On Tuesday night with the Spurs down one in overtime and star Kawhi Leonard out of the game injured, Danny Green scored San Antonio’s last seven points to give them a crucial game five victory. The Spurs are now a game away from the Western Conference finals.
The 2016-17 season has not been Green’s best in his NBA career. From 2012-15, he was averaging around or over 10 points per game, while shooting over 40% from three. This year, he only went for 7.3 per game, but still shot a pretty solid 38% from three. However, Tuesday night was another example of the work Green’s put in to become a really good NBA player.
However, coming out of UNC, it was definitely understandable that he wasn’t viewed as the player he is now. He’s a genuinely good three-point shooter now, but shot about 38% in college, which is solid but not spectacular. He did a look of things well in college, but no one skill was overwhelming. He was, after all, the fourth or fifth option on the 2009 title team.
Green went 46th overall in the 2009 draft, played 20 games for the Cavaliers that season and was released. The Spurs signed him during the 2010-11 season, but released him just six days layer. Green then went and played in the D-League. None of that is a totally shocking career path for a four-year college player who went in the second round of the draft.
Playing so well in the D-League that the Spurs re-sign him later that season, and then bring him back the following season is not the normal career path, however. While in the D-League, Green averaged over 20 points per game and shot 46% from three. By the end of the 2011-12 NBA season, he was not only back in the league, but a starter for the Spurs.
They gave Green a three-year deal ahead of the 2012-13 season, and he proceeded to break out and have his statistically best NBA season to date. He helped the Spurs reach the 2013 NBA Finals.
In game two of the 2013 finals, Green led the Spurs with 17 points and went 5-5 from three in a losing effort. The following game, he had his best game on the biggest stage possible. In a game three Spurs’ win, Green went for 27 points, going 7-9 from three.
While San Antonio went on to lose that series, Green broke the record for most threes made in an NBA Finals. (That record has since been broken by Steph Curry, because obviously.) Had the Spurs hung on in game six or won game seven, there’s a non-zero chance Danny Green is an NBA Finals MVP.
The next season, the Spurs did avenge their 2013 loss and beat the Miami Heat in 2014. In that series, Green did what he’s done for most of his career: went for about 10 points a game, and shot over 40% from three. He didn’t match the individual success he had in 2013, however, he’s now one of three UNC players to have a college and NBA championship. The other two are Michael Jordan and James Worthy, which is not bad company.
After another solid season the next year, Green signed a four-year $45 million contract with the Spurs in 2015. The fourth option on UNC’s 2009 team has become the best player of all of them.
Danny Green is not necessarily a superstar in the NBA. But he is a product UNC fans can feel good about. By all accounts, he’s made it in the NBA due to hard work. Just like it has for much of his basketball career, Danny Green’s Tuesday night performance came when it was needed, just not when it was expected.