When you walk into the Dean Dome you won’t see his #14 jersey hanging from the rafters, but Danny Green has made himself into one of the most prominent UNC alumni currently in the NBA. The 2014 NBA Champion and 2017 All Defensive Team Player went from a late 2nd round pick to a starter in one of the NBA’s most successful organizations. The road was not always smooth, however, and included a few pit stops to the D-League before becoming a difference maker for the San Antonio Spurs. Let’s take a look back at Danny Green’s college and NBA career.
Danny Green came to North Carolina via St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset, New York on Long Island. The 25th recruit in the 2005 class joined Tyler Hansbrough, Marcus Ginyard, and Bobby Frasor to make up the 5th ranked recruiting class. As a freshman Green showed his abilities to defend, rebound, and get buckets. He averaged 7.5 points and 35.5% from the 3-point line to go alone with 3.7 rebounds in his sixth man role of 15.3 minutes a game.
As a sophomore Green saw both his numbers and his minutes regress. His playing time dropped to 13.6 minutes a game, and scored 5.2 a game on only 29.6% shooting from behind the arc. Junior season was when things started to click for Green. With the departure of Branden Wright and Reyshawn Terry, the forward sport was once again available for Danny to play. His minutes jumped to 22.3 a game, and his 3-point percentage skyrocketed to 37% which landed him at 11.5 points a game to go along with 4.9 rebounds.
In somewhat of a surprising decision to Tar Heel Nation, Danny Green made himself eligible for the 2008 NBA Draft after the Heels’ Final Four run. He did so without hiring an agent, so after going through the combine routine he ended up withdrawing his name from the draft.
In his senior year Green finally made his move into the starting lineup and took full advantage. He averaged 13.1 points on 41.8% shooting behind the arc, and added another 4.7 rebounds to the eventual National Champions. His season was good enough for 3rd team All-ACC and the ACC All-Defense team, and he became the only Tar Heel ever to score 1,000 points, grab 500 rebounds, dish 200 assists, block 100 shots, and record 100 steals. Despite his solid UNC career, Green’s name wasn’t called in the 2009 NBA Draft until the 46th overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Having a successful NBA career as a 2nd rounder is not impossible, but certainly can be difficult, especially when you’re drafted to team competing for a championship that has the best player in the NBA (being LeBron of course). As a rookie Green only saw playing time in 20 games, averaging 5.8 minutes and 2 points a game. After his less than stellar debut the Cavs waived Green after the season, which ended up being a blessing in disguise.
Once the Cavs cut him, Green was picked up by the San Antonio Spurs in 2010. After 2 appearances for the Spurs he was sent to the NBDL with the Reno Bighorns where his game began to blossom. In only 16 games Danny averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds before being sent to the Austin Toros, and eventually recalled to the Spurs once again. The strike-shortened 2011-2012 season can be seen as Green’s “welcome to the NBA” season. Appearing in 66 games and starting 38 of them, Green averaged 9 points and shot a lights out 43.6% from the arc. The Spurs saw enough of him to offer him a 3 year/$12 million deal to take over the starting shooting guard spot for a team hoping to win a championship.
The 2011-2012 season was Green’s welcoming to the NBA, the 2012-2013 season was his break out to the national stage. Danny started 80 games for the Spurs, scoring a then career high 10.5 points per game on another stellar 43% from the arc. His regular season was solid, but this season was defined by his post-season performances. Green shot an incredible 48% from the 3-point line, helping guide the way to the Spurs making the NBA Finals and taking on the Miami Heat.
To say Green was lights out in the 2013 Finals is an understatement. Green shot an absurd 27/49 (55%!) from the 3-point line, and was a corner 3 pointer from Ray Allen away from winning Finals MVP. Of course the Spurs ended losing to the Heat in 7 games after Allen’s jumper and the Green’s explosion faded into the abyss, but Green’s ridiculous shooting made him a household name to NBA fans.
After another solid regular season in 2013-2014, Green and the Spurs found themselves once again matched up with LeBron and the Heat in the NBA Finals. This series however was a stark contrast to the previous one. Green was once again on fire shooting 45% from the arc and averaging 9.2 points a game, and the Spurs made quick work of the Heat in only 5 games. Green was not named the Finals MVP for this one, but he joined Michael Jordan and James Worthy to be the only Tar Heels to win both an NCAA and NBA Championship (talk about elite company).
The 2014-2015 season began the reign of the Golden State Warrior in the Western Conference, but the Spurs were always viewed as their most formidable opponent. Green started 80 games and set a career high in both points with 11.7 a game and rebounds at 4.2. The Spurs were eliminated for the NBA Playoffs in the first round, but Green’s season was good enough to get him another payday. This time it was to the tune of 4 years/$45 million.
Green’s numbers took a step back in 2015-2016, shooting only 33% from the arc and averaging only 7.2 points a game. The Spurs were eliminated this time from the NBA Playoffs by the Thunder, even with Green shooting 50% from 3 in the playoffs. In 2016-2017 Green’s numbers struggled at 7.3 points per game, but he missed 14 games due to a strained quad. The Spurs made it to the conference finals before being swept by the Golden State Warriors. Although Green’s offensive stats were down, his defense was good enough for 2nd team all-defense.
Green has turned into one of the most successful NBA players from UNC in recent memory. Here’s to more success (and championships) for Danny Green!
PS- Here’s a fun Danny Green memory for everyone (not like you could forget it)