Danny Green began his career in Cleveland during the 2009-10 season, where he was barely used and seldom thought about. The second-round pick was waived by the Cavs just before the start of his sophomore year and barely anyone batted an eyelash. After all, he had been practically invisible during his rookie season, as he played just 5.8 minutes per contest over 20 games, averaging 2.0 points and shooting 38.5% from the field and 27.3% from deep.
Roughly one month after being waived, in the middle of the first month of the 2010-11 season, the San Antonio Spurs took out a low-risk, five-figure lease on the University of North Carolina product in the form of a 10-day contract. His sophomore season was equally devoid of bells and whistles, as he was waived just six days after the initial signing and was without an NBA home for almost four months.
After two seasons of bouncing around the NBA, D-League, and Slovenia, and what was most likely a lot of soul searching, Green finally settled in when the Spurs re-signed him for the end of the 2010-2011 campaign. He latched on for the entire lockout-shortened 2011-12 season after that, playing in all 66 games and starting in the final 38. Through that, he managed to earn himself a three-year deal worth over $11 million and has been a fixture in the Spurs’ rotation ever since.
During the regular season, Green plays the role of the guy that starts in front of prototypical sixth-man and two-time All-Star Manu Ginobili. As such, he has averaged only 25.1 minutes per game over the last three seasons, despite starting over 80% of the time. He is a moderate scorer (9.6 points per game over the last three years) and a decent defender, but his true value comes in his long-range shooting ability. Over his last three seasons and 214 games, Green has made 1.9 threes per contest at a 42.6% clip.
He’s been a very good, reliable shooter during the regular season, but he’s becoming an absolute assassin in the playoffs in the mould of “Big Shot” Robert Horry and Derek Fisher. Neither Horry nor Fisher were ever considered stars, even in their respective primes, but both absolutely lit it up from long range when their numbers were called in the playoffs and have a combined 12 championship rings to show for it.
As San Antonio goes into Game 3 on Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a 2-0 advantage, they bring 81.01% odds to win the series with them, according to our algorithms. With the Spurs inching ever closer to their second-straight berth in the NBA Finals (and Green’s second career appearance), let’s take a look at how he’s stepped things up from long range and how it compares to the first two Finals runs for Horry (back-to-back champion with the Rockets in ’94 and ’95) and Fisher (back-to-back champion with the Lakers in ’99 and ’00).
|Player||Seasons||Age||Season 3s||Playoff 3s||Season 3%||Playoff 3%
There is a clear jump in both three-point makes and percentage in each two-year sample from all three players from the regular season to the playoffs. Green is clearly a higher volume shooter and more accurate than both Horry and Fisher were at the same point in their careers, but their stat lines are otherwise eerily comparable. All three players have similar career scoring numbers and similarly small jumps in scoring output in the playoffs as well.
|Player||Experience||Reg. Season Career PPG||Playoff Career PPG
Danny Green is obviously in a very early part of his career and a lot could change between now and the time he gathers as much experience as Horry and Fisher did or are still doing (we see you, Fish), but for now he seems to be following in the footsteps of his big-shot predecessors.
On top of similar scoring splits, the trio have all averaged in the mid-twenties for minutes per game over their respective careers in both the regular season and the playoffs. The increased production from long range can barely even be attributed to increased postseason minutes in either case, as all three only saw a slight bump (one or two minutes) in their playing time averages from regular to postseason over their entire careers.
Simply put, Horry and Fisher went from decent scoring role players and reliable shooters in the regular season to three-point kill-shot professionals when championships were on the line and Danny Green might be on his way to doing the same.
The comparisons started last season during the 2013 NBA Finals, in which Green’s Spurs lost to the Miami Heat in seven games. Before the now-infamous Game 6 meltdown and subsequent Game 7 loss by the Spurs, Green was making a case for Finals MVP. He went 25 for 38 (65.8%) from long range over those first five games and the Spurs were up 3-2 as a result. He fell off, however, in Games 6 and 7, going a combined 2 for 11 (18.2%) from long range in those losses. It’s hard to place those defeats on a role player like Green, but it would be hard to imagine the Spurs losing that series if he had kept up his torrid pace from deep.
Fast-forward to this year’s Playoffs and Green is at it again. In Game 2 against the Thunder, Danny Boy put up 21 points and hit on 7 of his 10 three-point attempts. In fact, his last three games (dating back to the Game 5 closeout victory over the Blazers in round two) have been pretty ridiculous. NBA Stats’ Twitter account tweeted out the details of his amazing three-game run following the Spurs’ 112-77 shellacking of the Thunder in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
Green’s resulting effective field goal percentage from the 71.0% from the field and 71.4% from deep is a borderline criminal 95.2% (that’s ridiculously high, if you’re not overly familiar with the stat).
Wow. Just wow.
In the last two seasons alone, Green’s already put up four Playoff performances in which he’s hit at least six three-pointers and shot equal to or better than 60.0% from three-point range (all San Antonio wins). That’s as many as Derek Fisher (three) and Robert Horry (one) have had in their combined 36 seasons of action and 499 playoff games. In fact, Green is now second all-time in such games, trailing only Ray Allen, who has had eight (in three times as many Playoff games played, for what it’s worth).
Over the last three playoff runs, the Spurs are 15-2 when Green hits three or more threes. If he can keep the hot hand scorching, the Spurs current 48.31% championship odds (according to our algorithms) could definitely come to fruition.
In the meantime, Green could cement his role as the current generation’s postseason three-point dream killer. Considering the fact that he’s playing for a team that Horry won two titles with and against a Thunder team that has Fisher playing for it, the torch passing opportunity could very well be there.