worthy team.