Has Danny Green Been the Most Valuable San Antonio Spur So Far This Season?
The Memphis Grizzlies defeated the San Antonio Spurs 117-116 last night in a triple-overtime thriller that is already an early favourite for game of the year. While there were plenty of former All-Stars and future Hall of Famers like Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, and even Vince Carter that had monster stat lines in the game, only one player came out of it with his name in the history books.
That man was Danny Green. Here's the line:
|PTS||REB||AST||STL||BLK||FGM / A (%)||3PM / A (%)||FTM / A||TOV|
|Danny Green||25||7||3||2||5||9 / 17 (52.9%)||7 / 13 (53.8%)||0 / 0||1|
The 25 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, only 1 turnover, and better than 50% shooting from long range and the field in general were all plenty impressive on their own. It's the 7 made threes and 5 blocks that set Green apart from decades of NBA history last night, because no one in the history of the game has ever hit those two heights in the same game. Not one, not ever.
The funny thing is, last night wasn't even that much of an anomaly for Green, who is enjoying the best season of his career-to-date. He's averaging career highs in minutes (30.6), points (12.2), rebounds (4.2), assists (1.8), steals (1.4), and blocks (1.3) per contest through 26 games. Add in the 2.9 made threes per game and he joins James Harden, Draymond Green, and K.J. McDaniels as one of only four players in the league averaging at least one three, steal, and block per game this season.
He's flirting with the elusive 50/40/90 club with his strong shooting split of 46.3% from the floor, 42.1% from long range, and a stellar 96.0% from the line, which combines to give him the best true shooting percentage of his career at 61.5% as well. Heck, last night wasn't even all that surprising coming from Green, considering it was the fifth time this season he's hit at least 3 triples and swatted 3 opposing shots, while the rest of the league only has eight such games combined.
If you're a fantasy basketball player, those numbers put him just outside first-round value, as he comes in as the 14th-ranked player in nine-category leagues so far this season. For the record, that makes him the most valuable Spur to own in fantasy this year. That's right, he's outranking everyone, including Kawhi Leonard (20th), Tim Duncan (31st), Tony Parker (129th), and Manu Ginobili (158th). Not bad for a guy that went in the late rounds of most drafts this year.
Of course, we don't all live in a fantasy world. He may be the most valuable fantasy player on the Spurs, but there's no way he's been the most valuable real-life player on a team with three future Hall of Famers and last year's NBA Finals MVP, right?
Well, if you suspend your disbelief for a second and focus solely on the numbers, you might think he has been.
Green joins Boris Diaw as one of only two Spurs to play in all 26 of their games this season. The aforementioned Hall-of-Fame trio (Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili) and Finals MVP (Kawhi) have missed a combined 19 games between them. They've been plenty valuable while on the floor, of course, but that's just not always a given. Green, on the other hand, has been Mr. Consistent in leading the Spurs in total minutes played this season at 795 while playing in every single game and just about every important crunch-time second.
He leads the Spurs in a number of all-encompassing efficiency categories as well, including VORP (value above replacement player) at 4.2, BPM (box plus/minus) at 4.7, win shares at 2.7, and our own nERD at 7.6 (which estimates how many games over .500 a league-average team would finish a season with him as one of its starters). He also leads the Spurs in net rating (+15) on the strength of his career bests in both offensive (114) and defensive rating (99).
Throwing a bunch of metrics at you obviously won't make you believe that he's been more valuable than the other Spurs, especially considering they're a team built on defined roles and a (relatively) equally-shared workload. Still, as the Spurs quietly climb the standings (17-9) and our NBA Team Power Rankings (sixth) while all eyes are on about a dozen other teams, it's important to realize how much a role player like Danny Green is making a difference and doing his part to keep the defending champs still very much in contention.