Kawhi, Kawhi, Kawhi. Kawhi Leonard, the superstar who was traded to the Toronto Raptors this offseason, has rightfully been the lead topic when discussing the possibilities, shortcomings and expectations of the 2018-2019 season. But what about Danny Green?
The other piece coming back to Toronto in the blockbuster trade with San Antonio this past summer, Green represents what Raptors fans have been clamouring for since LeBron James made Toronto his favourite stomping ground: A perimeter player who can lock up the opposing team’s biggest threat while firing away with confidence from three-point range. This is how you would have described Danny Green in his prime (and how you would describe Kawhi Leonard now).
But Green has slipped a bit on the perimeter while remaining a force defending other wings in the paint. Thankfully for the Raptors, they are blessed with other motivated and high IQ defenders in OG Anunoby, Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Delon Wright (not to mention Leonard), so an impetus to be the guy on defense will not fall on Green’s shoulders alone.
The three-point shooting is another story. Yes, the Raptors improved markedly from beyond the arc (and in virtually every other way) by shipping out DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, but fans may need to temper their expectations around Green’s stroke. After four straight seasons of shooting the ball at an elite 41-43% mark, Green has seen his average dip down to 33%, 37% and 36% respectively in his last three seasons. Unfortunately, the dip isn’t due to an increase in volume, as Green shot the ball more during his high water-mark seasons than his low. Could this be a sign that Green needs to be shooting the ball more often for greater success, or are the Raptors looking at a downward trend?
Expected to slot into the starting shooting guard position on this year’s Raptors’ squad, Green finds himself in a couple of very interesting situations that will be predicated on both his performance and the sets that newly minted coach Nick Nurse will install on offense. A traditional two-guard now in a “younger veteran” role, will Green find himself playing more of a mentor from the bench in crunch time, or will he be leaned on for heavy minutes that belonged to Fred VanVleet last season? Will Nurse build in the same sort of motion sets for the starting unit that the Bench Mob found success with and that San Antonio has been reaping the benefits from for time immemorial, or will Green be expected to pop out for catch-and-shoot threes?
Green presents enough veteran guile, Gregg Popovich pedigree and intangibles that he’s more than capable of succeeding on this roster, but keep a keen eye on how long Nurse gives the new acquisitions to gel. Kawhi will get every possible inch of leash that can be afforded, but Green has some competition on his heels for his minutes. C.J. Miles is still a very competent player (though much worse defender) and Norman Powell still has some big-time dollars to earn out of his contract.
One thing is for sure, judging by his Media Day introductory press conference, Green seems ecstatic to be in Toronto and sounds ready to contribute right away.